For millennia, man has always marveled at the natural world. The environment has an air of mystery, one of the reasons why individuals holding ancient beliefs always seem to pay homage to it. In true natural fashion, man developed a close relationship with the earth which produced his food and also provided space to build his dwelling. European civilization in the 15th century had legendary explorers such a Christopher Colombus, capable of navigating the high seas in search of land for the Spanish monarchy. It was through his contact with the New World that the whole of Europe came to know about the Americas with some preferring to emigrate all together with the hope of prosperity. White settlers would soon populate the continent with their nascent capitalistic outlook and were ready to work the land to produce both fortune and sustenance (Mathes and Lowitt). None the less, it was soon apparent to the Native American tribes of the Great Plains that they’re there were stark differences between their disposition in matters nature in comparison to that of the white man. Standing Bear, Chief of Oglala Sioux, makes a similar observation in his memoir (My People The Sioux)describing the Native American view of nature and that of the white man. In this easy, I will expound more on the subject by providing a detailed comparison of the Native American and white man’s view of nature.
The Native American tribes are a people deeply connected to the land around the Great Plains respect was shown to the earth by the Native Tribes as it was revered for its mothering an ability and providing them with the much-needed food. In My People The Sioux, standing bear acknowledges that the Lakota people shared a special relationship with the earth and always wanted to be in contact with it. He concedes that the soil has cleansing and healing properties that are vital to man and his existence. It is a resting place for all creatures including the bird that spends most of their time flying: “Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky, and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept us safe among them.The animals had rights – the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness”(Standing 193)To the Lakota; it is part of the Great Mystery containing a unifying force originating from Waka Tanka. They also believed that the earth was their final resting place and as such was part of man. It was this spirit that allowed them to respect their environment together with all the creatures that made it their home. The arrival of European settlers into the Midwest would soon reveal that there was a stark difference between the views held by these two groups resulting in a series of conflict known as the Sioux Wars. Luther Standing Bear is taken aback by the white man’s lack of comprehension with regards to land and the environment. The white men sought only to live and thrive on the ground without acknowledging it as a dominant force that was capable of providing them with food and shelter.
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In essence, they are naturalists who sought to create a healthy balance I the environment. They viewed it as a gift and the main reason why they seek to always protect it. It was responsible for feeding him, day in day out and the main reason why the Native Americans revealed its mysticism. Their sole goal was to abide with the land that surrounded them in perfect harmony as they were confident that it would take care of them. They were one with this great spirit and while making their way through life with the Native American upbringing playing a significant role in this wisdom. Young Native American children were taught the importance of the environment from a very young age. They were, therefore, able to understand the vast dynamic of life together with all the various components that worked in unison to maintain the existence of the other. A symbiotic relationship was in play and the primary reason why these people wanted their children to be connected with nature from a very young age. On the other hand, natural faculties belonging to the white man were, in reality, dull which is one of the reasons why they are prone to “ugly mannerisms.” There is a wide chasm between the white man and nature which is the root of all life. Luther Standing Bear is acutely aware of the white man’s lack of faith in the environment as he views it as an asset meant to benefit him. He laments that the white man is never pleased with the environment and always seeks to transform it: “Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life – that to the white man is an ‘unbroken wilderness”( Standing)Robinson Mayer brings this aspect to perspective in an article tackling the question of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the significance of Standing Rock to the Sioux Nation. Here we see the same destructive trend when a white-owned corporation such as Dakota Access and the Army Corps of engineers decide to build a pipeline through land sacred to the tribe arbitrarily. The pipeline would pass through Native American burial grounds while at the same time posing a risk to the Missouri River which is the only source of water for those living in the Saginaw Chippewa reservation.
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In conclusion, there are stark differences between the Native American view of the environment and those held by the white man. Native Americans seek to cement their bond to nature while the white man’s activities have led to the extermination of animal species such as the bison. It is for this reason that Luther Standing Bear cautions the white man against being a symbol of extinction in the natural world and instead create a rapport with the environment at large.
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