A Review of William Cronon’s “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England”
In less than about one hundred years, the ecosystem in New England was irreparably transformed that changed the way of life for the native Indians found in North America.
The basis of this opinion is that the change from the dominance by the Indians to the supremacy of the Europeans was as a result of changes that apart from being well known can be attributed to the important reorganization hitherto unknown to historians. He states that as the people who inhabited Europe got into contact with the ecosystem present in North America, the distinction slowly disappeared illustrating this through several evidence that explains the reasons that caused the change in the ecology of Europe. The work of Cronon is majorly based on records, reports and information derived from science and he argues that he found it invaluable to use other data such as court records or town hall records as well as tales by travelers. This is because he believed the inadequate ecological educational level and the open bias by Europeans towards the historical records had a restriction on the final outcome. Moreover, he believed that some of these reports were deliberately biased in that they attempted to make the nations that had been colonized seem more appealing to those who were not natives.
This is also due o the fact that the natives of Europe looked at land from an economic angle and never bothered about the
aspects of nature. In his work, Cronon states that the Europeans were quite shocked at the environment they came across in New England as what they had earlier perceived was just the coastline but not the hinterlands that teemed with plants and animals. These settlers were not used to virgin and untamed lands as what they had always known is that the landscape for hunting back home in England was the preserve of the Crown and other wealthy aristocrats. The New England was covered with dense forests and this seemed alien to the settlers in that back home, the forests had been depleted for the timber used as fuel. Similarly, these Europeans were dumbfounded due to the absence of domestic animals that was an integral part of the agriculture practiced in Europe. It is important to note that the cycle of seasons and the climate of New England bore a same resemblance to that of Europe. Still, about one hundred thousand Indians were already settlers in New England as at 1600 almost similar to the about ninety three thousand Europeans who had inhabited the place as at 1700. The settlers from Europe and India had different views on ways of utilizing the land that was in New England. Cronon states that many of the European settlers seemed surprised that the Indians lived in abject poverty despite the fact that they occupied land that is rich in natural flora and fauna (Cronon 33). Cronon argued that to have a proper understanding of what transpired at this moment in terms of the change in ecosystem, one must comprehend the distinctive practices between the European settlers and the Indian natives of North America. The Indians lived a largely pastoralists way of life by exploiting the seasonal diversity of the environment mostly in search of food through hunting and fishing which the Europeans criticized. The Europeans often misconceived this as a primitive way of life as they could not understand how the Indians willingly went hungry even when aware that food would be scarce in the winter months. They were however impressed by the scorching of the forests and the bushes by the Indians which provided clear spaces for hunting and planting crops. The Europeans also failed to understand the division of labour among the Indians as amongst these inhabitants of North America, the females did the farming while the males hunted as opposed to Europe. While the