We reconnected with friends from long ago who invited us to hike Santa Cruz Island, one of the Anacapa Channel Islands. ISLAND PACKERS Boats leave from Ventura Harbor daily to these islands. We embarked on the Island Explorer, a two level boat with a galley amidships. Santa Cruz is the largest of four Islands, that include Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. We departed with 65 passengers and 3 crew members.The Explorer left at 9 and we arrived at Santa Cruz at 10:30 AM.
She plowed through the water leaving a white trail on the deep blue Pacific Ocean. Brown Sea Lions, and dark seals clung to buoys showing the departure course from the harbor. Pelicans, and sea gulls glided nearby and flapped their wings while curious dolphin leaped through the waves, dipped, and zoomed.
Even on a warm summer day the north westerly wind whistled through the open deck cooling us off. Some wore wrist bands and took Dramamine as they were warned the ride could be rough. My experience as a waiter on a merchant ship and in the U.S.Navy as a shipboard navigator taught me to watch the horizon and breathe fresh air to avoid sea sickness people in the galley might feel as the boat rolled around distorting their balance.
Upon arriving at Prisoner Harbor dock the crystal clear water revealed large orange and yellow kelp beds that fish use to hide from predators and deposit eggs. Black glistening cormorants with a long throat and a large pouch for holding fish, bobbed up and down in the dazzling water and congregated on rocks in the hundreds. We had arrived at an Island in California as it appeared two hundred years ago.Two athletic coaches showed kayakers how to maneuver their red two-seater kayaks and work together as a team. When they smartly swished by under the dock our crew told us it was time to depart the boat.
Paul, our guide, from the Nature Conservancy, described the flora and fauna of the Island and told us to watch for the scrub jay that only inhabited this paradise. He explained the formation of the island that arose from forces of nature including volcanic activity and the reactions of diatomaceous earth. Because the hike we were about to commence was strenuous including ravines and dangerous cliffs, they required our signatures on a document containing an emergency contact in the area and warning us of the potential dangers we might encounter.
About ten of us decided to join Paul, and followed his smile, tanned face, wavy blonde hair, and muscular frame with blue Nature Conservancy shirt, khaki shorts, and hiking boots.The first trail ascended quickly into a winding path around ancient trees, over slippery peach-colored volcanic rock formations attached to slopes. Soon the path took us to a group of shimmering bronze manzanita with red berries. An endangered Island Fox scurried into the underbrush. We turned back toward a spectacular view of the cobalt ocean that led to Ventura, sport fishing boats, and smaller craft that searched for the breathtaking painted caves nearby.
Each time Paul took us past any scene he would describe some feature of Santa Cruz like the name "Prisoner Harbor". That involved events in 1830 when the Mexican government wanted to increase its population in California with 80 convicts. They were so filthy, starved, and disheveled the presidio commander in Santa Barbara refused their entry until a prominent citizen convinced him to allow some prisoners to perform odd jobs after they were bathed, fed, and clothed. The California governor approved thirty additional convicts who constructed shelters, but a fire destroyed their camp.They built crude rafts and landed near Carpinteria Valley. They were imprisoned and eventually released, so the story goes.
Eventually we came to a deep gorge and stopped while he pointed to a remarkable view of the forest trees and rocks that formed a natural waterfall during the rainy season, but now one could only imagine it cascading through the steep area to the gorge he was about to take us. Since there was a time limit we would have to press on to make the 3 PM return trip. We decided to relax, eat our lunch under the shade of a tree overlooking the gorge, and return at our leisure. Many enticing and different views we missed racing up to that spot, were now available and gave us the opportunity to stop, photograph, and enjoy. We heard scrub jays but never saw one, although we have six that regularly eat at our bird feeders in Granada Hills.
The hike back descended and seemed easier. Panoramic views spread before us with ever differing features exposed we hadn't seen. We noticed the wetlands Paul mentioned that are a project to increase bird and nature activity. Our walk took us under a gigantic shade tree near what was once a mill, but now a well in front of the wetlands. Insects flew, birds flitted after them, many birds chirped and made calls. Beyond was a view of the Pacific Ocean and Ventura Harbor.
