Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:1 (Spring 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


In The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, anthropologist Shepard Krech III sets out to prove that the image of the indigenous peoples and cultures of the Americas so regularly invoked to demonstrate humanity's capacity to live harmoniously with nature is a misleading one, more the product of image building by modern ecologists than a reality of history. That image of the American Indian as ecologist was epitomized in a 1971 Keep America Beautiful, Inc. campaign against litter depicting actor Iron Eyes Cody as a Native American who shed tears over thoughtless acts of littering and pollution. It was an effective campaign, Krech tells us, but did not reflect the true history of the relationship between Indian peoples and nature. Although it is generally difficult to prove a negative, the author does have the advantage of being able to search for examples of American Indian ecological incorrectness across hundreds of cultures and several centuries to make his point.