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[JSRNC 2.1 (2008) 6-29] doi: 10.1558/jsrnc.v2i1.

JSRNC (print) ISSN 1363-7320 JSRNC (online) ISSN 1743-1689

_____________________________________________ Guest Editors Introduction: Indigenous Nature Reverence and Conservation Seven Ways of Transcending an Unnecessary Dichotomy _____________________________________________
Jeffrey G. Snodgrass
Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1787, USA Jeffrey.Snodgrass@Colostate.edu

Kristina Tiedje
Centre de Recherches et dEtudes Anthropologiques, Universit Lyon 2, Campus Porte Des Alpes, Btiment K, 5, avenue Pierre-Mends-France, 69676 Bron Cedex, France Kristina.Tiedje@univ-lyon2.fr

Indigenous peoples around the world revere their environments trees, rivers, grasses, stones, hills, and forests. Often labeled Animists,1 indigenous peoples also personify their environments, treating both their lands and the non-human denizens occupying those lands as persons to be related to as cognizant and communicative subjects rather than as inert or insignicant objects. One would imagine that this reverence and personication of their surroundings would lead indigenous peoples to conscious conservation thought and practice: that they would do everything in their power, logic would seem to dictate, to protect the deities; likewise, that they would strive not to harm plant and animal persons who, in many respects, possess a right to life equal to that of humans. Many anthropologists do, in fact, suggest that indigenous religions work to promote balance, harmony, and dynamic equilibrium between humans and their environments, providing evidence for what would seem to be religiously inspired conservation ethics among the worlds
1. We capitalize Animism in order to bestow on indigenous religions the same dignity as other purported world religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. We do not capitalize this term in its adjectival and adverbial forms.
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Snodgrass and Tiedje Guest Editors Introduction

indigenous peoples. For example, Roy Rappaport (1967, 1984), taking a systems approach, argues that for the Tsembaga of Papua New Guinea, ritual pig feasts helped to regulate the balance between human and pig populations, preventing overpopulation and resource depletion. Both Richard Nelson (1982, 1983) and Fikret Berkes (1999) argue that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and religiously inspired ethics of respect of and restraint toward animal persons and the natural world temper northern Native Americans exploitation of their environments. In a more complex context, Stephen Lansing (1987, 1991; Lansing and Kremer 1993), using agent-based models and computer simulation, points to the way that Hindu water temples and priests help to regulate water usage on the densely populated island of Bali, thus making the traditional agricultural system more sustainable than new green revolution technologies and innovations. These anthropological studies have opened a spirited debate on the relationship between indigenous nature-based religions and conservation, understood here as actions or practices consciously designed to prevent or mitigate resource overharvesting or environmental damage (Smith and Wishnie 2000). Many scholars, following insights in the above-referenced studies, see a close relation between the two. For the Amazon, Darrell Posey and William Bale (1989), and also Robin Wright (2007), argue that indigenous knowledge can be combined with conservationist efforts (see also Posey 1985). For the Pacic region, Nancy Williams and Graham Baines (1993) advance a similar stance, showing that indigenous wisdom can be useful for conservation and sustainable development. Similarly, the authors in John Grims book (2001c) highlight the interbeing of ecology and cosmology in indigenous lifeways, suggesting, implicitly and explicitly, that indigenous religions may lead to more ecologically sound behavior. The increasing interest in indigenous environmental beliefs as a recipe for better conservation practice is also exemplied by the edited volume by Darrell Posey (1999) on the cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity, as well as by recent discussions on the culture-specic values underlying modern conceptions of nature conservation (Harmon and Putney 2003; Tiedje 2007). Then again, there are other scholars both within and outside anthropology who have argued that indigenous peoples religious beliefs do not always get connected to conservation thought or behavior. Pointing to actual environmental outcomes in historical and contemporary contextsthat is, to the manner in which indigenous peoples who share an animistic worldview have participated willingly in the dramatic transformation and even destruction of their natural environments researchers like Shepard Krech (1999, 2005) strive to dismantle as
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romantic myth the notion of indigenous peoples living in harmony with an environment which is revered and defended. These scholars would thus not recommend utilizing indigenous worldviews to promote or bolster sustainable development agendas.2 Any polarized discussion of the connection between indigenous religions and conservation, be it romantic myth or an oversimplied counter to romanticism, tends toward an unfortunate and unnecessary dichotomy, whose roots can be traced back to at least the Enlightenment: indigenous peoples either live in balance with nature (Rousseaus 1993 [1762] noble savages living harmoniously in a blissful state of nature); or they destroy their ecosystems (Hobbes 1958 [1651] state of nature as nasty, brutish, and short). Though Claude Levi-Strauss (1963) demonstrates that dichotomies are undoubtedly good to think with, we are more interested in this instance to do justice to the subtle life experiences and complex cultures of the indigenous peoples with whom we live and work.3 We are not alone in this endeavor. In his critical reections on the uses and misuses of spiritual ecology, one of the anthropological pioneers of the study of the interrelation of indigenous religions and the environment, Leslie Sponsel (2001b: 170), calls for a middleground to move beyond the philosophical and political polarization that views indigenous societies either as conservationists or as destroyers of nature. Based both on his own research among Buddhist forest monks in Thailand as well as on his interpretation of the cross-cultural record, Sponsel (e.g. 1997, 2001a, 2001b) shows that spiritual ecologies may indeed have political implications in some circumstances, just as other religions or belief systems might have. Critical of romanticist assumptions that indigenous spirituality in which the environment is respected and treated as sacred leads to conservation behavior, Sponsel (2001a, 2001b, 2005) calls for the importance of more research on the possible relationships between religion and ecology without undermining indigenous land and resource rights, or romanticizing indigenous lifeways.

