Many people are under a false impression that early Native Americans are the original environmentalists. This is an impression that many people share. The Abenaki tribes that resided in Maine from 3700 BP were not by our traditional definition, environmentalists. In fact they were far from ecologically sound. This paper is meant not to criticize the Native Americans of the age, but to clarify their roles in the environment. To better understand this subject some background is needed.
The Abenaki People of the Northeast led a non-permanent exististance based mostly on the seasonal flux in the region. The area of land now referred to as Maine especially. Maine has always had abrupt seasons and the Abenaki used these seasons to their advantage. Their culture is one of direct appropriation with nature. This meaning that they were a culture in which nothing was permanent. Their survival depended on mobility. The Abenaki did not utilize storage as we do now, or even as the early Europeans of the time did. For each of the four seasons they stayed in areas where they would successfully survive. For instance, the summer months were spent on the coastal regions fishing and foraging while in the winter they pulled back into the interior forests for protection and hunting. However, they did return to the same part of the forests, coasts and waterfalls where their former camps had been.
Although the Abenaki culture bent to the seasons, they dramatically shaped their surrounding environments. The Abenaki tribes would change the location of the campsites every ten to fifteen years due to a variety of reasons. The southern Abenaki tribes who performed some sort of agriculture would experience severe soil exhaustion after a decade of farming that particular piece of land. The Abenaki required enormous amounts of wood for campfires, smoking meat, building homes and cooking to name but a small few. Pest infestation was also another reason that the Abenaki would move the camp....
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