Most Native Americans don't see nature as disposable and only good for "harvesting" by humans, a KU and Haskell professor said Wednesday.
Destroying the Baker Wetlands is equal to killing someone's mother in the eyes of many local Native Americans, a Kansas University and Haskell Indian Nations University professor said Wednesday.
"These are areas of great spiritual significance," said Ray Pierotti, assistant professor of systematics and ecology and environmental studies at KU and adjunct professor of natural sciences at Haskell.
"I had a reporter from the (KU student newspaper) ask me, 'Why can't someone just build them another wetlands?'"
Pierotti's response: "It would be like somebody saying, 'I will destroy your mother but don't worry, I'll give you a new one that's just as good.'"
He made the comments to about 40 people during "Native Americans and Environmental Issues," a University Forum at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread.
Native Americans, Pierotti explained, don't see animals and plants as things that can be "used as crops," as is viewed by many whites.
"That's not to say that (Native Americans) are anti-hunting or even anti-exploitation," he said. "What it does mean is that if you do take a life you recognize that you are taking a life that has meaning on its own terms ... that the lives of other organisms should not be taken frivolously."
Pierotti said a "clash of cultures" stemming from different points of view about nature and the world has been ongoing since Europeans landed in the New World.
Many whites, he said, base their culture and values on ancient written documents, while many Native American cultures base their views on an oral history.
Also, he said Native Americans see themselves as a part of nature, not as "stewards" or conquerors of it.
This difference can be seen in art, particularly in depictions of wolves, he said. Many Native Americans paint wolves as passive creatures with families, while the animal has been depicted as being evil by Europeans.
"There has never been an account of a healthy wolf attacking a person in North America," he said.