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altasnob
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PostThu Aug 06, 2020 8:28 pm 
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Interesting article on John Muir and Edmond Meany's racist and exclusionary view of wilderness:

Muir touted the sacred nature of the wilderness, he also had a history of making derogatory remarks about Black and Indigenous peoples, calling them “dirty” and “savages.”

Places like Yosemite, which Muir helped to create and promote, was no place for Indigenous people, he thought, but perfect for the well-to-do seeking refuge, challenge and inspiration, and men like himself seeking adventure and solitude.

Edmond S. Meany, a University of Washington professor and historian, was the face and voice of The Mountaineers outing club in the Northwest over parts of four decades in the early part of the past century. The Mountaineers was a WASP-dominated organization for men and women that encouraged well-connected and affluent middle-class people to party, climb, camp and hike together. Meany met and corresponded with Muir and was even referred to as the “John Muir” of The Mountaineers. According to Klingle, Meany touted the Northwest as a place “where the finest of the Aryan stock may find its rejuvenation only to evolve a still more robust, vigorous and brainy type.”

https://crosscut.com/opinion/2020/08/john-muir-godfather-seattles-spiritual-life-and-racist
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altasnob
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PostThu Aug 06, 2020 10:18 pm 
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I didn't know of Muir's racist thoughts and beliefs before I read this article. I don't think the author discounts Muir's contributions to society, but that doesn't mean we should not examine how racism played a role in the establishment of wilderness and national parks in the US. Another article provides additional thoughts:

Stanford historian Richard White says Muir’s very conception of wilderness bakes in racial bias. Muir’s “unblighted, unredeemed wilderness” in which the “galling harness of civilization drops off” was only possible through the erasure of America’s Indigenous peoples, whose villages and way of life had been destroyed. For Muir, Native Americans “seemed to have no right place in the landscape.” “There is a dark underside here that will not be erased by just saying Muir was a racist,” White says. “I would leave Muir’s name on things but explain that, as hard as it may be to accept, it is not just Muir who was racist. The way we created the wilderness areas we now rightly prize was racist.”

“The Muir ideal of the lone white man at one with nature in the wilderness excludes all kinds of people from that relationship,” Jon Christensen, an environmental historian at the University of California, Los Angeles, adds. “That ideal has caused a lot of damage.”

The article also talks about Muir's association with eugenics.

This article adds, “Frankly, I think that is where [Muir] missed the boat big time,” says Muir historian James Hunt. “He totally missed the beauty and knowledge that Native American culture could offer, and what that could add to his own world view.”

Statement from the Sierra Club on this topic:

Muir was not immune to the racism peddled by many in the early conservation movement. He made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life. As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.
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Anne Elk
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PostFri Aug 07, 2020 2:22 am 
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Locked pending further moderator review.

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"There are yahoos out there.  It’s why we can’t have nice things."  - Tom Mahood
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PostFri Aug 07, 2020 2:58 am 
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Interesting article in regards to the exclusionary roots in the conservation movement (not just Muir but others including Meany who promoted white supremacy).  As it relates to conservation, it might be appropriate in stewardship but not sure what would warrant further discussion (other than to acknowledge the history) so leaving this locked and moving to the history forum.
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Forum Index > Pacific NW History > John Muir: The godfather of Seattle’s spiritual life — and a racist
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