"To claim that Indians lived without affecting nature is akin to saying that they lived without touching anything, that they were a people without history."
The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it will put to rest the myth of a unique and romantic American Indian environmental ethic. Second, it will illustrate how American Indians used complex and evolving institutions to conserve scarce natural resources and to survive in a sometimes hostile environment. By institutions, I mean the traditions, rules, laws and habits that guided Indian societies. Though the actual laws and customs vary among societies, all societies have such institutions to guide them.