Soon our group caught up with us and were glad to rest at benches while the crew prepared for our return. We wandered to the beach where instead of sand, thousands of smooth rocks appeared worn by erosion and the action of constant salt water that rushed over them. As a child I always enjoyed beach exploring and was entranced by the varieties of rock colors and shapes, different shades of kelp, and other vegetation. One caught my attention that appeared like a scarlet cloth or part of a dress, but when I touched and pulled it, an interesting seaweed or plant appeared. A marsh with a pond and many shades of green over a slight hill made me grab my camera, but it announced the battery quit. My hands grabbed two perfectly flat rocks and cast them out on the ocean surface where they both made eight to ten circles to the pleasure of the child inside me.
The boat departed on time and again shot through the ocean leaving a white foamy path for seagulls to follow. Soon we were surrounded by hundreds of frolicking dolphin dipping and zooming at the bow, or riding along the bow for a few seconds until another wanted that spot.The crew encouraged us to look at these amazing and playful dolphin who seemed to truly enjoy their habitat and play with boats filled with people. The crew turned the boat around to encourage more interaction and the dolphins responded with intense movements as before. The passengers were infected by the sight of such glee and seemed elevated despite exhaustion from a hike or other activity. It was the most spectacular dolphin scene I had ever witnessed.That includes nine years on many ships and cruises. We all shared our enjoyment of this trip over dinner at Brophy's Brothers restaurant.
(Click on all Nature photos in this post to expand and enjoy)
Here are three approaches examining this query:
1) A Book Report By MARK S. FLEISHER of THE ECOLOGICAL INDIAN Myth and History. By Shepard Krech 3d.318 pp. New York:W. W. Norton & Company. Imagine a life with nothing manufactured, with yourself starting from scratch and being forced to build everything you need out of natural resources, exploiting rivers, lakes, oceans and forests for food without significantly altering the landscape. We learned as kids that American Indians lived off the land in perfect harmony with nature, never taking too much or destroying rivers, grassland or forests more than they had to. Native American people are indeed the thoughtful consumers of native animals and plants, exploiting the landscape in careful, deliberate ways. Never would they overexploit buffalo herds or cut too many trees or use fire inappropriately. The American Indians truly understand what it means to live off the land. Right? Wrong, says Shepard Krech 3d in ''The Ecological Indian: Myth and History.'' Our notion of the Native American as the Ecological Indian, keeper and preserver of the environment, is merely an image fashioned by mythmakers -- some nave, others manipulative. If we look closely, he says, the image is unsubstantiated. His book is a well-researched, carefully written exploration of how Indians used and abused the environment and how our beliefs about them, shaped by cultural perceptions, have created a largely stereotypic image of real people. I spent the middle and late 1970's among Salish and Nootkan people on the Northwest Coast, conducting ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork as a graduate student and then as a fledgling assistant professor of anthropology at Columbia University. I vividly recall transcribing the Salish language Clallam and the Nootkan languages Hesquiat and Makah, spoken by tribal elders born at the turn of the century. I recorded hundreds of vocabulary items for animals, fishing and hunting techniques and accompanying rituals, and enjoyed native myths about how the world of humans and animals meshed in practical and mythic harmony for thousands of years of habitation at the edge of densely wooded forests on Washington's Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island's western seacoast south of Nootka Sound. I had no time then to question how Europeans and European-Americans conceptualized native people and their relationship to the environment. Nor did I wonder if elderly informants' statements about their treatment of the environment in the ''olden days'' were an accurate depiction of a lost life style. Krech, an anthropologist at Brown University, examines specific ecological issues and dissects each one into cultural and factual components. Did American Indians kill too many buffalo? If they did, why? Did they cut too many trees, and why? What was the effect? Did American Indians really inhabit a lush countryside, an Eden? Krech helps us understand these issues by separating facts from myths. There were so few American Indians on so much land that Europeans, accustomed to crowded spaces, perceived only paradise when they saw