The Trouble With Assimilation

Western settlers came to this continent and conquered the land and the peoples living there. As a matter of course and component of the genocide, they also worked to eliminate the culture and practices of those peoples. Those cultural practices based on discovered ecological knowledge came from thousands of years of cultural and biological evolution in those ecosystems and therefore were a part of the ecosystem’s homeostasis as the human culture.

Those practices and traits co-evolved within the ecosystem in which each of those peoples had lived and evolved for thousands of years. Enter the European immigrants whose cultures and practices evolved in a different ecosystem on a different continent. They observed the indigenous tribes’ practices such as planting corn, beans, and squash together. These three plants cooperated to grow together and helped to maintain the homeostasis of the soil in which they grew. To the European immigrants, this resulted in fields that looked like an uncontrolled, uncultivated mess. It did not match their worldview of conquering and subduing the beast that was their view of Mother Nature.

Fast forward a few hundred years and the genocide of the peoples’ culture and ecosystems are nearly complete. All have been conquered. Those left are expected to assimilate to this new worldview of domination = civilization. Those cultures, individuals, practices, and members of the ecosystems that cannot adapt are expected to fade away, die out, or leave. Indigenous peoples were expected to adapt to the new worldview economy, Western agricultural practices, education, and religion. Those new practices did not evolve in this place—in this ecosystem—and while those being discarded did. Therefore, I wonder if this imported culture can ever be in true ecological homeostasis. What if we are doing it all wrong? All of it. Instead of expecting the indigenous peoples and rest of the native ecosystems’ organisms, interactions, practices, cultures and all that resulted from thousands of years of evolution in this place, to adapt to this new worldview, it should be reversed. It’s as if we forgot how to live in the world.

Maybe homeostasis can never be reached in these “new world” ecosystems until all its inhabitants begin enacting the worldview, culture, and ecological practices that are the result of thousands of years of cultural and biological evolution in those ecosystems. Maybe, instead of the indigenous inhabitants of the New World assimilating and adapting to the new Western/European world view, culture and practices, it is the conquerors who need to assimilate and adapt to the old ways evolved on this New World.

Maybe the genocide (cultural and ecological) will not end until this shift occurs. Without this shift, maybe destruction of all is unavoidable. First the last of the indigenous peoples and cultures, then the stability of the native ecosystems, and then the conquerors will fade away. This will only leave behind an ecosystem pushed so far from homeostasis and equilibrium that a new homeostasis will be found, but not one that supports us. It will take millions of years of biological evolution and ecological succession, but Gaia will restore her balance for those species that can adapt biologically to the new homeostasis. But, that rate of evolution and balancing is far too slow for us and our culture to survive.

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