Owning the Land: a blessing or a curse - Hunter-Gatherer perspective

philosophy
hunting
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(Jarosław Wątroba) #1

Hello, everyone!

When I was first thinking about living in the wild, years before I have even known the term “anarcho-primitivism”, I just wanted to buy some land, build a village and live by gardening, fishing and hunting. This was nothing more than a projection of cilivized rural life onto the wilderness. Now that I have done quite a bit of reading of authors such as Jared Diamond I see that I’d just most probably die or depend on civ either way, especially if my community was bigger than just me. Hunter-Gatherers were nomad for a reason. Quite a few reasons actually. And this made me wonder whether legally owning land is of ANY advantage at all to a HG.

Why would you WANT to own land?

  • Formal recognition - everyone respects you as a serious HG guy and not just another freak.

  • Whatever you do, it is fully legal - you can cut down trees, build huts, make big fires. It’s your land.

  • No one can kick you out - at least to a degree, big mining companies will find a way.

Why would you NOT WANT to own land?

  • Frozen Deathtrap - “What a beautiful lot with a lovely river! Let’s buy it!”… the first problem is resources. What if they are scarce on your property and surrounding land? What if you discover it “later”? What if you use up all of them? What if animal populations shift or die out temporarily? Unless you bring in supplies from civ, you are dead! It’s hard to trap that last cottontail or find these few last nuts under a rock. If you don’t move, you break the system. You start permanently damaging the environment and, God forbid, start agriculture, so that you can stick to “your” land.

  • Unwanted companions - lots are often sold as a chunk of some bigger land which was cut up into pieces. Now, what if someone buys a lot (too) close to you? What if they build a big house and listen to loud music all the time? Or “steal” your resources? You can’t just walk away. You bought the land for lots of money. You’re trapped. Even worse, what if a mining company buys land close to yours and starts to mine, pollute the environment, etc?

  • Location - that relates closely to the previous point. 95% of land offers I’ve seen are either close to a road or a town or something like this. I have yet to find a lot that is really 200km into the wild, access only (maybe) by plane, no roads, towns and alike. Someone might be ok with that. I’m not.

  • Boredom? Well, just. What if you get fed up with seeing those same few trees for years? It’s not easy to sell wilderness land…

  • Obviously… money - Now considering all the above dangers, you have to make an initial investment of at least some $20K, but maybe even as much as a few hundred thousand $$. Then, you must have enough civilized income to cover the taxes.

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you buy land, you are putting YEARS of your work into a small piece of land, not even in your ideal location, but instead where it was available to buy and you risk that one day your resources may run out, someone might come over and destroy your anprim utopia, or you might simply get bored. And you still need more money for taxes.

On the other hand, if you just use unmanaged forest on crown land or something, far deeper into the wilderness than any sane person would ever go, if you overhunt or overfish… well, no problem at all. You just move on and all the resources replenish with time. Yes, some might say that you have nothing and therefore are noone, but… to be honest… property is a concept which only makes sense in resource rich agricultural land… and as an anprim, you shouldn’t care much.

That works if you wanna be HG. If not, well, that does not apply, but you WANT to be HG, otherwise the all to-well-known problems of sedentary lifestyle kick in. To solve that, instead of land, I’m now puttin’ my $$ into designing and building a low-powered floatplane, which could serve as my portable home, flying nearly for free.

So, “Owning the Land”: a blessing or a curse for HG? Share your views and experiences.

Liras


(Andrew) #2

Have you spent weeks/months/years squatting or camping on land owned by others who didn’t want you there and/or wasn’t exactly legal?

In my experience, it changes the social relationships with other humans much more than one would anticipate. It made me paranoid that every human I saw was a potential threat to my existence in a particular place.

It’s easy to say that hunter-gatherers, in many cases, probably didn’t want to “own” land the way we think of it in the current legal framework. Unfortunately, this relationship to land was exploited by colonizers, and is part of the reason nearly 100% of HG lands were conquered or stolen.

But mostly, hunter-gatherers felt a sense of home and belonging in the landscapes they connected to. This is a psychological state difficult to achieve with a confrontational relationship to every other human we may contact.


(Jennifer) #3

From the website homepage

As far as this project goes the idea has always been to only purchase small plots of land to access larger close by areas, the migration is built into the idea, while still having a place that you can cache stuff and not worry about trespassing or having a place burned down by the forest service.