lightly peopled landscapes. Nor did the early Europeans see the abandoned, over exploited landscapes. Not only did Europeans interpret what they saw through a lens biased by a Western life style, they had little understanding of the cultural complexities of the Indians or of how Indians' views of animals, plants and forces of nature affected what we now see as over exploitation and abuse of the land. To understand the reality of American Indian use of animals and plants, we have to grasp basic cultural premises, Krech says, beginning with the pervasive theme that religion and economy are not separate. This means animals take on qualities similar to those ascribed to supernatural beings. Buffalo on the plains and salmon on the Northwest Coast were addressed as sentient beings capable of seeing, hearing and responding to us in different ways. If Plains Indians did not kill all of the buffalo forced over a ''jump'' -- a precipice over which they were herded -- the surviving buffalo and those avoiding the jump would ''tell'' other buffalo, warning them away and leaving the people hungry and without skins for clothing. Overkilling (as we see it) guaranteed future bounty (as they see it). I recall attending a First Salmon ceremony, when the skeleton of a salmon roasted on ironwood stakes and shared by community members was designated as the ''first'' salmon of the season and was carried by elders to the local river, wrapped like a baby in a blanket and placed gently on the water and allowed to drift back to the ocean. The skeleton, reborn at sea, would instruct his fellow salmon on the spawning route, thus insuring another bountiful harvest. Krech presents evidence sufficient to peel away beliefs from facts until finally the concept of the Ecological Indian as ecologist and conservationist erodes. This book is a good story and first-rate social science, but it is not without passion. Transforming American Indian cultures into the cliche of the Ecological Indian makes Krech angry. Such stereotyping betrays an unabashed disregard for the complexity of native cultures. Creating the Ecological Indian is like reducing the knowledge and artistic creations of Europeans and European-Americans for 5,000 years to a brief essay called ''Civilization.'' This book teaches us everything we have wanted to know about American Indians and the environment. But as an anthropologist and criminologist, I see that the cultural processes that created the Ecological Indian are still at work today. What white American society thinks it ''knows'' about American Indians is largely that society's cultural invention, untested by empirical science. This mythmaking is convenient, portable and can be used anytime, anywhere. It is also dangerous. Even positive stereotypes can be degrading. The ''Injun'' was the bloodthirsty savage we baby boomers grew up with on television. American culture uses degrading stereotypes to demonize what it dislikes, fears or simply does not understand; witness the American Indians and African-Americans. And the public now supports politicians' empirically unjustified stereotype of troubled youngsters as threatening street demons and, as if in a cultural stupor, allows the imprisonment of children in penitentiaries. Beyond the scholarly view of Native Americans, Krech's book quietly pleads that we continually test our cultural vision against reality, lest we simplify ourselves to a set of stereotypes and lose forever the vibrancy of American multicultural community life.
2)Native Americans and the Environment: A survey of twentieth century issues with particular reference to peoples of the Colorado Plateau and Southwest (page 9 of 10) Author: David Rich Lewis. Adapted from: Lewis, David R. 1995. "Native Americans and the Environment: A survey of twentieth century issues." American Indian Quarterly, 19: 423-450, by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Visit the University of Nebraska Press website at nebraskapress.unl.edu/. Stereotypes and Interests in Conflict In recent years, tribal land use - including their resistance to submitting to certain state and federal environmental regulations - has put Indians at odds with environmentalists. This turn of events emerges as Indians begin placing immediate needs and desires over older cultural regulatory patterns, shattering both traditional standards of behavior and static white stereotypes of Indians as "the original conservationists." Indeed, early environmentalists found inspiration in Native American cultures. Some was richly deserved while much was based on a cultural misinterpretation of a more complex and dynamic whole. The grosser stereotypes depicted Indians as beings without action or agency, who left no mark on the land, who lived within the strictest of natural constraints. These ideas unintentionally denied Native Americans their humanity, culture, history, and most importantly, their modernity.