2. For similar arguments, see also Alvard 1993, 1998; Diamond 1986, 1988, 1992; Edgerton 1992; Kay 1994; Meilleur 1994; Redford 1990; Redford and Stearman 1993; Redman 1999; Whelan 1999. Clearly, uncritical uses of studies that portray indigenous peoples as destroyers of nature also hold tremendous political implications, especially with regards to indigenous resource and land rights. For a useful critique of the arguments of Krech 1999, see Deloria 2000. 3. Though we do acknowledge that uncritical acceptance of the stereotype of environmentally destructive indigenes is more dangerous in its implications in the way it can compromise indigenous land claims and political rights.
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In this introduction, we therefore offer seven ways out of what we consider an over-simplication of the ethnographic record of indigenous peoples relationships to their environments, drawing details to back our points from this volumes ethnographic case studies. It is our aim to move beyond the dichotomies that have either romanticized indigenous peoples as the worlds rst conservationists or blamed them for ecological degradation. It should be noted that in the context of an indigenous animistic cosmos, we understand the term environment to mean an eco-social sphere of a community-of-beings (Berkes 1999), where human and non-human persons co-exist and interact on a daily basis. As a rst step to transcending this dichotomy, we would simply point to the tremendous diversity across indigenous societies. The articles in this volume, for example, are based on ethnographic research conducted among indigenous peoples in India, Nepal, Mexico, North America, and Borneo. Some of the groups discussed in this volume appear to be conservationistsif only in Wittgensteins (2001 [1953]) family resemblance kind of waywhile others do not. We hope that after reading these case studies readers will be hard pressed to say as a general fact whether indigenous peoples are conservationists or not. Eventually, we hope, one would realize that we function as historical witnesses of particular localstateglobal interconnections of the conservation endeavor, of how indigenous traditions are constantly adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. Second, we distinguish between animistic or religious thought on the one hand and conservation thought and behavior on the other. Cognitive anthropologists have devoted considerable attention to the study of models or framescognitive structures which help individuals organize and process information about the world around them, and attribute meaning and signicance to events and experiences.4 Drawing in part on this work, the authors of the articles in this volume point to the manner that indigenous peoples do typically frame their environments animistically, as inhabited by sentient beings that are recognized and related to as living non-human persons. However, readers will see that the particular forms of these animistic models vary from society to society. Indias Bhil Adivasis (First Peoples), for example, who are the focus of the chapter by Snodgrass and his collaborators, frame the hills that surround their villages on a generally benevolent, though somewhat ckle and illtempered, grandfather referred to as Magra Baosi; this mountain deity is believed to possess bones, blood, and hair in his rocks, rivers, trees, and
