Spencer’s Dispossessing the Wilderness: Response Essay
Spencer’s Dispossessing the Wilderness: Response
In week one we were asked the question “What is Social History? “. Social History is the study of laws, government actions, and events that affect the lives of society. The power that controls people always effects their happiness, moral interests, and general well-being. The people’s attitudes toward certain policies make the difference between an uprising and an approval. When thinking about the Social History involved in Dispossessing the Wilderness, the Civil war comes to mind up. Spencer writes that prior to the war the Americans and Indians tensions were okay. The Americans saw Indians and the wilderness as one.
He mentions that it wasn’t until “after” the civil war started that the Americans and Indians tensions rose. This was due to many numerous frontier battles that occurred along the great western planes. It was after this time that the Americans started to view the Indians as “evil savages”. Here we are introduced to the concept of perception and how that alters social history. With new changed American perceptions came new changes to laws and government. There were a bunch of new beliefs arising. Now the idea was to get rid of the Indians, make the land uninhabited so the wilderness land could be preserved. Spencer goes on to say that getting rid of that wilderness preservation went hand in hand with getting rid of the Indians. It was around this time that the idea of “Manifest Destiny” was an established belief of the Europeans.
They now felt destined to take all land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This resulted in the Native Americans being separated from their home. To this day the social effect of this treatment has made the Native Americans very upset. They still try to preserve their treaty rights and want to resume their native and religious customs. In week two we were asked “what is wilderness?” I believe that wilderness is wild and uncivilized, it is savagery. When I think of wilderness I think of jungles, I see no civilization all I see is a primitive setting. I think of danger; an unknown area where no man should be. But the book made me think from another perspective.
The Native Americans for example, believed there was no word for wilderness. To them all land was respected and is there for mankind for the purpose of survival which could be physical, spiritual, or mental. Europeans and Englishmen however derived the word form “will” which meant “uncontrollable”. The word “will” gave birth to “wild”. Wild was used for “out of control, lost, or disorderly”. This gives you a sense of how wilderness became an “abandoned place” to Americans; it became a place with no man. The unexplored, the sea and even outer space share this idea to the English. Our discussion of “what is wilderness?” raised the same battle of perception present with the book, as seen with the Indians vs. American beliefs. When raised the question you have one people claiming it is “alien, mysterious and dangerous”. Then you have a second people claiming wilderness is “beautiful friendly and can elevate us”.
Wilderness can be all of these things depending on your situation or upbringing. At the end of the day life is about perception. Interesting enough, when looking at the tragedy of the Native Americans all you can say is war is not about who is right or wrong, just who is left. There is a lot to be learned from history, in class we spoke about the significance of parks in establishing a better future.
Reading the book shows you how Indians treated the entire wilderness as their “theme park”. To them preserving the entire wilderness was what was most important. They felt it was healthy for their mind and body, they saw life for more than what it was. Indians may have appeared wild or inferior to the Europeans but it is clear they were more advanced in terms of spirituality, intuition and general wisdom. I say that because they demonstrated what we do now in the future. By preserving parks (urban, amusement, baseball parks, etc) we basically do what they have done but to a mitigated degree.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 May 2017