This stereotypic vision blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s. Indians became symbols for the American counterculture, American environmentalism, and New Age mysticism - symbols for a way of life in opposition to urban, white, Christian, techno-industrial society. Iron Eyes Cody shedding a tear in television ads as he surveyed a polluted landscape, and an apocryphal speech written as a film script and attributed to Chief Seattle made Indians "the mascot of an international ecology movement." Native peoples fostered this facile view for its positive results. Yet in the end the images offered more a justified critique of industrial society than any critical understanding of Native peoples' complex interactions with the environment. Even the highly touted motion picture Dances With Wolves (1990) is a sensitive if misleading dance with mythology, using Indians and animals as environmental symbols to attack twentieth-century human-nature relationships. Stereotypic images persist to the detriment of Native Americans because the images relegate them to a "past" and misdirect non-Indian society's responses to modern Native peoples and issues.
Indians were never properly "ecologists" - a term referring to a highly abstract and systematic science. They were, however, careful students of their functional environments, bound by material and cultural needs and constraints, striving for maximum sustained yield rather than maximum production, yet unafraid to exploit moments of periodic abundance. They developed an elaborate land ethic based on long-term experience, tied to a cosmological view of the world with all its animate and inanimate, natural and supernatural inhabitants as an interrelated whole. They recognized that they were part of creation and acted accordingly. Land and place were central to survival, to their beliefs, to their very identity. They shaped their environments which, in turn, shaped them. Their population densities and technologies, subsistence strategies and beliefs mitigated perhaps the worst environmental degradations, but did not leave the natural environment or ecology of their regions untouched. They lived, they acted, they are, and oversimplified or romantic stereotypes should not deny them that complex human experience past or present.
3)“Collapse” by Jared Diamond, Penguin books, 2005. Professor Diamond evaluates the way societies have failed or succeeded, including the early American Indians who have been often portrayed as ecologists when they were a mixture of both the best and sometimes far less than we would expect, in the way they used and misused their resources. When speaking the truth from scientific evaluations it isn’t surprising that he has come under fire from those who perpetuate the myth. Here are some of his observations. “Efforts to understand past collapses have had to confront one major controversy and four complications. The controversy involves resistance to the idea that past peoples (some of them known to be ancestral to peoples currently alive and vocal) did things that contributed to their own decline.We are much more conscious of environmental damage now than we were a mere few decades ago.Even signs in hotel rooms now invoke love of the environment to make us feel guilty if we demand fresh towels or let the water run. To damage the environment today is considered morally culpable. Not surprisingly, Native Hawaiians and Moaris don’t like paleontologists telling them that their ancestors exterminated half of the bird species that had evolved on Hawaii and New Zealand, nor so Native Americans like archeologists telling them that the Anasazi deforested parts of the southwestern U.S. The supposed discoveries by paleontologists and archeologists sound to some listeners like just one more racist pretext advanced by whites for dispossessing indigenous peoples. It’s as if scientists were saying, “Your ancestors were bad stewards of their lands, so they deserved to be dispossessed.” Some American and Australian whites, resentful of government payments and land retributions to Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, do indeed seize on the discoveries to advance that argument today.Not only indigenous peoples, but also some anthropologists and archeologists who study them and identify with them,view the recent supposed discoveries as racist lies. Some of the indigenous peoples and the anthropologists identifying with them go to the opposite extreme. They insist that past indigenous peoples were (and modern ones still are) gentle and ecologically wise stewards of their environments, intimately knew and respected Nature, innocently lived in a virtual Garden of Eden, and could never have done all those bad things; As a New Guinea hunter once told me, “If one day I succeed in shooting a big pigeon in one direction from our village, I wait a week before hunting pigeons again, and then go out in the opposite direction from the village.”Only those evil modern First World inhabitants are ignorant of Nature, don’t respect the environment, and destroy it. In fact, both extreme sides in this controversy—the racists and the believers in a past Eden—are committing the error of viewing the past indigenous peoples fundamentally different from (whether inferior to or superior to) Modern First World peoples. Managing environmental resources sustainability has always been difficult, ever since Homo sapiens developed modern inventiveness, efficiency, and hunting skills around 50, 000 years ago. Beginning with the first human colonization of the Australian continent around 46, 000 years ago, and subsequent prompt extinction of most of Australia’s former giant marsupials and other large animals, every human colonization of a land mass formerly lacking humans—whether of Australia, North America, South America, Madagascar, the Mediterranean islands, or Hawaii and New Zealand and dozens of other Pacific islands—has been followed by a wave of extinction of large animals that had evolved without fear of humans and were easy to kill, or else succumbed to human associated habitat changes, introduced pest species, and diseases.”
