Thursday, November 13, 2008

C.B. Podcast: American Indians and sense of place

By John Sutter

MIAMI, OK--Sometimes I think it's hard for transient people in urban areas, like me, to understand how connected someone can be to a particular patch of land. A reporter at the Navajo Times recently explained this connection to me as if the land were an heirloom. If you lose it, you can never replace it with something that would have the same meaning, even if it looks the same, she said.

The deep connections some American Indians feel for their environment was the focus of a recent conversation I had with Paul Barton, who works for the Eastern Shawnee Tribe in far northeastern Oklahoma. He told me about how American Indian people in northeast Oklahoma are worried that pollution from the lead and zinc mines at Tar Creek is altering their very way of existence. Some of the tribal ceremonies are changing partly because of metal contamination in the streams and sediment, he says. Berries that once were plentiful are now scarce. The land, in some places, has become a hazard instead of a provider.

I asked him to explain his connection to the local land for this edition of the concrete buffalo podcast. Click the play button to listen:

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