DUCK SOUP: The Wild Interior

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) advocates opening national parks to tribal hunting. Although the Department of the Interior insists that it has no plans to permit widespread hunting, Interior's Solicitor's Office is reviewing a request by the Hopi tribe to kill eaglets and red-tailed hawks in Arizona's Wupatki National Monument. The Hopi claim that buteo-cide is part of their religious tradition, and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recently told the Los Angeles Times that he favors allowing Native Americans to take animals from national parks for religious purposes.W. Ron Allen, first vice president of the NCAI says, "We want to be respectful, and work with park officials to determine when and where hunting would be appropriate. But we also want respect for our rights as indigenous people to hunt, fish and use the natural resources from the land that once belonged to us."Coming on the heels of the legal decision which permitted the Makah to resume whale hunting a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act the Hopi request is alarming. Coupled with similar demands from more than 20 tribes nationwide, and with the vocal support of those gun-totinâ bubbas in the National Rifle Association, a decision to permit Hopis to raid eagle nests could open the flood gates. As in the Makah case which was backed by Japanese eager to eliminate global whaling regulations, the NRA agenda has nothing to do with religious freedom.In an election year this issue is all the more loaded (and locked). George W. Bush's principal advisor on matters environmental noisily advocates "selling" our national parks to the highest bidder. Any decision made in the waning months of the current administration will necessarily seem moderate by comparison.The combination of native claims and religious sanctification will very likely prove irresistible to the "feel your pain" crowd in D.C.As I observed when the Makah were making their case for whale butchery: If natives want to claim exemption from the rules and regulations created by we Western European invaders, they ought to be willing to walk their talk. If you don't like the way we do things, more power to you -- we have a rotten record to stand on -- but donât pick and choose from our tool kit and imagine that you are still traditional.If humans -- natives or bubbas, for that matter -- are permitted to hunt in National Parks, they should be held to absolute reliance on ancient technology: No guns, no snowmobiles, no motors, no binoculars or other lensed tools including glasses or contact lenses, no manufactured clothing or shoes, no manufactured or packaged food or food containers including canteens. No steel knives or arrow points. Fire by friction, okay, but no flint and steel and obviously no matches. If natives want to play at living out their ancient ways, they need to play the whole game and not engage in pretense.The reasons why national parks are critical to preservation of the biosphe re have everything to do with the juggernaut of Western civilization. Our all-consuming agricultural techniques have fueled a human and cattle population explosion of devastating import. Our technologies have permitted destruction of the worldâs ecosystem from the micro- to the mountains. Manufactured bullets decimated the bison, fired by NRA poster boys like Buffalo Bill, who never even stepped down from their train cars. And the same trains allowed deforestation of the continent.Dammit, yes!, stand up for your beliefs, for the gatherer/hunter lifestyle that rested gently on this land for 14,000 years before the white-man's 500 year debacle. But don't undercut our attempts at remediation. Don't play into the hands which would tear down the pittance we have saved. If you claim your traditional right to hunt, you will have helped lower the barrier for Bubba. How long will it be before some among you claim your right to a totem-tree, to a chip of turquoise, to a drink of cool mountain water? And how long before those rights are peddled to multinational giants -- all to support pressing needs of your tribe?You have been used and abused and fallen victim to genocide, by both intention and neglect. Don't let yourselves be used again.

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