My social media feed was blowing up Sunday morning with posts about Gov. Inslee declaring a drought emergency for the State of Washington. There is also a petition, from my friends in the Blackfeet Nation, with a request to convince the Department of the Interior to keep the oil companies out of their territory and off their land. I went to a workshop the other night where the focus was how communities can restore self-government locally and regain decision making authority and power.
More books have arrived. More books are on their way. Scholarly articles are being identified and thoughts are swirling. All this is to say that I feel very pressured to get this research project going. Even though, on a good day, I’m usually able to only crank out one or two salient thoughts on the matter.
Food for thought: It’s not about land management as much as its about the ethics of managing lands. Ethic: (n) a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field or form of conduct. (adj) of or relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these.
Reading “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, provides evidence of how Indigenous land management practices, which have been in place since time immemorial, were all but erased from our awareness and usurped by Eurocentric approaches to land management. The difference between the two being immense. One viewing the land as an extended member of the family, with whom you engage, collaborate and cooperate. The other viewing the land as a resource to be tamed, extracted, manipulated and then left degraded and unrestored in the wake of what some would have us believe is ‘civilized progress’. I’m only a couple of chapters into this book, but I’m sure that I will have many more realizations to ponder the more I read.
I’m currently trying to digest the work of James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson’s article titled “The Context of the State of Nature” and how our frameworks, or the ways we have constructed our understanding of legal title and ‘ownership’ principles, have come to be. “Indigenous peoples must transform the false assumptions behind the state of nature and its social theories to begin their transformation to a postcolonial order. It is the key to our cognitive confinement. We must clearly understand the disadvantages of creating artificial societies from wrong assumptions.”
Additionally, the thoughts and ideas put forth by John T. Noonan, Jr. in “Narrowing the Nation’s Power” are going to push the limits of my cognitive abilities. It’s not that I will have a hard time believing that the Supreme Court has imposed it’s will in unjustified ways. I have somewhat of an understanding of federal Indian law came to be, after all. What I will have a hard time processing, I believe, is how we might be able to reverse these decisions that have led to an imbalance of power and a dysfunctional relationship to the land, our relative, our sustenance.
I’ve come to realize that the idea of a land ethic is not new. Nor is it something that is untested/untried. This pushes me to revise my approach to the research, perhaps focusing on the who’s/how’s/what’s of land management. Who is doing it? How is it being implemented? What kind of land ethics are being utilized? What’s the difference between a land ethic and a land management philosophy? Is a land ethic enforceable? Is a land ethic singular or is it pluralistic in it’s goals?
I have pulled all my research methodology texts off the shelf and stacked them on my desk. I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Being a serious person, and being serious about this research, I know that at some point the reading will have to stop and the questions will have to be refined. I know my voice isn’t the only one on this topic. I am listening to those other voices, not only the ones who are present in this modern time, but also the voices of my ancestors.