The Burden of Guilt

Relating back to previous readings, Kyle Whyte writes on indigenous people and their relationship to the current ecological dystopia that has been created. The Anishinaabek is the focal point of Kyle Whyte’s essay “Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene” along with conservation of various aspects of their culture important to them. He discusses conservation efforts surrounding the nmé (the lake sturgeon), manoomin (wild rice), and nibi (water), and how the Anishinaabek are taking major steps to protect these resources. Whyte utilizes the term “the ancestors’ dystopia” in relation to how arguably the three most important resources to the nation’s predecessors are being threatened, and to bring attention to the effects of colonization on the resources, and the effects of the ecological crisis from the perspective of those that managed the land before us; those that were better able to manage the landscape in the effort of sustainability. Whyte brings attention to the fact that before we as a global society can tackle our environmental issues, we need to reconcile our issues between cultures, and recognize that other cultures can and have been disproportionately affected by the actions of one or two dominant groups. 

The Lynn White reading relates to this reading by refining the thought process that this is not the indigenous people’s fault, the burden of guilt is placed onto those who conquered and pillaged the land that was already being gracefully and effectively managed: the Christian, predominantly white, invaders. Whyte and White create an effective dichotomy in inspiring action in the dominant group of North America, showing that not only are the indigenous people working harder to protect their land, but clearly placing the blame onto the majority religion, combining the guilt of inaction with the guilt of action. Whyte and Pope Francis from the same reading set also agree in some capacity; Francis agrees that reconciliation between different cultural groups is also important to tackling conservation. 

Cultural and Nature interaction

Many people view the current Anthropocene as almost a manifestation of past beliefs of a dystopian future. There is also disagreement on what to do to maintain the environment currently. I personally lean on the side that extinctions are bad and we should prevent them, but others argue it is just a product of the environment. Some want new texts about another disastrous future. 

Parallels can also be made between the protection of indegnious cultures and habitats by  and the conservation of the environment. Indigenous people believe in strong relationships between nature and humans. Colonization has disrupted the positive elements of this relationship, and have damaged ecosystems that indigenous and natural people have inhabited for many years. The “campaigns”(Dystopia) caused settlers to overpower indigenous homelands and have almost total control. Indigenous people no longer have any power over the places they live in, similar to how nature had power before man manipulated it. The settlers disrupted the environment and the indigenous people to the extent that the idnegenous people could not adapt to the disruption like deforestation, pollution, etc.

In the Great Lakes a couple of restoration projects are being done to help improve environmental conditions and stop degradation. One environmental component that was disrupted is the fish species, Nmé. It was massively overfished, with numerous invasive species and dams disrupting the lakes. In response, the Natural Resources Department came up with numerous cultural ceremonies combined with the reintroduction of the Nmé back in the water systems. The ceremonies help indigenous people rediscover their relationship with the fish, making them more likely to protect things like this from happening in the future.

Wild rice has also been disrupted by settler establishment, with other types of rice putting it out of economic viability even though it is very nutritious and has been a native species for a long time. 

Hopefully, indigenous people combined with other residents of the world can help protect the natural environment that rightfully belongs to them.

The Dystopia In front of us

The words “Climate Change” evokes mental images of a dystopian future for many people; however, Indigenous People have been subjugated and genocided by colonizers since the arrival of Europeans on the American continent and have been living out their own dystopian reality. For centuries Native Americans have faced a dystopia that many, myself included, had no idea was real. Until the reading and especially the video featuring Kyle Whyte I hadn’t considered that Native Americans are living in a dystopia. In the past year, I’ve tried to learn more about the injustice that Natives, and other groups, have faced and in that time I’ve come to learn about the many sad realities that oppressed groups have faced in America. Yet when I heard the fact that for Natives, they are living in a dystopian reality, I found it unsurprising that Native Americans would describe their treatment as dystopian, but I was surprised that this was the first time I was hearing this sort of description.

Hearing how natives, before contact with Europeans, were very knowledgeable about the environment and the impact they had on it was really fascinating. Numerous modern ideas and technologies were invented or innovated by Native Americans, and the fact that Natives were conscious of environmental impact is a testament to this. However, much of the history of Native Americans has been whitewashed, and this is why I think the message that Kyle Whyte had for climate scientists is so important. My interpretation of Kyle Whyte’s message was that if Native Americans are going to be a part of the climate conversation, which they very much should be, then they need to be the ones doing the talking. Instead of being talked to, which for centuries has led to little, Natives should be the ones directing the conversation. 

Native Americans have known about, and understood the effects humans can have on the environment for centuries, they also have been the most impacted by climate change than any other group in America. The knowledge that Native Americans can bring to the table regarding climate change cannot and should not be ignored. To show that we are truly committed to correcting the injustices that Natives have faced, the minimum we can do is to start listening to them, rather than the other way around. 