4. On cultural models, see DAndrade 1995; Holland and Quinn 1987; Schank and Abelson 1977; Strauss and Quinn 1997.
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mosses. Mexican Nahuas, discussed by Tiedje, pay similar reverence to the living and sentient mountains, but they seem even more eager to win the blessings of a non-human corn person, who features in numerous agricultural rituals. In each case, these models of a living and sentient nature are differentially connected to what we might call conservation thought and behavior. Bhil Adivasi shamans, for example, strive to manage and control the ckle Magra Baosi for the benet of themselves, their clients, and their communities, but they are not themselves seen as greatly responsible, or even able, to defend these supernatural powers from harm. Likewise, the Nahua corn persons demand eld-burning and other activities that can lead to, for example, declines in biodiversity. These ethnographic details lead us to suggest that, to reframe this second point, a distinction should be made between knowledge models of how the world is or is believed to be (animated by sentient persons) as compared to value or ethical models of how one ought to behave in such a world (animals and plants should be protected) (Kempton, Boster, and Hartley 1995). Making this distinction allows for multiple Animisms, some which get connected to the ethical mandate to conserve ones environment and others which do not. Some individuals, or even some societies as a whole, connect ideas about an animated nature with a cultural value to protect that nature, while others do not give such a value priority relative to other values. In discussing Indian Nayakas relationship to wild elephants, Bird-David and Naveh, for example, demonstrate how maintaining good relationships with non-human family members is a local priority. In this South Asian ethnographic context, conservation may come as a by-product of this Nayaka animist model of familiality and kinship with the natural world, but it is not the explicit intention of these hunter-gatherers. Cognitive anthropologists are particularly interested in cultural models or frames, in the sense of abstract and simplied mental representations of the world that are widely shared by many individuals, and which thus structure reasoning and practice in a range of contexts by many different individuals. This leads us to our third way out of an overly simplistic view of the relationship of indigenous peoples with their environments: Animistic cultural models, like sentiments to defend nature, are not shared equally by all persons in a particular society; nor are they activated equally in all contexts. We would thus point to a great diversity of relationships to the environment not only across but also within individual indigenous societies. In the language of cognitive anthropology, models and ethical sentiments are distributed across individuals and contexts. This distributional or epidemiological view of culture (Sperber 1985, 1996) reminds us that cultures are not of one piece: yes, animistic
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knowledge models, like conservation value models, may be widely shared by members of a given society, but few (if any) models are shared by all members of that society. Rather, we would encourage readers to visualize the indigenous cultures described in these papers as composed of competing models of nature (some animistic, others disenchanted [Weber 1946]) and competing ethical obligations (some ecocentric, others anthropocentric [Stern 2000; Stern et al. 1999]), which are activated and conjoined in particular lives and contexts depending on the exigencies of the situation. This discussion of the manner in which cultural models are socially activated draws attention to the fact how we, as anthropologists, are most interested in how beliefs about the world, or about how one should behave in the world, are played out in actual lives and experiences. That is, we are interested in social and personal reality rather than beliefs, ideals, or norms in the abstract. Cognitive anthropologists, for example, speak of the way that cultural models and values are differentially internalized in individual psyches (Spiro 1987). For many indigenous peoples, animistic models and conservation values guide thought, motivate behavior, and get connected to the deepest of personal projects and commitments. Still, we need to keep in mind that many other individuals within the societies discussed within this volume are only knowledgeable in a detached way about conservation beliefs and values to which they may only pay lip-servicethey might, for example, consciously appropriate the conservation language of state agents in order to win political rights, as described in Obadias article on the Sherpas of Nepal. We would hope readers would think of cultural internalization of animistic ontologies and conservation values along a continuum: some individuals (shamans in most of the societies discussed in this volume come to mind) personal and professional identities are built upon the ability to communicate with non-human natural persons and forces (though not necessarily to defend those persons and forces); however, other indigenous peoples (we are thinking in particular of those Kelabit of Borneo who have converted to Christianity) seem little interested in devoting too much effort or energy to the superstitious reverence of unpredictable, and ultimately weak and even evil, forest and animal spirits to which others in their communities are so committed. Based on these details, as a fourth transcending of a dichotomy that would label indigenous peoples either conservationists or not, we would remind readers that the societies under consideration in this volume are composed of individuals that are every bit as diverse, complicated, and even conicted as Westerners. Not all Americans and Europeans are Christians, nor are they environmentalists. Likewise, even the most
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committed of Western Christiansor environmentalistsdo not invariably measure up to their ideals. We would hope that readers would recognize that indigenous peoples are as diverse in their commitments and projects as are other peoples; and that they likewise fail to embody their highest aspirations, be they religious, environmental, or some complex combination of the two. As a result, it is even more difcult to label societies as a whole as conservationist or not. Though we would want to highlight the diversity of individuals within the indigenous societies featuring in this volume, we would wish to distinguish between cultural ideas and collective agreements (see DAndrade 2006). Cultural ideas, as we use the term here, are those that are widely shared by many individuals inhabiting a given community: as we have said, we do think that animist models and conservation values and ideas are oftentimes cultural in the sense that they are broadly shared and agreed upon by our interlocutors at the level of individual belief and commitment. However, an equally important question is whether such models and values get linked to institutions that embody them on the level of collective agreement. At the community level, we are interested in the ariticles of this special issue to map out whether we nd institutions that create and implement rules, regulations, and sanctions related to land and resource use, which express the joint will of the collectivity or of the community. In relationship to land management, indigenous peoples often assign special powers to particular agents to perform specic tasks related to the mandate of the institution and the welfare of the collectivity (Searle 1995). These agentsbe they village headmen, shamans, lineages, religious societies, or Tribal councilsare assigned the duty and responsibility to resolve disputes related to access and use of forest resources. In their land management, these institutions and their agents rely heavily on, and indeed create, community norms: the collective shoulds of life, which Searle calls deontic powers (DAndrade 2006), that set the informal rules, related in this case to resource use, as well as to the sanctions that would be enforced if rules were broken. This leads to a fth important revision on the unnecessary dichotomy being discussed in this introduction: in the various groups considered in these essays, we nd varying degrees of presence of meaningful institutions that organize indigenous peoples for collective actionin this case, for defending their forests against abuse and overuse by both insiders and outsiders to the communitywhich becomes critically determinant of the degree of actual conservation found in a given society.5 In some
