“Taking without asking”: the experience of Native America of the invasion of Euro-settlers

Dances With Wolves, which I watched in segments over the past week, is like a parable for the ecological damage done to the world. It was more than a parable to the Native Americans who experienced it directly, in many cases all the way to their own premature deaths. When they spoke of “the white men coming” in the film, and especially when the old chief spoke of predecessors to the white man who were all alike in their “taking without asking”. (This reminded me of the Daniel Quinn novel “Ishamel”, who told of “The Takers”; those who would not live in balance, but always sought much more).

The loss of the “American Frontier” is more than just a loss of “beautiful scenery”, but loss of generations of expectation and interdependence. All of these indigenous cultures, and their staggering losses, is not only human tragedy, which is horrific enough to bear, but also loss of the assumption of connection that these cultures took for granted. It may well have been shortly before I entered into this new awareness of the interconnected Creation that I had previously watched Dances With Wolves. This time this sense of grief for what has been lost , almost in direct parallel with the “American experiment”, is a sense for that tragedy that the Native Americans must have had to behold and to realize; a loss of that which they, together, had experienced as a mutuality and inter-relatedness with the created order. And to watch a subset of humans run roughshod over it in their assumed role as “takers”, must have been so difficult to watch. They ran over everything, which , for the Natives, was people and creation, which was one.

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