(Jarosław Wątroba) #4

Yup, I know what your concept is and it is great, I love it… I can give you $5k until Jan 2018 to buy a piece of land in Canada… But I am a total freak, an extremist. Think about it. How many people would realistically do the same? Give lots of money to someone they don’t really know, so that a trust can buy land that they will never own themselves, so that an international community can build their utopian HG life there without civilization?

I would. I would work day and night to get you the money so that we can buy more land. I’d even get you a proper camera Jennifer. Why? Because it is a good cause. I wanna break free. But you can’t get much for $5k and I don’t wanna be spending the best time of my life slaying away so that one day, in a distant future, I may, or may not, be able to buy a small lot, which is, either way, subject to all the dangers I’ve outlined. This is very sad, especially considering how much wilderness there is in the North, my home. I don’t think I would be afraid of forest rangers 300km into the Siberian wilderness, but nevertheless, it’d be great to always have a place to call a LEGAL home by civ standards.


(Mark E) #5

I would much rather know how to relate to the land, learning the skills needed to read the seasons, the plants, the animals, and water, the weather, and to travel safely and procure food and shelter in a range of conditions and locales… none of this requires owning land, but it requires time in Nature, and preferably, some sense of community and mentorship. My current strategy is to be semi-mobile using a WVO van, learning sailing, cycling, lower carbon forms of transport, and spend time in different ecosystems… trying to simplify expenses and focus on Nature learning . I’m curious how different people are approaching this question.

PS I agree that having some kind of safe ‘home base’ is important… of course, that could look like many different things in the modern world… Could be a tiny home on someone’s property, friends in indigenous communities, could be a tucked away spot like an underground home hard to find, etc etc etc…

But most HG societies are seasonal and use a large land base-- and they also traded with other HG communities. Also, there is a continuum, where HG communities tended wild ecosystems, planted back, enhanced shellfish beds, etc, on a seasonal rotation. So some degree of mobility seems to be built into it.

This year I’m planning on learning sailing and next year I may build a sailing rowcruiser… for now, I’m building a WVO camper-van and plan on living in it while connecting with different communities in BC, NWT, Yukon, and possibly Alaska.

I want to travel slowly and learn different ecosystems and how to build shelter, find food, and most importantly a community of like minded people wherever I go… I’m filming the stories as part of a video series on my website.


(Andrew) #6

Some HG cultures in some ecosystems in some periods of ecolutionary time. I’m not comfortable with this generalization applied broadly, and am concerned that it’s an inroad to justifying (the narrative as such, and not your particular use of it) HG cultures by imposing an agricultural/civilized framework by which HG cultures can be measured and compared. This seems to spring from the idea of Lockean property rights wherein property rights arise through mixing labor with land in some intentional way. It seems to force HG cultures into the ideological framework of property rights, which it seems unlikely that many traditional cultures would acquiesce to if asked directly.

I first observed this in Charles C. Mann’s book, 1491. The editorial arc is basically:

  1. Colonizers justified colonization because inhabitants of the so-called Americas were uncivilized.
  2. New evidence shows they were very advanced/civilized.
  3. Therefore, colonization was unjustified.

To my reading, blanket statements about HG cultures resembling agricultural societies falls under plot point #2 above.

My preferred editorial arc is something more like:

  1. Hunter-gatherer cultures have inherent value.
  2. Therefore, colonization is unjustified.

I’m not saying you’re making this argument, Mark. But I do think it’s important to be clear on tending the wild assumptions (as well as recognizing that some HG cultures have been almost 100% sedentary on their own accord).


#7

Whether it’s squatting or buying property or constantly traveling, they all have their problems and benefits. They are almost not comparable because they offer such different opportunities.

I’ve squatted in the woods for years, travelled and lived in veg oil vehicles, rented shitty houses and acreages in the bush and am close to becoming a property owner. I still can’t tell which one I think is best because at the time of each , that is what was best for me.

Assuming you aren’t into going 400 miles off into the bush because you want to maintain some sort of connection to family or other humans, it’s pretty difficult to find a place to squat and or live nomadically long term without being crushed by the authorities.

What excites me is the idea of connecting with local native tribes who are interested in reclaiming their territories and working with them to do so. Living on the land under their permission with the understanding that in order to live on the land we must defend it.