5. On institutions, see Searle 1995, and DAndrades 2006 discussion of Searle.

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indigenous societies, we see little or no evidence of a traditional institutionalization of conservation values. Thus, among both the Bornean Kelabit who feature in Matthew Amsters chapter and the Nayaka hunter-gatherers discussed by Bird-David and Naveh, we would point to primarily accidental or epiphenomenal conservation (Hunn 1982) in what could be called traditional ecological resource management contexts, resulting not from explicit or conscious intentions to conserve or from active regimes of land management but rather from low population density, limited technology, or low demand for commodities and undeveloped markets.6 In other cases, for example among the Bhil Adivasis in India, we nd a mix of conservation and anti-conservation institutions in both pre- and post-Independence (1947) settings. In a ritual called spreading saffron (kesar bantna), Bhil elders, along with shamans and other members of the clan, ritually close off degraded sections of the forest from further use for ve or more years. In another Bhil ritual referred to as a re bath (agni snan), however, Bhils make vows to their gods that if certain boons are granted then the supplicants would reward their deities with a gift of re, which could leave an entire slope darkened from re. These intentionally set res often do great damage to the jungle, burning at very high temperatures and thus killing many trees and damaging soils, and local Adivasis know it. Likewise, among the Lakota Sioux of South Dakota discussed by Pickering and Jewell, traditional indigenous regimes of land management have largely disappeared from the local landscape in contemporary times, or have at least been stripped of real power and authority over natural resources by nation-states and corrupt tribal governments. Here we nd a disconnection between individually held values and beliefs which are widespread and internalized in more than a majority of individual psyches, on the one hand, and the lack of institutions which incarnate these values and beliefs, on the other. The institutional and ritual gatherings of clan or tiospaye leaderswhere religious values, beliefs, and commitments get connected to resource-management decisions, rules, and sanctions through debate, compromise, consensus-building, and simple bullying are no more. In these terms, we might say that Sioux religiosity and commitment remain but their effects have waned. In all these cases, either through traditional absence, multiple and even contradictory mandates, or subsequent loss, this lack of viable local institutions to protect indigenous lands can contribute to unprecedented
6. On debates concerning epiphenomenal conservation as compared to conservation by design, see Alvard 1993, 1998; Hunn 1982, 2003; Hunn et al. 2003; Krech 2005; Ruttan and Mulder 1999; Smith and Wishnie 2000.
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degradation of indigenous territories in the contemporary era when populations are greater, technologies of natural resource extraction are more powerful, and demands for natural resource commodities are unprecedented. When there are few, if any, legitimate (from local perspectives) collectively held or maintained rules and norms related to resource managementand thus no collectively held attempt to limit individual desireseven environmentally conscious individuals can fail to act on their best intentions. Lacking institutions for monitoring and policing forest resource use, even committed individuals lose the will to behave sensibly in regards to their forests. Individual restraint in these contexts, after all, would mean that conscientious individuals get less of a valuable resource than those who fail to exercise such restraint. In the light of a lack of meaningful institutions that organize joint defense and management of these forest lands, a mad rush for forest resources, even when it goes against ones personal values, beliefs, and commitments, is an entirely understandable course of action. A tragedy of the commons (Hardin 1968; Ostrom 1990; Ostrom et al. 1999)at least on de facto open access lands such as the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks that feature in some of the essays to follow, where indigenous peoples view state control as illegitimate and thus recognize no legitimate owner or authorityis not only logical, but to be expected. It is true that most nation-states, under the pressure of the international community, are currently striving to institute Western-style conservation programs on indigenous lands. But as case studies in this volume make clear, such models of conservation remain largely disconnected from local thought and environmental practice. To launch our discussion, we nd somewhat useful the distinction by Paul Dwyer (1994: 91) between modern conservation viewed as global in its motivation and assertions of responsibility, and traditional conservation of indigenous peoples, viewed as local, based on rights of access and cooperative management calling for immediate action. This distinction does not view modern (or Western) conservation as qualitatively better than traditional conservation.7 It merely distinguishes between the scale and history of traditional ecological knowledge in indigenous societies and more recent scientic knowledge of Western societies. Such a
7. Here, as in other contexts, we oppose modern or Western conservation to indigenous conservation. We realize that such distinctions are problematic in the way they totalize both the West and also the indigenous societies which are the focus of this volume. We do try in this volume to show subtle differences between conservation in each of the societies treated in our case studies. We acknowledge, moreover, the tremendous diversity of environmental commitments even in a single Western country such as the USA.
