Changes in the Land by William Cronon

In the nonfiction novel, “Changes in the Land by William Cronon” it evaluates the dynamic lifestyle of the nature’s populace of wildlife and animals during the time period of the Native Americans losing dominance to the European community. The approach Cronon took involves an examination of the impact of the changing ecology had on Native American population throughout the span of time. Using an assortment of information, Cronon illustrates how there were also vivid consequences involved during this time period.

In the preface Cronon describes, “there are less orthodox sorts of evidence which historians borrow from other disciplines and have less experience in criticizing.” (Cronon 7). Using records along with different tools for historical study was Cronon able to support his claims. Information on travelers, assessor records, or town hall records were crucial to Cronon’s controversy. According to the Europeans, they described the environment of New England as profoundly extravagant and full on animal and plant life. These settlers were not at all expecting such a wide stretch of uninhabited land. However, there was of course a large portion that covered mainly forests which would be easily utilized for firewood, stakes, shelter, and other means. By establishing the significance to the grasp of understanding that the changes taking place in the ecosystem was important, Cronon also describes relations between the Indian and American groups, and reiterating the different circumstances that occurred. He highlights the importance of viewing these contacts not as being altogether representing the American or Indian populations, but as gatherings with their situational dillemas. Cronan states, “Indeed when the Indians wondered why English colonists were coming to their land, the first explanation that occurred to them was a fuel shortage.” (Cronon 49). The Native Americans and European settlers had differing views and an overall different culture of life as well as having conflicted judgement on how they were utilizing the land around them. He also concurred, “But the way Indians had chosen to inhabit that world posed a paradox almost from the start for Europeans accustomed to other ways of interacting with the environment. Many European visitors were struck by what seemed to them the poverty of Indians…” (Cronon 33). In order to fully understand why such a climactic transformation in this ecosystem occurred, it is crucially important to comprehend the difference in practices between the Native American inhabitants and their European oppressors. Native American communities took advantage of the periodic distinctiveness of their environment by exercising flexibility, “The English too had their seasons of want and plenty, and rapidly adjusted their false expectations of perpetual wealth to match New World realities. But whereas Indian villages moved from habitat to habitat to find maximum abundance through minimum work…” (Cronon 53). Their shelters were conviently portable, and they specifically only possessed belongings that were essential to their needs since literally everything had to be lightweight and transportable. There was diversity within the Indian tribes established off of which region they were associated with, but the importance was that the Indians moved to wherever the food was most bountiful.

In Cronon’s thesis he comments on how the Native Americans way of life alienated from the European colonists coming into New England. The Europeans regularly criticized the Indian style of life. Their attempts to try to understand these different shenanigans of the Indians quickly declined, such as when the Indians decided to willingly go hungry during the winter, despite knowing food scarcity was approaching. The colonists were fascinated by the continual bonfire gatherings the Native Americans performed in the forest, which in turn granted for better hunting grounds. To the Europeans, hunting was merely for sport, as they did not have ample amount of animals in Great Britain with the omission of seperate, private properties exclusive to the wealthy. This account of diversity derived from a difference in the origins between these two factions. The Europeans owned and raised domesticated animals, such as horses, oxen, and cattle which were utilized within the fields of farmland to assist in planting and cultivating the crops. Cronon describes a shift in the Native Americans beginning to convert as, “…deer became harder to obtain. Toward the end of the seventeenth century , many Indians were actually beginning to keep European livestock.” (Cronon 103). However, the Europeans noticing the Native Americans starting to lack in the resources that they had come to rely most on, and took advantage through trade which it always came to a point where if they did not have goods to trade with they would, “…turn to the only major commodity they had left: their land.” (Cronon 103). This in turn unfortunately resulted in the Native Americans living in the south losing their land to primarily the New England merchants.

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