Modern Dystopia

When thinking about Climate Change, I often realized the disproportionate effect it is having on marginalized populations, but never specifically put it into the perspective of Indigenous populations. It was very interesting to hear about their perspective, and that they have been keeping track of climate and being climate scientists in their own sense for so long, and baffles me that other populations, especially the white settler type population knowing this and not reaching out to converse with them about this. When European settlers invaded what is now known as the United States and Canada, there was not much regard for the land or the wildlife. Just look at what happened to the wild buffalo populations because of so called “manifest destiny”. Industrialization may have helped advance humans, but also greatly led to the downfall of our planet.

When the settlers were met with the Indigenous populations, instead of (what middle and high school textbooks may tell you) learning from the Indigenous persons and living in harmony with them, they were killed, and isolated, and stripped of their traditions and culture because of this obsession the Settlers had with conquering the Earth. So many species are now endangered or extinct, species which were integral in these indigenous persons way of life, and has been for centuries.

This reading and video has made me think of a lot of controversy that has dispersed out from the internet but still remains a bit. There have recently been a lot of indigenous creators on social media coming forward to talk about their culture and what hardships they have gone through and are unfortunately still going through. What baffles me are the amount of people in the comments saying things like “it is cruel and bad for the environment for you to be eating ____ foods” or “making clothing with real leather and fur”, and completely overlooking the culture behind these traditions. Completely overlooking the mass destruction done by white Europeans hundreds of years ago that has caused the cascade of these things even being issues.

To know that we are now in a time that Indigenous persons of years past would view as a dystopia, well I cannot say that it is surprising. If the settlers had come and listened and learned about how to live along side the earth and plants and animals as Indigenous populations have, our ecosystems would be so much healthier. We would be on equal standing ground, not stuck in the mindset (still, how are people still stuck on this) that white people are entitled to more than others. And our planet would be in a much better place.

Dystopia Now 🍂

Whenever people begin discussing climate change and the ecological impact humanity has played on the earth, conversation will often naturally approach the topic of dystopian systems. Dystopian literature and media has become incredibly prevalent in our modern society, which makes sense. Considering how much increased awareness we’ve gained on the world and its problems in the last couple centuries, it’s no wonder these apocalyptic scenarios emerge at the forefront of our imaginations. Political dystopias have always been popular and thought-provoking. For example, George Orwell’s 1984 is a chilling description of a totalitarian state that feels all too real in countries like China, and even here in the US with constant surveillance and a lack of privacy. Even more pressing is the environmental dystopia, such as is mentioned in Octavia E Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

And that is why the readings for this week stood out to me so much. According to professor Kyle Whyte, indigenous Americans have experienced a dystopia themselves. The idea of dystopias happening before my time is certainly not news to me. Many cultures and civilization throughout the ages have experienced collapses of their worlds, especially due to political upheaval or even extreme ecological change. And I suppose I intuitively understood that native Americans have gone through a similar process. But to specifically label it as a “dystopia,” and to have it be caused not by natural or environmental factors but through human colonization and destruction is all the more shocking.

But calling it anything other than a dystopian situation would be oversimplifying at best. Entire forests cut down, wild herds of buffalo culled, and civilizations as impressive as anything to be found in the Old World ravaged by disease and war. The culture of these indigenous cultures, which were so attuned to the natural world, has been crushed under the heel of technological progress.

Dystopian literature speaks to our imaginations, of what could go wrong. So realizing that things have already gone wrong, and that these people have already been through the worst, can help raise awareness for what happened. Whyte suggests a myriad of solutions, all of which prioritize the inclusion of native tribes into discussions of environmental preservation and research. These people were here before us, and understood the importance of their natural environment long before any American citizen did. It is imperative we include everyone into the conversation, so that this anthropocentric world we live in can be reevaluated. The dystopia is now, and in fact to some people it has already happened. Now we must rebuild, and fix our mistakes before the dystopia comes for everyone.

Whyte, Kyle. Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities.

Croakey, director. Talking #JustClimate and Decolonising Climate Science with Professor Kyle Whyte. YouTube, 24 Feb. 2017.

The Never-Ending Cycle

Kyle Whyte’s “Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene” had some very interesting points about the idea of climate change and its relation to indigenous peoples. On the topic of climate change, he proposed that indigenous tribes have already been forced to go through similar crises that the whole world is going through today. While the rest of the world was oblivious to their issues, indigenous peoples were having to learn to live without some of their most crucial species of plants and animals. Now, as the rest of the world is facing climate problems, indigenous peoples are the only ones who have experienced this before. As Whyte said in his video interview, indigenous peoples are going to climate scientists in the hopes of discussing environmental issues, when perhaps it should be the other way around. Considering indigenous peoples are the ones with real experience involving climate crises, Whyte speculates that it may be more fitting for the climate scientists to come to indigenous peoples and ask advice.

Another interesting idea brought up during the video interview had to do with the affects that climate change can have on mental health, especially the mental health of indigenous peoples. This was something I had never even considered before, but it does make a lot of sense that there would be a strong relationship between these two things. Being so connected to the environment around them, having to see their surroundings crumble around them would surely have a strong impact on the mental health of indigenous peoples. It may even have an impact on non-indigenous peoples, but considering how dependent on and connected to the environment native tribes are, it’s especially prevalent in indigenous peoples. Having their everyday life and their spirituality stem from their surrounding environment, to have to see it be destroyed by settlers and affected by foreign lifestyles would have a heavy influence on their mental health.