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distinction proves useful in part in Tiedjes and Bird-David and Navehs case studiesin both cases, Western conservation ideals do not embody or institute indigenous models and values, and thus have yet to win full local support and allegiance. Then again, they do not argue for a simple juxtaposition of modern versus traditional conservation practices. Especially Tiedjes study of Nahua articulations of traditional environmental narratives with Western conservation guidelines demonstrates that traditional and modern conservation can become two intertwined models, despite persisting power differentials. This brings us to the next point. As we see in case studies from Asia to the Americas, state- and NGO-sponsored conservation still ows largely from a commodity view of indigenous and tribal lands, and indeed a history of clearcuts and state degradation of land, that makes these efforts even more illegitimate in indigenous eyes. Overall, most nationstates are not perceived by indigenous peoples to have the best interests of the forest or local peoples in mind in their laws and policies, an issue amply demonstrated by the increasing indigenous environmental and land rights movements across the world. Further, even when aiming at conservation, state governments are often seen to be largely corrupt and ineffectual from local perspectives, another common indigenous concern that comes through loud and clear in Pickering and Jewells discussion of the Lakota Sioux. In fact, governmental land-management policies, in typically reversing indigenous peoples historical rights of use and access to these woods, seem to have been explicitly designed not to win local cooperation and allegiance. These contexts all make indigenous conservation success less likely, even when values largely consistent with Western conservation ideals are present and embedded in indigenous cosmologies. Building on these observations, our sixth way out of the unnecessary dichotomy that is the subject of this introduction is to point to the way in which indigenous peoples complexly interact with the global economy and the world system, which makes many of them seem to be conservationists at one moment in their history and anti-conservationists at another. As we have already alluded to, some indigenous peoples, through contact with the capitalist and colonialist global systems, have modied or lost those institutions, ritualized or not, that allowed them sensibly and sustainably to manage their lands in the past. In addition, illiterate and tradition-bound indigenous peoples are typically seen both by the state and contemporary NGOs as inappropriate for participation in new institutions of forest management, a stance that local Adivasis in India interpret as a sign of the states disrespect, and even disdain, for indigenous peoples and their traditions. In this context, state bureaucrats
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and employees see local knowledge and values as out-of-sync with principles of scientic forest management. There is thus little effort to merge state policies and practices with indigenous traditions, which further leads to the decline of local traditions of land management. 8 Likewise, poverty and political marginality, which seems to go hand-in-hand with modernization, make it difcult for indigenous peoples to act on conservation commitments even when they might wish to. Of particular note is the intrusion in all of the indigenous societies discussed in this volume of world religions, understood here as the most established religions, such as certain strands of Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In their introductory essay to Deep Ecology and World Religions (2001), David Landis Barnhill and Roger Gottlieb highlight that most major religious traditions were pretty much blind to the environmental crisis until it was pointed out to them by others (2001: 3), such as romantic poets, phenomenologists, and Western Marxists who challenged the dominant Western treatment of nature. Despite the importance of conservationist and animal rights gures such as St. Francis of Assisi, it is further argued that a persisting anthropocentrism of the most established religions might have been a disaster for the environment (Devall 1980; Devall and Sessions 1985; Barnhill and Gottlieb 2001a; Sessions 1991). Readers will be struck by the contrast between traditional Bornean Kelabit ritual entanglement with terrifying and potentially destructive nature spirits, and their current heavily Christianized view of sacred mountains as both places of sin and temptation as well as potentially uplifting wilderness retreats. The Lakota Sioux have similarly felt the impact of various strands of Christianity. The Bhils of Rajasthan (India) have abandoned many animistic beliefs in order to become more fully Hindu; and the Sherpas of Nepal are now largely Buddhist. In each of these contexts, we, the authors, attempt to disentangle local religions of nature reverence from beliefs drawn from the most established world religions, as in Pickering and Jewells statistical comparison between the environmental values and knowledge of Native American Christians and those practicing Lakota Spirituality or Combined Christian and Lakota Spirituality. But the situation is more complex, with indigenous Animism syncretically merging inextricably, if not always seamlessly, with the more recognized religions of the dominant societies within which indigenous communities are now embedded.

8. In other cases modern states and NGOs have been inspired to transform their conservation values and agendas as a result of their contact with indigenous peoples.