Unfortunately this too is a rare situation and requires the right kinda people and connections.
But it’s gotta start somewhere


(Kevin Tucker) #8

Anything in civilization is a curse from a hunter-gatherer perspective, but we’re all looking at varying spots on the path back to HG life, not coming from within it. I think it’s best to think of these things as steps rather than solutions. Naturally, they’re not going to be possible or the best solution to everyone, but the hope is to get enough going to build up community and having spots where trying to live wild isn’t a matter of permits and looking over your shoulder.
From a HG perspective, private property is one of their greatest threats. It’s ironic to buy land working towards becoming a hunter-gatherer, but we aren’t left with many options.
As a land owner myself, I can totally see why I do it and I can totally see why others would think it’s a waste of time and resources. In the end, we’re both right, but when I’m listening to a nightly spring chorus of spring peepers, tree frogs, coyotes, and whippoorwills, it’s definitely better than paying rent in town. I don’t want to overstate that: me owning land isn’t destroying civilization, but hopefully it’s a part of the community building and resistance against civilization.


#9

I “own” land and was still run off of it by the authorities(illegally). My friend has a lawsuit in Federal court against the local government over it. But even at that, I still have a lot of my belongings there, could camp and use it to a significant degree if I wanted, and, importantly, had recognized avenues available to fight back.

On the “200 km from” everything part, those are available in a few places. But that’s more isolated than I’m interested in. I would want want access for any significantly remote location.


#10

There are pros and cons to everything I suppose. I don’t own land, and it has been liberating in the last few years to grow into an ever more comfortable nomadic life, following the wild harvests and seasons. I may not own any land except for the dirt under my fingernails, but I do have hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest to play with. That is liberating.

At the same time, I long for a place where I can dig in some deeper roots. I’d love to start a nursery, and maybe build a little cabin for storage and wintering. If I had land, these are both things I would surely do. But how invested would I become in these little property-based projects? Would I lose focus on the twenty thousand acres of National Forest nearby me? I would hope not.

I think both are good, it just depends on what you do with it and your attitude. Don’t let the limits of your private property become the fence around your mind. Use that space as a tool and bridge for making greater connections with the whole landscape all around. And inversely, don’t let your love for wild, open spaces invoke a hatred for divided, privately owned plots. Let your understanding of the total ecology of a landscape inform your treatment on its tiny, fractured pieces. In other words, we can turn our private properties into something like wildlife corridors, or arks for biodoversity.

Hell, even a large vegetable garden is a good thing if it leads to more self-sufficiency and health. I’m not a purist – while I don’t agree with agriculture, I think organic vegetable gardens may be a necessary reality until we’ve rewilded the landscape to the point where it can support the many facets of human habitat again. Again, what you do with it and your attitude means more than just the objective reality of the thing. Don’t let your vegetable garden become your prison. Use it as a means of nourishing your life, so that you can do the greater work of tending the landscape around you.


(Jarosław Wątroba) #11

I’m starting to see why our opinions are so different. You live in the US. I’ve never been there, but from what I’ve heard and what you wrote I see that you are living in an anarcho-capitalist hell, where “Eye for an eye”, “justice”, death sentence, utter respect for the Law and government, which cares about money more than its own citizens, is still in effect.

In contrary, in EU there is no such a thing as criminal trespassing! You can’t just shoot people for this. In some countries (Finland, Norway, UK) land owners even HAVE TO let others onto their land for trekking, camping, etc. It is unthinkable for the government to take your land without your permission and even if it does, you can individually SUE ANY EU STATE and win. The first lawsuit against Poland was won by a prostitute… We don’t have borders, cultural boundaries, everyone may live and work where they wish to. And the money is shared: e.g. I pay taxes in Poland, part of the money goes to the EU budget, then through EU donations to Finland wilderness management and they build cabins along the trail which I can then use for free. And there is unlimited free firewood as well.

So, Andrew, I don’t feel any kind of psychological impact of trespassing when I’m out in the wild. Sorry if you actually felt upset by what I’ve written. My friend once had to break into a private cabin after having almost drowned under the ice. He warmed up, stayed for a few days, then left a note and some money on the table and had no further problems. My other friends once put up their tent on a green lane between two highways going opposite directions. Guess what? Noone cared. We have been also camping just outside Helsinki airport. It rained so we didn’t have a fire, but, according to the law, we well could! Not to mention countless situations when I was offered help and even free $$ from absolute strangers.

And why not go 400km into the wild? Satellite internet and a friend rule out isolation. Even the most remote places on earth are within reach of a floatplane in some 3h at most, if you don’t want to make the trip. Ridiculously dangerous, you’d say? Well, 2 days ago the chain in my bike snapped, and fell onto a road and I was pretty much ONE SECOND from death in a car accident. We should rethink what really IS dangerous… Civilization only offers an ILLUSION of protection, but we DO pay the price even if most of us can’t see it.

