Sunday, January 06, 2013

Indian/first nation tribes in the Pacific Northwest and environmental advocacy

The Haida salmon cultivation scuffle has to do with an iron dump in the ocean by an Indian tribe in the Pacific Northwest, the British Columbia area.  This has sparked controversy because, well, the belief is that even if the iron dump in the sea managed to increase the salmon run the concern is that the salmon will have fed off toxic algae and that that, in turn, will be toxic for the people of the tribe.  Another argument is that the method is inefficient, though precisely what method of cultivating agriculture or animal food staples is efficient might be exactly the sort of production-line approach that might be considered problematic for the environment, couldn't it?

It would appear that the person who came up with the idea of the iron dump was trying to develop a creative solution to salmon cultivation while accepting that global warming is a significant issue.  But this has not necessarily kept some environmentalists from saying the idea is too risky.  The tribe, however, has been willing to put its own money into the project and has done the deed already.

For those who remember Pacific Northwest tribes and ecology from the last decade, we got the Makah tribe getting criticism from environmentalists for a whaling tradition dating back millenia.  Now here I put my bias in plain sight, I've descended from a tribe in the Pacific Northwest and while ecological concerns are certainly things I can respect ... it does strike me that in the first two decades of the 20th century it looks like Pacific Northwest Indians in the US and Canada can run afoul of environmental groups for either doing what they've always been doing and on a very small scale (Makah) or taking some initiative to remedy a significant staple food problem in a way that accounts for global warming (Haida).  None of these tribes have ever been near as big as the white industrialist and post-industrial cultures that, say, have industries that get mercury into the water supply to a degree that PNW Indians are four times more likely to get cancer.  Why?  Well, because those trace toxic metals accumulate faster if they're in fish and you're four times more likely to eat fish because it's been one of your staple foods since before white people showed up, that "might" be why.

So whether it's white people taking the land or then using federal laws and ecological paradigms to tell them what they can't do with the land they still have it can kinda, sorta seem like American Indians can't win for losing.  Of course you'd hope that this kind of scandal could by itself obliterate the stupid cliche of the American Indian in touch with Mother Nature who cares about the magical land, eh? ;-)

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