Letter to the editor: Nuovo says critic of his essay was correct
Randy Kritkausky has written a thoughtful critique to my recent essay, “Errand into the Wilderness” (Feb. 7, 2019) that deserves a no less thoughtful response. In particular, he objects to my uncritical use of the term “wilderness,” and insists, rightly, that Massachusetts in the 17th century was not a wilderness when the Pilgrims and Puritans settled there; it was already a settled place, inhabited by people who had their own civil society, traditions and laws. The European settlers displaced this people, and ignored their laws and traditions.
He is also right to observe that this mistaken belief in the minds of the English settlers had dire consequences for the indigenous people who preceded them. His use of the term “genocide” is not ill advised. I tried to make this very point with regard to earlier Spanish settlements and plan to follow up on it in subsequent essays. But Mr. Kritkausky’s point is that I should have mentioned the ill effects here and been more critical of these early settlements in New England. It is fair criticism, and I acknowledge it.
He also takes a longer look of the effects of these early English settlements with respect to the land. And here also, he is correct, that the long-term result of these settlements is environmental degradation, which contrasts with the respect and wise use of the land by the indigenous peoples. Compared to them, European settlers were like an invasive species.
These are important points, and I am grateful to Mr. Kritkausky for calling attention to them. I hope others will take note of them.
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