The transformation of the natural and cultural landscape of North America is the result of centuries of settler colonialism, resulting in one of the largest genocides and ecocides the world has ever witnessed. Since 1600, 90% of the old-growth forests that once were expansive over the Continental US have been burned, logged, and cleared away. Concurrently, 90% of the land that was once occupied by Native American tribes has been taken by colonial powers.
We’ve lost countless species like the Carolina Parakeet and Eastern Elk, and languages like Mohican and Catawba, and these extinctions are not unrelated events. Nor is it a coincidence that the Mountain Pine Beetle is today ravishing the forests of the West where Native Americans once prevented outbreaks like that from happening by routinely burning the land to regulate wild forage production. Here we see the cycle of causation from declining biodiversity to declining cultural diversity, and vice versa, because of the interconnectedness of human and natural systems.