Endowed By Our Creator…

by Curt Kovener

Back at Christmas I was gifted a DVD collection of James A. Michener’s ‘Centennial’. For those of you lacking in gray hair, in the mid-1970’s ‘Centennial’ was one of the first TV mini-series-20-plus hours long. It followed the mythical area of Centennial, Colorado from its Rocky Mountain creation to (then) current day settlement and progress.
It chronicled the lives of trappers, mountain men, traders, Native Americans, settlers, business people, and their interaction with one another and the land.
There were a number of themes for the series. The main one can be summed up “Those who fail to study history will repeat it.”
White trappers and traders came onto Native American land and began exploiting its resources. Put into today’s context, those trappers and traders were the first illegal immigrants. They too were simply looking for a better life for themselves and their families.
Later settlers came along and further exploited the land and after additional numbers of settlers appeared they began exploiting the Native Americans making unfair trades for the right to trap and kill animals, use more land and channel water for their agricultural purposes. They made agreements and treaties and then changed them when it suited their financial purposes. After a while, the Native people struck back against their immigrant trespassers. Then of course, US Army became involved to protect the trespassing settlers.
Eventually Native Americans were moved off their land to reserved areas just for them. Those who did not voluntarily move to the reservation were forced to move. Those who rebelled against the prevailing authority incurred the wrath of the occupying army. Some were picked off and killed one by one; others were slaughtered enmass because these people who occupied this country first were considered less than human.
After the Indian ‘problem’ was addressed, even more settlers came onto the scene. However. farmers, business, industry, even some wealthy households needed workers. Chinese and Mexican immigrants were welcomed as long as they did the work that was needed and kept to themselves. But those new immigrants also sought a better life for themselves and their families.
Many of the occupying white inhabitants considered the non-white workforce less than them and there were physical and cultural battles…much like there is today.
Throughout the ‘Centennial’ series there was a battle between those who wanted to preserve and conserve the land and those who wanted to exploit it for its timber, natural resources, water and minerals.
There still is today.
Today there are those who point to the Scripture that God gave man dominion over all the earth. Some interpret that as we can dig, drill, mine, cut and use the earth as it suits our purposes.
But Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry best sums up what our actions should be when it comes to the environment.
In order to honor the earth as a gift from a benevolent creator, he wrote that we need to re-visit our traditional concept of the Holy Land.
Instead of a far-off place somewhere in the Middle East, the holy land needs to be where we live and work and play. And in this spirit, we are more likely to take better care of the gift of holy land than we do now.