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Other contemporary situations are similarly complex, and in many cases, contemporary Western conservation ideals may contribute to a more conscious conservation behavior among the indigenous peoples with whom we work. In Nepal among the Sherpas, as briey mentioned earlier, Lionel Obadia shows how locals sometimes (but not always) reinterpret their local religious beliefs and rituals in an idiom of conservation in order to meet the needs and expectations of development experts and state bureaucrats. Framing oneself as a conservationist, and thus as a good steward of nature, and even selectively and strategically reviving long-dead ritual traditions in order to lend a conservation sheen to indigenous environmental practice, allows locals to manipulate Westerners romantic illusions. Such activity should be understood as conscious political acts meant to win increased rights and assert fuller sovereignty over purportedly state-owned lands. Likewise, the Nahuas reframe globally circulating conservation ideas, easily adopting them into their worldview. The articulation of conservation-as-sacred-practice is an example of how they have come to terms with social, economic, and environmental challenges and offers powerful cultural resources to serve local ends that are not merely political. Readers should be continuously aware of the disjunction between indigenous conservation as a deep ethical commitment as compared to a conservation rhetoric, a situation which further complicates our labeling of indigenous peoples as conservationists or not. Overall, and this is our seventh and nal attempt to recognize greater nuance in the manner in which we understand indigenous peoples and their thought and behavior, all papers in this volume emphasize that we need to clarify the level or scale on which conservation occurs, or fails to occur, in indigenous areas. In some instances, this means simply distinguishing between the conservation thought of indigenous persons as opposed to their actual conservation practice. In the Nahua case, poetic adaptations of corn-child narratives and other stories about extraordinary persons emphasize that Nahua environmental thought is situational, reecting recent and ongoing changes in their environmental and social relations, including internal contradictions between economic and religious views of nature. Their conservation practice in turn is out of sync with the environmental needs of their lands. In the papers to follow, we will see that some indigenous individuals or groups as a whole demonstrate powerful conservation ethics; yet these individuals or groups, for a variety of structural reasons, can fail to translate their ethical commitments, or conservation thought, into practice. In other instances, attention to scale means thinking about the manner in which conservation thought and values are differentially activated on the individual, communal, or
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extra-communal levels. As we have pointed out, we can have communities of committed individual conservationists, which nevertheless continue to degrade their lands because of failures of cooperative or collective action at the level of the community as a whole or because of failures in the way the community coordinates its action with states and NGOs. Or, by contrast, we can have communities of individuals who are by and large not conservation-minded, which nevertheless do not degrade their lands either because of structural factors like low population density or successes of local institutions to coordinate their activities with strong-armed extra-communal organizations and entities. And as we might imagine, these scales of analysis are rarely independent of each otheras this volumes papers will make clear, they instead intersect with, and even determine, in complex manners, the conservation failures or successes on other levels. These points are made especially powerfully in the case study of the Lakota Sioux, where for analytical purposes Pickering and Jewell distinguish between the grassroots, tribal, and American governmental scales of interaction between individual ethics and actual conservation behavior. As is evident from the above discussion, the question of whether or not indigenous peoples are conservationists are notand how we might best frame or address such an issuetakes center stage in the essays to come. However, readers should remind themselves that we are particularly interested to determine whether or not it is their religious or animistic models and commitments, in conjunction with other factors, that give rise to variations in indigenous conservation thought and practice (or lack thereof). The authors pursue this question in different manners, and come up with different answers. Snodgrass and his collaborators, in their study of indigenous Bhils in Rajasthan, design a matching pairs research design so that the environmental thought and practice of bhopas (shamans) can be quantitatively compared with that of non-shamans. Pickering and Jewell also assess statistically the differences between the Lakota Christians and those practicing Native spirituality. However, most of the other authors in this volume eschew a quantitative approach that attempts to isolate religion as a causal variable, instead suggesting that indigenous relationships to the environment emerge from connections to the earth that are at once socio-cultural, economic, political, and also religious. These authors suggest that studies which focus on the relation between religion and the environment do not necessarily exclude a priori the relevance of other factors. Despite these differences, the papers point to the manner in which religious discourse provides a language for indigenous peoples to express their deepest commitments and concerns. However, we recommend
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caution in only seeing religion as promoting equilibrium, balance, and harmony in indigenous relationships to the environment. As we show, indigenous religions are often harnessed to political and economic agendas that are not only not conservationist but in some cases positively antithetical to conservation. Some indigenous societies may use religion to justify an ever-greater exploitation of their natural resources. In the way that the greater exploitation of indigenous lands can sometimes seem to promote human ourishing, local actors, from the Kelabit of Borneo to the Sherpas of Nepal, argue that such exploitation is right, ethical, and even sanctioned by non-human entities. When indigenous peoples do not consciously conserve their natural resources in terms of Western conservation standards, a common anthropological defense of them is that they have been corrupted by Western beliefs and values, related, for example, to the individualistic pursuit of personal gain. We nd some truth to such arguments. Out of economic necessity and in contexts of political marginality, indigenous peoples do pursue short-term interests that they know compromise long-term prosperity: Krechs (1999) discussion of Native American engagement with the fur trade would seem to be a case in point. However, we do not see such behavior as an implicit compromise of indigenous beliefs and commitments, religious or otherwise. Indigenous traditions and histories are sometimes tied, on the individual, communal, or extra-communal level, to the conservation of their surroundings; but other times they are not.9 In presenting our case studies in these ways, we do not mean to open the door for accounts which blame indigenous peoples, or their religions, for environmental destruction beyond their control and largely the result of the global expansion of capitalist markets and colonialist agendas. Rather, we hope to avoid projecting Western expectations of the meaning of indigenous Animism onto their worldviews and cosmologies. Instead, we would argue that indigenous religions, in the way they draw on natural powers and forces to promote human well-being and prosperity, often but not always in sync with natures own well-being, are malleable and multiplex. As such, they can be adapted with remarkable uidity to a variety of economic and political contexts and agendas. This volume searches for a middle-ground to over-simplied and dichotomous construals of indigenous peoples as either conservationists or not: through careful empirical study, we hope to demonstrate how such extreme positions do not capture the economic, political, or religious realities of the indigenous lives which are the focus of this volume.
9. In the same vein, Western beliefs and values are not uniform but include manifold variationsan important point that is beyond the scope of this volume.