In preparation for our Alaskan adventure, our delayed honeymoon during the late summer of 1972, we purchased an old yellow International Harvester panel van. Later that evening we decided to take the truck for a trial run on the highway and realized the tires needed replacement. We bought four new tires and took off for Lake Tahoe. No sooner than ten minutes on the road the smell of smoke alarmed me. Flames were coming up through the floorboard! At a gas station I poured water on the fire and found the exhaust pipe angle made hot contact with the wooden floorboards. Had the sellers planned a prank? My insurance company reimbursed us for the repairs. Bill Ruck, a friend from Cal State Long Beach, had joined a commune in Northern California, learned carpentry, and asked if he could help turn our truck into our “Yellow Submarine” for our trip. He made storage cabinets for our stereo, speakers, suitcases, and a hanging closet for clothes. We installed a stereo with speakers and stored tapes of our favorite music for our 3300-mile odyssey. Joan and I stored our belongings and food in the cabinets, clothes in the closet, and picked up road guides from AAA. At an Army Navy store we purchased green down jackets and sleeping bags that warranted comfort at 40 degrees below zero, and put a mattress over the cabinets with bedding and pillows. Storing my corvette in a garage for $10 a month, I placed it on bricks, took off the tires, and disconnected the battery. Our course to Anchorage would take us to campsites we planned to roam with Shiva in British Columbia, past lakes, glaciers, towns, and cities we could only imagine. Booking a ferry from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Haines on the Alaskan Inland Passage, we embarked early on July first listening to Dylan’s “Like a Rollin’ Stone.” Berkeley behind us, we sang and joyfully anticipated an Alaskan adventure. “Don’t exceed the limit, Dan; you don’t need an arrest before your first law job.” The first night we stopped at a beautiful lakeside campsite just across the Canadian border. After parking our camper at the top of a hill overlooking the expansive lake surrounded by pines, and conifers, we walked out with Shiva on a leash attached to her red collar as California Law required, gold name tag dangling, her black coat shimmering in the sunlight, and she whined and tugged. A couple next to us walked over, “Let that dog go!" the burly husband said with a smile,“You're in British Columbia." After unleashing Shiva she dashed down the hill, disappeared through pine trees, and plunged in the lake with a glorious SPLASH. I thought she would run away but she was after a flock of Canadian Geese that scattered honking and cackling. Each black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan breast, and brown back rose in the sunset transforming the spectacle from tranquil to cacophonous, yet picturesque. Shiva swam around, lunged out, and raced back to me panting with her pink tongue hanging out. “Good girl, Shiva,” I said, scratching her neck and petting her black shiny head. She looked up in gratitude and shook water all over me. Joan and our new camp friends laughed and then made a fire for a BBQ. A feeling of freedom, fresh air, and the smell of pine trees, filled us with vigor. A crackling fire, basted chicken breasts, and corn on the cob, put us in the mood for sky watching. The twinkling stars we barely saw in California cities burst forth in the Milky Way galaxy. The “Tea Pot” in Sagittarius and Scorpio’s tail sparkled and shimmered. An hour later we were in sleeping bags with Shiva at our feet. We drove through the pristine roads of British Columbia dotted with pines, oaks, and maples on our way to Prince Rupert. A Tlingit village that featured tall totem poles was celebrating a holiday and offered a canoe trip with a guide who told us their version of the creation story known as the Raven Cycle: “Raven steals the stars, the moon, and the sun from Naas-sháki Shaan, the Old Man at the Head of the Nass River who kept them in three boxes. Raven transforms himself into a hemlock needle and drops