Changes in the Land In the book “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England”, William Croon describes a variety of changes that followed the contact of European Settlers and Native Indians with the land in New England. Croon makes the point that these changes in the environment resulted from cultural differences and interactions between English settlers and Indians. The slow transition that concludes in using the environment as a form of income provides a solid background through which the ecological changes of New England can be thoroughly understood.
From the overuse of resources to the destruction of areas in New England, the settlers’ lifestyle, including their economy and culture, certainly changed the land. Croon begins his analytical journey by discussing one Of Henry David Thoreau journals giving a glimpse into the changes in the land and ecological systems in early New England to the present. The land that Thoreau speaks about is the result of the settling of the Europeans, he confidently states, “squalidness may consist with civilization” (Thoreau, 35).
Croon does attribute the problems in the environment to the Europeans, but not everyone agrees with his statement. Croon provides an outline of the ecological as well as cultural changes in New England. He uses many different forms of evidence such personal travel accounts from tourists and a variety of legal documents and records to support his belief that historical events led to intense changes in the environment. Croon makes the point that there was an abundance of plant and animal life before the Europeans settled in New England and blames them for the ecological depletion that arises in the near future.
Croon sakes it known that the European settlers impacted ecosystems to a much different extent when compared to the Indians who had been in contact with the land for much longer. The debate of the contrasting lifestyles of the Europeans and Indians pertained to the use of land and natural resources and the definition and use of property between the different cultures. European settlers followed different socioeconomic customs than the Indians did. They wanted to stay in one place and create a lifestyle around their environment. Europeans looked at the land as a source of commodity, meeting they could use.
They thought of the land as something they could own as their property. The Indians saw their land in a very different light. They had an intimate relationship with the land in which they dwelled on; a relationship intimate enough to the point of knowing how to adapt to the different seasons that presented themselves. They were a hunter-gatherer community and followed food sources and stored their food. Since northern Indians were not agriculturalists, they ate less in the colder months when they knew that the abundance of food would be scarce.
The Indians hunted smaller animals and fished during the spring and moved to bigger animals in the fall. They did not want to settle in one place and keep one piece of land; they would follow their resources and were migrant in their seasonal movement. Southern Indians did not have to eat less in the colder months because they were agriculturalists. They were not agriculturalists to the extent of the Europeans, but they did grow drops for harvest and stored them for use in the colder months when the crops would not have the ability to row.
They burned crop fields and forests to make room for more planting which caused an enormous decline in the amount of forests present in southern New England. Southern Indians also hunted and used animal skin to provide clothing for their families. Both Indian populations adopted gender- specific roles. The men hunted and did most of the manual labor while the women cared for the children and gathered food from the fields (Croon, 43). These accounts show that Southern Indians, from both regions, impacted their land very differently.
Indian populations depleted the forests and burned them to make room for crops during the warmer months and planting season or for warmth in the colder months. The depletion of these forests caused open areas with “dead soil” where nothing would grow. The number Of prevalent animals species was also said to decline. Croon States in the introduction of the book, ‘Thoreau list of those that were now absent was stark: bear, moose, deer, porcupine, ‘the grim faced Ounce, and ravenous howling wolf,’ and beaver. Martens” (Thoreau , 4).
This shows that the Indians effected the abundance of animals present on the land of New England through hunting. Indians also depleted animal resources through the killing of animals for fur to trade with the European settlers. Europeans not only brought a different view of the land and different cultural views with them to New England, they also brought many diseases. Since the Indian populations were never introduced to these agents, the new bacteria, toxins, and diseases affected them greatly. Croon states that up to ninety percent of Indian populations were wiped out by disease.
This many deaths made it very difficult for Indians to plant crops, harvest, and hunt. These deaths also caused the Indians to start to negotiate with the European settlers. In the Indian culture, killing animals for wampum, a symbol of high status, is a very respected act The more the diseases stretched across Indian communities, the more the Indian people traded fur to maintain resources within their communities. As mentioned before, the Indians used the resources on their land and moved on to another resource patch.
They did not see the land as something they possessed. Based on this view, Europeans thought that the way that Indians lived their lives was a waste. In Changes of the Land, Croon states, “To European eyes Indians appeared to squander the resources that were available to them. Indian poverty was the result of Indian waste: underused land, underused natural abundance, underused human labor (Croon, 56). The Europeans argued that since the Indians moved around so much and did not work very hard, there was no way that they had the right to permanently own the land.
Settlers saw the Indians as lazy and did not see heir everyday tasks as work; since the settlers saw the land as a commodity they thought that Indians were wasting the land and that they were not improving their lives and economic fortunes. Settlers appreciated the land for its price and not for its usage, which is the opposite of how Indians viewed it. Just as the European settlers and Indians had different views on land ownership, they also had opposing views on the animals that roamed the lands.
Europeans thought that land should be claimed and owned as their own, and the same goes for how they felt about their animals, they wanted intro of their animals just as they wanted control of their lands. To control their animals, the Europeans built fences to keep them in a secure place. This construction changed the ecosystem by placing large amounts of animals on small portions of land as well as dividing land. The Europeans depleted more forests to make room to hold all of these animals. The animals also needed to be transported across New England, causing roads to be built which changed the ecosystem dramatically.
Through the analysis and summary of this book en will realize the tremendous effect in which Europeans and Indians, alike, had on the ecosystem. Many believe that Indians did not have much Of an effect on the natural ecosystem of New England because they embraced the land, but Changes in the Land shows how they attributed to the depletion of many forests and woodlands as well as to the decline of populations of certain animal species. The Indians did in fact contribute to the change that the land that New England faced during the time that they were present.
There was a shift from Indian to European dominance due to many factors, he biggest being the different views of the land. The Indians did not see it as property, but the European settlers did. They saw it easy to take over the ecosystems and land because the land did not belong to anyone. Overall, the Indians who were present on the land before settlers came over entailed changes, but the shift from Indian to European dominance entailed drastic changes that are still present and changing today.