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The essays to follow are diverse in their ethnographic context, research methods, arguments, and style. There are thus many equally legitimate ways to organize them. We begin, perhaps arbitrarily, with three essays discussing indigenous peoples relationship with three different animal persons. Each of these three communities have a deep tradition of hunting-gathering, though they now also support themselves through other means. Two of these case studies come from India, the other from Borneo. We begin with a chapter by Snodgrass and his collaborators on Adivasi shamans relationship to leopards, Leopards and other Lovely Frightful Things: The Environmental Ethics of Indigenous Rajasthani Shamans. These co-authors argue that shamans do demonstrate a more deeply mystical connection to these wild carnivores as compared to nonshamans, though shamans and other Adivasis feel only weakly bound to defend and protect these animals. If anything, the arrow runs the other way, with leopard-god-brothers protecting weaker humans. In Relational Epistemology, Immediacy, and Conservation: Or, What do the Nayaka Try to Conserve?, Bird-David and Naveh discuss the relationship of indigenous Nayakas from the Nilgiris of South India with wild elephants. They argue that the Nayakas ethic of immediacy stresses keeping good relations with animal families who share the environment, rather than them having a conservation ethic per se. In his treatment of the indigenous Kelabit of Borneo in Where Spirit and Bulldozer Roam: Environment and Anxiety in Highland Borneo, Matthew Amster focuses on a local ritual referred to as calling the eagle. He uses this ritual, along with other ethnographic details, to point to the manner in which older anxieties related to correct or incorrect interactions between human and non-human persons have been replaced with new political and economic anxieties related to logging. Amster further argues that the Kelabit as Christians who sacralize mountain retreats are now more committed conservationists (if largely in the modern sense) than they were as Animists who revered their environments. Kristina Tiedjes Situating the Corn-Child: Articulating Animism and Conservation from a Nahua Perspective introduces the second collection of three papers, each of which focuses on indigenous peoples with a deep historical relationship to agriculture, either through their own agricultural activity or through interactions with neighboring societies. Tiedje shows how the Nahua engage in reciprocal, spiritual relationships with non-human beings, such as the corn-person, who is the focus of much of her paper. She argues that Nahua animistic beliefs both promote and hinder environmentally benign behavior according to modern conservation principles. Tiedje pays particular attention to conicts between Nahua environmental behaviors, such as eld-burning to prevent
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wildres and degradation, and conservation as imagined within the context of modern regimes of natural resource management. When the Nahuas accepted a recent governmental conservation and development program in their community, they seemed to weigh economic needs over religious ones. But it turns out that they did not leave behind their obligations to the corn-child and other non-human persons. Through stories, elder Nahuas situate the corn-child in the context of modern conservation to retain their local authority vis--vis conservation agents. The poetic articulation of conservation-as-sacred-practice offers powerful cultural resources and is an example of how the Nahuas have come to terms with social, political, economic, and environmental challenges. In a Nepalese context, Lionel Obadias The Conicting Relationships of Sherpas to Nature: Indigenous or Western Ecology? explores a seeming correspondence between Nepalese spirituality and Western ecology. However, he demonstrates the illusory nature of such correspondences, which is the product of a romantic oversimplication of a more complex animistic, shamanistic, and Buddhist context. We end this volume with the contribution by Kathleen Pickering and Ben Jewell, Nature is Relative: Religious Afliation, Environmental Attitudes and Political Constraints on the Pine Ridge Reservation, which explores the intersection of religion and environmental practice in a contemporary Native American context. We conclude with this essay because of its useful distinction between the grassroots, tribal, and American governmental scales of interaction between individual ethics and actual conservation behavior. We nd this distinction helpful in explaining the disconnect between, on the one hand, an often deep and abiding indigenous love for and feeling of connection to their environments and, on the other hand, the environmental degradation characteristic of many indigenous lands. We hope that readers will use this analytical frameworkalong with others discussed in this volumeto help them better understand the complex situations that characterize contemporary encounters between the worlds indigenous peoples and their environments. We have organized our discussion in this introduction around the terms Animism and nature reverence. However, our use of this vocabulary has been somewhat loose, which is in part an artifact of these categories long and contentious histories. Before allowing readers to engage the rich case studies to come, and by way of conclusion to this introduction, we briey consider the history of the term Animism, as well as its connection to nature reverence. We do this further to specify, and also to justify, our use of such a contested and potentially problematic vocabulary. In doing so, however, we would prepare readers for