into a water cup belonging to the Old Man's daughter. She becomes pregnant with him and gives birth to him as a baby boy. Raven cries until the Old Man hands him the Box of Stars, another with the moon, and a third with the sun. Raven opens the lid and the stars escape into outer space. He rolls the box with the moon in it out the door where it flees to the heavens. Raven waits until everyone is asleep, changes into his bird form, grasps the sun in his beak, opens the box, and the sun breaks free into the blue sky.” “That’s a beautiful and interesting myth,” I said. “It is no myth, it is our truth our ancestors shared with us. Never call the Raven Cycle a myth,” she reprimanded me angrily. Realizing I had put my foot in my mouth while seeking to learn about their culture, it occurred to me in awhile my clients in Alaska had their traditions and stories, which I would respect, and apologized to our Indian guide for using the word myth; but I had caused some damage. You can’t un-ring a bell. Once we reached Prince Rupert, we boarded a ferry for the Inland Passage to Haines. We slept on deck chairs outside when the crew secured our yellow truck alongside other vehicles. After ninety miles we arrived at Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” home of all five species of salmon who inhabit the streams and waters of the Tongass for spawning, leaving their roe on the gravel. We took Shiva out for a walk along Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town. When she saw salmon leaping up the “fish ladder” they climb to spawn at the top, she barked and raced to the edge filled with an electric charge of energy. I feared she would jump in and directed her back on the path that followed the creek through the primeval forest. The gravel beds are the end of the salmon’s struggle and are so thick with numbers the shallow streams were black with fins and twisting fish. Shiva smelled the dying salmon that had spawned, hurtled over logs, and bolted through underbrush in a frenzy searching for wildlife. Sand hill cranes, trumpeter swans, black-tail deer, porcupines, and wolves roamed the area. Red cedar, yellow-cedar, mountain hemlock, spruce, and shore pine were everywhere. Nature had aroused Shiva and us with such energy, we chased our black bouncing streak laughing with joy. We rested under hemlock and spruce and gave our Lab food and water next to an alpine meadow covered with pink fireweed, blue lupine and yellow poppies. A Ferry whistle brought us back to reality. After we got underway we saw killer whales and porpoises jumping and playing alongside the ferry. Bald eagles soared on thermals. Dall porpoises have black backs and white bellies resembling killer whales, but are much smaller, and generated a “rooster tail” spray visible for twenty feet. They were “bow riding”—a pressure wave like the blast of wind that follows a passing truck—they sidled up under the surface and rode inside the pressure wave. At our next stop we left the ferry to see the capital of Alaska, Juneau. The mountains sloped down to the water where it rests along the shoreline. The Tlingit Indians have used the adjacent Gastineau Channel as one of their favorite fishing grounds for thousands of years. The native culture, rich with artistic traditions, included carving, weaving, orating, singing, and dancing. We saw the Mendenhall Glacier at the Juneau visitor center--a massive mountain of ice with cracks and fissures that revealed tints of blue and gray. The sound of ice chunks tumbling into the water below roared as the waves caused from violent forces shook floating icebergs sending ripples in the surface. The Mendenhall reached its point of maximum advance in the mid-1700s, while its terminus rested almost two and a half miles down the valley from its present position. The mighty glacier started retreating as its annual rate of melt began to exceed its yearly total accumulation. Its bulk now retreats at a rate of one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet a year. Global warming has accelerated the process so the glacier will disappear in several centuries.