Our Present Dystopia

In Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene by Kyle Whyte, the Anthropocene is defined as the time era in which humans have greatly influenced the world. It is argued that this period began in 1610 with global trade and colonialism. There are many different moral philosophies in regards to extinctions and conservations and how we as a generation move forward in the world as it was given to us. Similarly, some argue that we need fiction to preview what our future world may look like, and others believe resorting to ancient methods will help to solve the issues we face. A major idea in the paper is that we already live in what our predecessors would define as a dystopian future, which brings the question, would we feel the same about the future after we leave this world? I found the author’s perception of “campaign” very interesting because I believe a campaign is present in our country and the world today — although not necessarily related to the environment. The similarities I saw were belligerence, but the next steps, such as containment practices and dependency, are occurring now and soon. The steps of these campaigns is how those in power take control over a nation. I think about indigenous nations a lot and the crimes done against them, and another tragic fact of the situation is that we really cannot make up for what happened –  because the world is so different now, it’s not like the land that was taken from them can be returned as it was. We cannot undo what our ancestors did. What does that mean for us and our successors? 

Another idea in these sources was about choosing which animals to save from extinction and which not to save, which I’ve drawn a lot of connections with my ethics in animal agriculture class. So far in that class, we’ve learned about the many different philosophies in regards to how we should treat animals as productions animals, as well as companion animals. Some philosophers believed in the past animals have no feelings of pain or emotion, while others believe that we as people have a moral obligation to treat animals of equal or higher status. In terms of production, the scales of the welfare of some animals vs greater benefit of the population is weighed and many aspects are taken into consideration, similarly to the themes in this paper. 

[1] Whyte, Kyle. Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. <>

[2] Croakey, director. Talking #JustClimate and Decolonising Climate Science with Professor Kyle Whyte. YouTube, YouTube, 24 Feb. 2017 <>

It Never Really Ended

This week’s reading, and the accompanying video, were very interesting to me. Of course, the framing of climate change around indigenous peoples is something I’ve heard of before, but the way that Kyle white discuss the concept particularly kept me engaged. I had never really thought about how the experiences of indigenous Americans could be so easily transcribed into the lens of climate change or broader environmental change. After reading it seems obvious that the events of settler colonialism on indigenous Americans would be extremely similar to that which everyone is facing today. The loss of land, extinction of species, deforestation, and much more are all mirrored some 100 years ago or so. 

 I’ve always been interested in the idea of using indigenous practices to help combat climate change. The idea of bringing back the original species of rice or flowers and how that might positively impact the environment has always resonated with me. That being said it’s always been in a context of fixing the problems that are affecting me or my family group. The context in which these all-encompassing problems are played out is very important. Considering different viewpoints of those who have been living in these conditions for the aforementioned hundreds of years. These are not new problems. They are an extension of the same problems that humans have been facing for centuries, merely under a new frame. The chapter mentions that carbon emissions were not the cause of the hardships faced by indigenous Americans, but the effect it had on these people was similar to that we have today. This reading has definitely got me more interested in the concept of looking at seemingly modern problems through a context of history. Who knows what other contemporary issues could have a long-forgotten solution. 

Buffalos and Sweetgrass

There was an Idea thrown around during our mock debate of the Lynn White vs. Pope Francis arguments. The idea that indigenous people had managed to find a balance between their self expansion and preserving the environment. We brought up this idea in regards to the wester colonizers, who believed in Christianity, and who obviously were not able to find a balance between themselves and the environment because that’s where we are now. In the dystopian earth threatening future created by the colonizers. In a world where there aren’t herds of wild buffalos roaming free across the countryside’s. What I find so fascinating about this thought we had in our mock debate is that its the main topic of Kyle Whyte’s article Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene.

In his video interview he brings up that climate change is not a new thought for the indigenous people. They have been recording through their stories and culture the interactions that indigenous people have with the plants and animals around them. One modern work that I keep thinking of which showcases these interactions is Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Kimmerer. It is a fascinating collection of indigenous folklores that cornicle the scientific interactions with various plants and flora across the country. A specific example is the way that indigenous people would use sweet grass to braid and create their objects, and through this relationship the sweet grass actually would benefit. Then once the natives were removed from their lands these populations of sweet grass that once were harvested and braided where now left untouched. I’m pretty sure this very negatively affected their population but I don’t recall how. The book is filled with these interaction of well recorded environmental changes and balancing, where indigenous people were able to create symbiotic relationships with the environment around. This kept their respect for the environment and the world higher overall which if left to rule North America may have never led to the dystopia that we are in now.

All these messages are now being brought up for one purpose, and that’s to protect ALL of the earth, not just the parts of it we like the most. In this day and age with all our technology and actions with unknown consequence’s its so hard to be aware of how just one individual affects the world around them. Just buying one water bottle could trace back to endangering thousands of species, so where at this point where humans are no longer being held accountable for their actions since so much of them are near impossible to account for. We are in a dystopian future where so much of our earth is in danger, and as much as we would like to there is no way to go back. So we have to move forward doing as much as we can to make the change we want for our earth.