Native American Environmentalism


Native American Environmentalism

Land, Spirit, and the Idea of Wilderness

Joy Porter

224 pages
4 illustrations


April 2014


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Native American Environmentalism the history of indigenous peoples in North America is brought into dialogue with key environmental terms such as “wilderness” and “nature.” The conflict between Christian environmentalist thinking and indigenous views, a conflict intimately linked to the current environmental crisis in the United States, is explored through an analysis of parks and wilderness areas, gardens and gardening, and indigenous approaches to land as expressed in contemporary art, novels, and historical writing.
Countering the inclination to associate indigenous peoples with “wilderness” or to conflate everything “Indian” with a vague sense of the ecological, Joy Porter shows how Indian communities were forced to migrate to make way for the nation’s “wilderness” parks in the nineteenth century. Among the first American communities to reckon with environmental despoliation, they have fought significant environmental battles and made key adaptations. By linking Native American history to mainstream histories and current debates, Porter advances the important process of shifting debate about climate change away from scientists and literary environmental writers, a project central to tackling environmental crises in the twenty-first century.

Author Bio

Joy Porter is a professor of indigenous history at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. She is the author of Native American Freemasonry: Associationalism and Performance in America (Nebraska, 2011) and the coauthor of Competing Voices from Native America and The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature.


"This volume offers a unique study of environmentalism and the author shows great respect for Native Americans and their beliefs and proclaims that they have much to teach wider society."—Library Journal

"In an era when environmental problems are growing in number and severity, this interdisciplinary book is timely for examining humanity's place in nature by scrutinizing in historical and comparative perspective the spiritual ecology of Native Americans. . . . Porter lays some of the crucial foundation for a fundamental rethinking of the vital interrelationships between religion and nature for the sake of creating a far more sustainable, just, peaceful, and spiritual society. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice

"Joy Porter's Land and Spirit in Native America effectively challenges the empty rhetoric and wishful thinking about pan-Indian holism, spirituality, and place. In its place Porter offers a nuanced, grounded, and insightful investigation of the role of spirit and land in a range of tribal localities and uses an equally wide range of modalities to remind us the ways in which American Indian tribes have experienced and expressed the relationship of place and person in the last two hundred years. Excellent, insightful, and considered--a valuable addition to the field."—David Treuer, professor of English at University of Minnesota, Leech Lake Reservation

"I'm glad Joy Porter has written masterfully about this matter of continuity in Land and Spirit in Native America."—Simon Ortiz, author of Woven Stone, From Sand Creek, and Out There Somewhere

Table of Contents

1. Approaches to Spirituality, Tradition, Land, Wilderness, Nature, Landscape, and Place
2. On Middle Way Thinking, Gardening, Parks, and Aspects of Indian Thinking about Land
3. Spiritual Approaches to Life in America
4. Literature, Land, and Spirit
5. Art, Land, and Spirit
6. Environmental Justice, Place, and Indian "Sacrifice"
7. Vanishing, Reappearing, and Disappearing Indians on American Soil
8. Future Directions Into and Out of the Wild

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