Changes in the Land, Cronon

Topics: Colonialism, Native Americans in the United States, Ecology Pages: 5 (1763 words) Published: April 9, 2014

The text “Changes In The Land” by William Cronon is an accurate depiction of the alteration in ecology in New England during the colonial period. The book carefully describes how the Indians had been influencing their environment in a significant yet sustainable manner many years before the Europeans came to colonize New England. Cronon explains the idea of how commodity shaped the differences between western and native land practices. He has the ability to tell this story from both perspectives in a correct and clearly understandable fashion. He illustrates that the misunderstanding between two races eventually led to the fall of the Indians. Cronon constantly calls upon many records and scientific reports to support his arguments on the changes that occurred in the colonial period in New England. This book demonstrates how humans shape the environment they are in. It provides readers with a great of environmental account that has change the lives of many people.

Natives’ years before landfall and colonization had been shaping the world around them. They lived very nomadic lifestyles that brought them all around the land depending on the seasons and where the food was this lead to a lesser impact on the environment. Many groups of natives did practice agriculture but at a very small scale. They had “practices of burning extensive sections of surrounding forests once or twice a year” (Cronon, pg. 49.). The benefits of doing this was enormous, they created conditions favorable for crops, prevented pests and diseases, and slowing down the weeds and thickets from growing to unfavorable conditions. For New England Indians, ecological diversity meant stability and a regular supply of things that kept them alive (Cronon, pg. 53.). The natives only used what they needed and did not lay much to waste. A fundamental difference between the natives and the colonists was the Europeans believed in and required permanent settlements. The concept of fixed land was one a European view and not a native one. “Cleared fields, pastures, fences, and so on”(Cronon, pg. 53.) were practices used widely among Europeans that did not maintain ecological diversity like the natives did. In the process they displaced many natives and disrupted their way of life. Europeans used agriculture on a more massive scale to have the added benefit trading to acquire more resources, which eventually led eventual landscape destruction that Indians had been so used to. “The central conflict between the natives and the colonists was in they way the interacted with their environments. The struggle was over the way of living... and it expressed itself into how peoples conceived property, wealth, and boundaries on the landscape”(Cronon, pg. 52.). Cronon has the ability to provide the reader with factual evidence from both sides (the natives and the Europeans) in a very equal manner. He is able to provide the reader with evidence from both perspectives of the story correctly; in this manner it makes this text free of bias and opinion, which is always a good quality in a book when looking at historical/ecological texts.

The change in landscape of New England was very pronounced when the colonists came to settle. From being covered with trees and the diversity being very great. The land was very healthy and everything flourished. When colonization first began, many of the settlers said they viewed the land as “merchantable commodity”(Cronon, pg. 20.). They saw the land as having infinite resources and therefore exploited the land to its max, not having any regard for the environment. At first there was plenty of everything, but because of how the Europeans exploited the lands and their agricultural practices, the land became hard to harvest. Many concerns arose from overusing land, using only on type of crop on a stretch of land, and letting livestock eat and graze on lands. But before any of the land could be used European usage, the land had to be cleared....


References: Cronon, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York: Hill and Wang, 1983. Print.
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