There’s a long tradition of fetishising the idea of the green native in Western thinking. To the Western mind indigenous people are seen as rooted, as connected to a now gone but ultimately easier, greener time, all this in an era which according to the same school of thought for white people is characterised by fragmentation and aggressive industrialism manifesting itself in a perceived loss of culture and history.
At the same time it is important to point out that indigenous people are not considered green by the West because they are perceived to lead green lives in contrast to the industrialised lives of white people, but because to Western hegemony indigenous peoples are seen as an actual, tangible part of nature and thus by default sub-human.
The West fears this perceived connection between nature and indigenous peoples and comforts itself by turning the native into an easily consumed stereotype, i.e. the green eco warrior indigene, a confused combination of animal and prehistory, which is called upon to lament the industrial decay of post-modernity, but never given the right to actually challenge and combat the same.
It is by coding indigenous people as green, as parts of nature rather than as human societies, that the West is able to commodify, silence and consume the native. If the indigene is nature itself, he is not human and thus only a resource to (ab)use.
And the existence of the eco warrior stereotype does in turn erase the urban, contemporary indigene: this is why indigenous people living under appalling conditions brought about by a still ongoing colonialism in indigenous communities around the world are largely ignored by mainstream media and if the urban native ever makes it to the news, he is automatically accused of having lost his native ways on account of not living as ‘one with nature’.
Native ways to the Western mind then translate as ways of the past — the indigene is only ever given a space if he’s perceived as now gone and long lost rather than as a still living person. To be indigenous today is to be perceived as a remnant of the past, and anyone not comfortable remaining a historical artifact is soon silenced and discarded as a broken sub-human.
The Western mind never acknowledges that contemporary native struggles like high infant mortality and suicide rates are effects of a still ongoing occupation and violation of indigenous spaces – mental and physical – but loves to blame what it falsely portrays as the “green” native’s inability to continue to be green while adjusting to an industrialised, ‘modern’ world instead.