Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 25, 2018

Requiem for a mountain lion

Filed under: Counterpunch,Ecology,indigenous — louisproyect @ 12:57 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, May 25, 2018

Last Saturday, an emaciated mountain lion (50 pounds underweight) killed a mountain biker on the foothills of the Cascade Range near North Bend, Washington, a small town not far from Seattle. The city’s name is an anglicization of Chief Si’ahl, a Suquamish leader best known for what was likely an apocryphal speech addressed to the territory’s governor Isaac Stevens that warned about the threats to mother nature and native peoples posed by capitalist development. It was occasioned by the 1855 Treaty of Port Elliot that Stevens forced on them at the point of a gun:

Your dead cease to love you and the homes of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are soon forgotten, and never return. Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely hearted living and often return to visit and comfort them.

Day and night cannot dwell together. The red man has ever fled the approach of the white man, as the changing mists on the mountain side flee before the blazing morning sun.

American history is replete with stories of Indian removal and species extinction. After all, they go hand in hand. Perhaps the first occurrence was in upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains, an area I am intimately familiar with. I grew up in Sullivan County, the home of the Borscht Belt in the southern Catskills. While I loved the countryside growing up, there were hardly any Catskill mountains to speak of. We were blessed by the presence of the Shawangunk Mountains that I could see from our living room window. After graduating high school, I entered Bard College and eventually lived in a dorm that overlooked the Catskill Mountains proper just across the Hudson River.

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1 Comment »

  1. Just received:

    Good morning, Mr. Proyect,

    A couple points regarding your Counterpunch Puma Requiem.

    The place name Shawangunk originally did not refer to the Ridge. The name first appears on land deeds near the current location of the Watchtower Complex, on a rise overlooking the Shawangunk Kill at the end of Old Fort Rd. in Wallkill. This was the site of the final engagement of the Second Esopus War, September, 1663, when the Dutch marched down from Kingston, burned a Munsee fort/village under construction, and killed most of the Natives. Ray Whritenour, the Lenape linguist with whom I consulted in my research on the etymology of Shawawangunk, believes “in the smokey air” may be a kind of elegy for the dead by the surviving natives who sold those lands to Europeans twenty years after the massacre. It does not refer to misty conditions on the Ridge, as there are other Musee words to describe such conditions. The name spread to adjacent land deeds and finally the Ridge during the 18th century. Shawangunk appears nowhere else in Lenape place names.

    Mountain lions did not disappear from the East Coast due to habitat destruction. Like many of the Natives, they were hunted down/out for bounty. Simultaneously, their primary prey, deer, were wiped out by market hunting. New York State reintroduced white-tailed deer from Michigan.

    Certainly, habitat destruction is part of the pressure facing pumas. However, they have recolonized to the edges of and even within every major city from Rapid City, SD west to Seattle (see Kertson’s research and Large Carnivore Lab/WSU) and south to San Diego. One male has been living famously in Griffith Park in Los Angeles for five years. I have tracked pumas five miles south of the San Francisco city line three miles west of SF Intl. Airport, in the parks above Berkeley and Oakland, and in the suburbs of Silicon Valley (see UC Santa Cruz Puma Project).

    Puma conflicts with pets and livestock, and human predation incidents like the one last week (the first death by puma in the US in 10 years, just the 4th since ’98), have been dropping statistically for twenty years, even as pumas have recolonized the exurbs.

    The longer pumas coexist with us, the smarter they get.

    There is more habitat cover and now far more prey for pumas to thrive on the East Coast. Our habitat analysis for Adirondack Park (3 x the area of Yellowstone) estimates that the Daks could support as many as 350 pumas. And based on California habitat use/recovery, we believe New York State can support as many as 1,000 cats.

    With compliments,

    Christopher Spatz
    Cougar Rewilding Foundation
    Rosendale, NY

    Comment by louisproyect — May 25, 2018 @ 1:45 pm

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