But we all agree that having at least one, small, legal home on a private lot offers a lot of benefits. And this is not that expensive after all. I’ve seen offers that were less than $10K, for quite decently sized lots. I see though, that the argument: “No one can kick you out” is invalid in the US…


(Mark E) #12

Hey Flapjack,

I heard you were looking for a place in the Yukon or BC. I’m also in BC. Was looking in the Stikine… I have indigenous connections up in the Skeena… was also up in YK a couple years ago and went down to Atlin too… wondering if you found something?

Let me know- I’m looking to create village.

Mark


(Jarosław Wątroba) #13

Hey Mark,
I’ve read your website, amazing stuff. I’m also looking for a place in Yukon or BC, even asked Andrew earlier about this. If you find something let me know, I can contribute to buying land if needed.
Liras


(Mark E) #14

Hey Liras,

Cool! There are many options for land… but… my gut feeling tells me to work on community first. Work on connection first. Build relationships with local and indigenous communities, and find folks who have similar vision… that’s why I built my website- as a way to put out there what I’m into, the ways I want to live… it’s also why I’m filming- to connect with existing communities and share the stories and help build a web of people who are remembering to steward ecosystems.

I want people to know that there are ways of living more connected, of simplifying… etc. I am learning these myself.

I’m not ready to buy land because I don’t yet have a network of people who I trust are on a similar page, and would ‘go in 100%’ with me. I need to continue learning and practicing on the land and in community, and hopefully find some folks to call a community, to call a home. I’m open to that looking different ways. I have put up my core values and vision here because I feel strongly about these things:

I’m curious more about you and the different folks on this website. People seem to be coming from different places, with some common themes but different attitudes and experiences and desires too…


(Andrew) #15

Not that the US is better (it may be worse), but some of my first real experiences with this were in BC, Canada.

Part of why we chose Alaska is that long-term subsistence use is basically legal on state land as long as you don’t built permanent structures. Part of why we chose the land we chose is that it’s surrounded by state owned land instead of ferderally owned.


(Andrew) #16

What gets really weird for me is that native owned ("tribal’, imprecisely) in Alaska is now owned by native corporations instituted by the federal government, and tends to be highly restricted. On one hand, duh. On the other, the corporations behave as corporations, and have succeeded in converting native political groups into capitalist extractive efforts which look and perform a lot like the energy and logging companies that have destroyed landscapes worldwide.

There’s too much nuance to accurately discuss this here, but I find it important to try to understand how the commodification of wild spaces continues, and how that intersects with our relationship to the land in the context of this conversation.


#17

Yeah it definitely depends on the people in your area or the political climate. In this area there are band councils which are very similar to what you ate describing. They technically only have jurisdiction over reserves.

On the other hand there are lots of grassroots people here who still control (or are fighting to take back control) of their territories under hereditary guidance. And are largely against industrial practises.

So , again it depends on your specific situation and locale to determine what the better option is for setting up home


(Kevin Tucker) #18

This made me think of a sad reality/not so funny story. My cousin is big into kayaking the rivers around us here in the Ozarks. When I moved he was talking about going on trips and shit like that, we were at our creek talking about right-of-way and having to avoid going two properties down in our creek because the neighbor is going to shoot anyone who does so. My cousin tells me, and this is supposed to be reassuring, that the use of banks and sand bars of creeks and rivers is fair game, as evidenced by a court case last year where a kayaker stopped on the sand bar along a river and the property owner shot and killed him for trespassing, BUT the property owner ended up getting thrown in jail. So, if you get killed, at least, ya know, you weren’t wrong about it.


(BenSpiritbear) #20

I dislike referring to myself as a land owner or the land as mine. I just think of myself as a steward of this place. Living completely nomadic though isn’t an option though for me being a father. A single person may get kicked off a property or fined whereas being nomadic with children risks having your kids taken away and its just not worth that risk for me. As far as trespassing goes, as long as someone is respectful to “my” land I have no problem with it.


(Shodo Spring) #21

And my experience, owning 240 acres of very cheap wooded land, was that the trespassers were always hunting and fishing and they left a LOT of trash. I quit giving permission, and maybe that’s why they shot out the cabin window. Twice. Or maybe not. I don’t know who kept stealing the tools either, but the cops never caught them.

And I just say I “so-called own this land” to distance myself from the ridiculous common understanding and yet let people know that it’s not theirs to ruin.

People from this crowd, I expect I’d welcome.