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somewhat idiosyncratic understandings of these terms in the chapters that follow. Animism derives from the Latin word for soulanimus. A belief in souls, spirits, and non-empirical levels of reality is found in all societies. As such, it has been argued that Animism is the earliest form of religion as well as the basis of all religion (Tylor 1958 [1871]; cf. Chidester 2005). In this volume, however, we are most interested in the tendency of indigenous peoples to attribute souls, and thus vital life-force, to what A.I. Hallowell (2002 [1960]) refers to as other-than-human persons. In classic work on the Ojibwa in southern central Canada, Hallowell tells us that eagle-, bear-, and frog-persons, and also stone- and thundercloudpersons, share the world with human beings. Contemporary scholars had largely abandoned the term Animism, mainly because of its link to evolutionary theorizing and to the idea that indigenous Animists mistake objects for subjects, and thus are less analytically astute than moderns (e.g. see Tylor 1958 [1871]). However, Graham Harvey (2005a, 2005b), Nurit Bird-David (1999), Philippe Descola (2005), and others, following Hallowell, have stimulated renewed interest in a new Animism, which frames indigenous encounters with other-than-human persons as a vital alternative to modernist Western cultures that over-exploit and dominate nature. In treating animals, material objects, and even features of the natural landscape as communicative subjects (Hornborg 2006) which can be related to much as human subjects, rather than as merely inert and inanimate objects, Animists establish deeper and more satisfying relationships with the natural world. They appreciate more fully the subtle and complex relationships between communities of living persons, only some of whom are human (Harvey 2005a, 2005b, 2006). As such, their relational and participatory ways of interacting with the world, in which humans do not stand apart and above nature, provide valuable lessons for a modern West out of balance with its surroundingsthat is, with what we might call its environment.10 In theoretical frameworks such as those described above, Animism can involve the projecting of human mentalities and abilities onto the rest of the natural world: animal and rock persons, for example, think, reason, and feel much like human persons. To anthropomorphize and personify nature in this waythat is, to use the model of the human social world to construe other-than-human beings and processesmight seem to imply an indigenous failure to recognize the uniqueness of
10. On recent new animist discussions of indigenous religions, see Bird-David 1999; Descola 1994; Hornborg 2006; Ingold 2000; and also the collection of articles in Ethnos 71:1.
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non-human parts of creation. However, the authors of the papers in this volume, perhaps as new Animists ourselves, follow scholars such as Harvey (2005a) and suggest that the animist recognition and appreciation of other-than-human persons represents a truly deep form of nature reverence. Animists typically bestow equal or even greater-than-human qualities on other-than-human persons. For example, indigenous Animists in India deeply revere, and even worship, animals, plants, and the landscape as superhuman gods; as such they are perceived to have equal, and oftentimes greater, rights to life and happiness as compared to humans. More importantly, Animism forcefully challenges the idea of human exceptionalism: in recognizing that animal, plant, and even mountain relatives have cultures and communities, indigenous peoples reveal their feelings of kinship with the natural world, and thus also display the sentiment that humans and other-than-humans alike are beholden to the same forces and fates.11 Indigenous religions typically appreciate the vital force underlying all realitylabeled mana in Polynesia, wakan in Lakota cosmology, and shakti in India and South Asiathat unites humans and other-thanhuman communities. This force can take form in person-like desires, abilities, and agendas. But it need not; or, at least, such a form is often recognized by indigenes to be more metaphor and way of speaking than hard and fast reality. Early scholars such as Marrett (1909, 1911; see also Bengston 1979) referred to this life-force as a pre-animistic Animatism, distinguishing between impersonal energies and personied spirits, and viewing the former as evolutionarily prior to the latter. The authors of this volume do not engage with evolutionary debates of this nature. In fact, we would be hard pressed to distinguish denitively between a spirit and the more abstract vitality that is seen to animate that spirit, or between a polytheistic cosmology and a belief in a unifying life-force that manifests itself in all natures diversity. Instead, we point out that animistic and animatistic cosmologies do not typically maintain boundaries between humans and non-humans. Nature is often understood in Western terms to reect that part of the world that is less heavily impacted by human activity and ingenuity (e.g. Mill 1904 [1874]). We do take the point that Yellowstone National Park is different from New York City. However, in separating human beings from nature in this way, we feel that we give up too much, failing to capture the essence of indigenous animistic worldviews. Following our indigenous interlocutors, we choose instead to dene nature as those
11. See Bekoff 2007 for an attempt to get at similar perceptions through cognitive ethology.
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forces, processes, and potentials that forms the basis of all life and reality, both human and other-than-human. In this sense, we see much of value in terms like Animism and Animatism, mainly because they represent attempts to capture the way our indigenous informants themselves point to the underlying unity in all nature, human and non-human. We do understand why other contemporary scholars choose not to use the term Animism: the evolutionary baggage alone is dangerous, to which can be added the risk of projecting a unity onto disparate indigenous cosmologies where no such unity exists. However, the authors of this volume nd much in common in the societies described in the following pages, not least of which is a deep respect and reverence for that other-than-human world of persons that lies just adjacent to our own. As such, we use the term Animism in an attempt to capture the diverse indigenous principles, activities, beliefs, and rituals that orient our informants toward the natural worlda set of diverse but overlapping recipes for how best to interact with nature so that humans, other-thanhumans, and the earth itself might ourish. We hope that using such an all-encompassing, and thus imperfect, vocabulary will allow readers to appreciate the important commonalities in the societies described in this volumewithout, of course, ignoring their differences. References
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