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Native American Environmental IssuesTraditionally Native Americans have had an immediate and reciprocal relationship with their natural environments At contact they lived in relatively small groups close to the earth They defined themselves by the land and sacred places and recognized a unity in their physical and spiritual universe Their cosmologies connected them with all animate and inanimate beings Indians moved in a sentient world managing its bounty and diversity carefully lest they upset the spirit bosses who balanced and endowed that world They acknowledged the power of Mother Earth and the mutual obligation between hunter and hunted as coequals Indians celebrated the earths annual rebirth and offered thanks for her first fruits They ritually addressed and prepared the animals they killed the agricultural fields they tended and the vegetal and mineral materials they processed They used song and ritual speech to modify their world while physically transforming that landscape with fire and water brawn and brain They did not passively adapt but responded in diverse ways to adjust environments to meet their cultural as well as material desires The pace of change in Indian environments increased dramatically with Euroamerican contact Old World pathogens and epidemic diseases domesticated plants and livestock the disappearance of native flora and fauna and changing resource use patterns altered the physical and cultural landscape of the New World Nineteenth-century removal and reservation policies reduced the continental scope of Indian lands to mere islands in the stream of American settlement Reservations themselves were largely unwanted or remote environments of little perceived economic value Indian peoples lost even that land as the General Allotment Act of 1887 divided reservations into individual holdings By 1930 this policy contributed to the alienation of over 80 percent of Indian lands -- a diminishment of land resources and biotic diversity that relegated Indians to the periphery of American society By the beginning of the twentieth century Native Americans controlled mere remnants of their former estates most in
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