In Tending the Wild, a book that has deeply shaped my thinking about humans, nature and relationship, M. Kat Anderson reports in her introduction that the concept of « wilderness » had a very different understanding to the native peoples of California. To the native peoples, « wilderness » was a negative thing; it was land that was essentially « untended » and left on its own. Native peoples saw tending the land–scattering seeds, selective burning, cultivating various kinds of perennial and annual spaces–as necessary for the health and growth of the land. And the abundance that is reported by early western visitors to California and all of what is now known as North America certainly supported that fact: the land was incredibly rich, diverse, and abundant.
Of course, today, we see « wilderness » as a good thing. It is something that humans haven’t touched, it remains pristine and unbroken. In the post-industrial western…
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