[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
You are here: Home Latest News & Articles The Dangerous Myth of Natives

The Dangerous Myth of Natives

Opinion by M. Ellis | May 28, 2007

Before the Point Reyes National Park Service announced their plan to exterminate the axis and fallow deer, a simple illusion had made my world a happier, softer place. I believed myself to be a devoted fan of park rangers, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club. I vaguely imagined that the people who dedicated their lives to working for these groups must share my own love of nature and awed reverence for the splendor of creation and, indeed, for life itself. It has been a painful lesson for me to learn that I have been wrong.

To get to the aching heart of my personal disillusionment, I have to take you back to the previous century, to one of the darkest decades our planet has ever witnessed: the 1940's. As infamous and well-documented as the works of Nazi Germany are, it remains a little known fact that they sought not only to exterminate human beings whom they viewed as inferior and non-native, but that they also set about destroying all animals and plants which they categorized in this way. Their goal of a 'pure' world drove them to commit the atrocities that civilization must never forget. Imagine my heavy spirit and chilled bones upon learning that the National Park Service, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club are today marching under this same banner, with these same goals of exterminating all classes of life that they deem to be non-native.

I want to make it clear here that I am speaking of the official positions being declared by these four groups. I am not ready to accuse individual, local citizens who may be tied to these groups through their jobs and their understandable need to make a living. There is still time for such people to truly evaluate whether they wish to continue their affiliation with these organizations. The Audubon Society, in particular, is presenting a baffling dilemma to many members of long standing who strongly disagree with the killing of species of animals. Numerous donors are withdrawing their funding over this issue and many more are simply trying to understand why a society whose organization is founded on a passionate delight in the life of birds would offer support to an organization whose mission is to inhumanely slaughter animals.

It is the dangerous myth of natives that is at the root of all of this evil. The officiating members of these groups, many of whom are educated scientists, have developed a frightening blind spot. They are drawing an arbitrary line in the sands of time and declaring that all species present in a region before the line are native, whereas all species appearing after the line are alien.

It is this method of reasoning that allows them to say that black-tailed deer (believed to have evolved some 5 million years ago) are native but that fallow deer (brought to the Point Reyes area in the 1950's) are non-native. One can almost follow the logic in an example like this, where one species appears to have inhabited a region for so much longer than another. However, the system breaks down once you come to terms with the fact that the natural history of the earth is really a series of enforced or voluntary migrations of seeds, animals and human beings. These migrations began at the beginning of life on earth and are still going on today. This is Nature's way. Not neat. Not orderly. Not about grids, lines and rows. Nature's way has always been to let life flow over the planet, causing change, after change, after change. We are wrong to try to stop this. If we could succeed; the result would be a museum - not a living planet. The result would be a dead thing.

The quest for genetic purity means that most of the food crops grown in the United States would have to be destroyed, because they come from China, South America, and Africa. The quest for genetic purity means no opossums or foxes, or eucalyptus trees in the California Bay Area. The quest for genetic purity means no roses in your garden, no dogs or cats in your yard, and certainly, no cows on the hills.

Some 5,000 years ago, the Miwok Indians were the only human beings living along the Point Reyes seashore. And then came the European conquistadors of the 1500's. Can we consider the Miwoks to have been truly native with 5,000 years of residence to their credit? Can we consider the explorers, the usurpers of the land, to be natives with only 500 years to their name? Must the Park Service evacuate West Marin of all peoples of Caucasian heritage in order to turn the land back to its earlier inhabitants? And need we make the point that the Point Reyes National Seashore Park is an invention of only yesterday? Beyond a doubt, the presence of park rangers offers perhaps the strangest, most contrived and least native sight in the region.

But here, we hit upon the greatest and most dangerous assumption of all - that man is somehow excluded from the question of natives. His roads, his polluting vehicles, his machines, his weapons, his buildings, and, indeed, his very self is held to be beyond the judgment he seeks to enforce on the rest of creation. This is what gives the lie to the environmental cleansers. If they truly wished to return the land to some pristine, prehistoric state, their first step would have to be to absent themselves from the scene.

Mankind is the relative newcomer on the planet. We are the babies playing amongst the ancient species of trees, of plants, of animals. And yet, conscience has yet to stop us from pretending that we are the great Creator of all. The men and women who are drawing up the plans, the positions and the strategies for the NPS, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the Sierra Club are presuming to take rights to themselves that no one has given them. Under the temporal delusion that they own the lands and all that they contain, they are recklessly killing hundreds of thousands of individual animals and plants every year under their banner of purity.

It seems to me that the worst evils in the world, the ones that have most hurt my faith in humanity and my belief in the goodness of life, are the evils that are presented under the guise of righteousness. The church leader who steals his parishioners' money, the politician who lies to his people, the environmentalist with a gun in his hand.

My eyes are open now. The world is uglier. To the leaders of these groups whom I once admired, I can no longer be a fool for you.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]