Native american History and the national parks

Native Americans have had an incredibly tragic history with the National Parks and "the preservation of wilderness" concept that many Americans have romanticized for centuries. 

Scroll to read Native American history and the National Parks, read stories about Native park rangers, read books and academic studies about the removal of Native Americans from park lands, and find organizations that are advancing Native American inclusion outdoors.

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native american stories in the park

Remembering the complex history of how the National Park Service started is crucial for visiting the national parks in their current state. While "the preservation of wilderness" came with a unsurmountable cost, there are still many Native American contributions to the national parks.

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National parks are beautiful—but the way they were created isn’t

On August 25, 1916, 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service by establishing a new bureau in the Department of the Interior. Know what other bureau has always sat right alongside it? The Bureau of Indian Affairs.
This is no small coincidence. The two departments were not only closely situated, they were closely related in a “dual island system” of nature preserves and Indian reservations. We tend today to think of our national parks as sprawling natural treasures, gifted to our country by the government, starting with Congress’ Yellowstone Act of 1872, spurred on by the interests and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. The Yellowstone Act began a global national park movement, for which we are very grateful today, as scores of travelers enjoy the majestic wilderness and natural preserves they protect.

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Ethnic Cleansing and America's Creation of National Parks

Native American rights in national parks present a dilemma. These lands were wrongfully taken, and recognition of rights owing to treaties and the existence of significant cultural and religious sites or traditional use is the most equitable recourse.
Yet the continent has changed greatly since those nineteenth century treaties. The ecosystems found in the parks are fragmented or non-existent beyond their borders. The parks are the best -sometimes only - habitat available for many species. 

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From Yosemite to Bears Ears, Erasing Native Americans From U.S. National Parks

Immersed in the American West during the early 19th century, artist George Catlin made it his goal to capture idyllic scenes of nature, often featuring the frontier’s many Native American inhabitants. Catlin was concerned about the destruction white settlers would bring as they moved west from the urbanized East Coast, reshaping the landscape for agricultural and industrial uses, and he wanted to document scenes of indigenous life before it was forever altered. His artwork captures vibrant green vistas filled with Native Americans playing games, dancing, and performing religious rituals, or hunters chasing buffalo and taming wild horses.

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Many National Parks Get The Indian Story Wrong

National parks are America'™s great outdoor classrooms, and they attract about 300 million visitors a year, from school groups to senior citizens, mountain climbers to families in minivans. The vast majority of those people will flip through the park'™s brochure, browse exhibits at in the visitor center, and read some of the informational signs posted at the roadside turnouts.

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Sacred Native American Sites Are Not Your Playgrounds

The Presidio is part of my tribe’s ancestral homeland – our territory extends from Vallejo all the way down to Big Sur and throughout the Salinas Valley. But we’re a displaced tribe – meaning we no longer live together here, so I didn't grow up in the Presidio. I grew up in Southern California and went to Cal Poly Pomona University, where I studied Gender Ethnicity Multicultural Studies. I moved to San Francisco and began living in the Presidio four years ago.

READ ARTICLE HERE

american indians and national parks by Keller and Turk

In this article by the Guardian, three African American hikers describe fears and stereotypes they have faced – and why they love hitting the trails

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Making National Parks Accessible to Native People Again

While boarding the plane, we get the text. Mom was in the hospital.

My mother is a downwinder. She spent her early childhood in Kingman, Arizona, where the fallout of U.S. nuclear tests rained. She has nonsmoker’s lung cancer, diabetes, and blood clots. Now dialysis has entered the picture. She and my father left rural New Mexico for Phoenix, Arizona, when she first got sick. They figured big city doctors were better.

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Innovative Park Programs Help Tell Native American Stories to a New Generation

Designated by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, Arizona’s Montezuma Castle National Monument became one of the first national monuments, preserving cliff dwellings in North America and showcasing the Sinagua culture’s ingenious use of the desert landscape to prosper for generations. Sixty years later, Georgia’s Ocmulgee National Monument was added to the National Park System to celebrate the many different Native American cultures that comprise over 17,000 years of history at the park. These are just two of the many national parks across the country that interpret the history, culture, and contributions of Native Americans in the U.S.

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National park service historical sites

There are hundreds of sites of our native past to include a mound city in Georgia, and an ornate 19 room cliff dwelling in Arizona.

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the story of Gerard Baker

A Mandan-Hidatsa Indian, Gerard Baker grew up on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. His youth was spent breaking horses, running cows, and doing chores on his family's ranch. At night, he and his family would listen to stories told by tribal elders—stories of warfare, great hunts, tricksters, and survival. From these stories, he learned about his people and about who he was and who he wanted to be.

READ HIS STORY HERE

Xochitl Garibay begins park ranger job with Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Originally from the San Fernando Valley, Xochitl found her passion for spreading awareness of the natural world through her writing and reading. She interned as an Interpretive Ranger in Yosemite. Her interests in the environment, Native American folklore and Aztec mythology are the driving inspirations for her future endeavors, and were central to the senior thesis project she wrote as part of her English major in Fall 2018.

READ HER STORY HERE

National Park Service Ranger Desiree Munoz Talks About Her Ohlone Heritage

The Presidio is part of my tribe’s ancestral homeland – our territory extends from Vallejo all the way down to Big Sur and throughout the Salinas Valley. But we’re a displaced tribe – meaning we no longer live together here, so I didn't grow up in the Presidio. I grew up in Southern California and went to Cal Poly Pomona University, where I studied Gender Ethnicity Multicultural Studies. I moved to San Francisco and began living in the Presidio four years ago.

READ HER STORY HERE

Q&A With NPS American Indian Services Specialist Otis Halfmoon

A national park is a place to reflect about one’s self. A place to consider the historical event that took place and/or to see America’s cultural and natural resources. It is truly a place to save for generations not yet born. A national park is also an area to hear the untold stories of various nationalities. In this sense, to enrich an already rich story. They are truly the gems of America.

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Benn Pikyavit - Southern Paiute Tribal Member and Elder/park ranger

A national park is a place to reflect about one’s self. A place to consider the historical event that took place and/or to see America’s cultural and natural resources. It is truly a place to save for generations not yet born. A national park is also an area to hear the untold stories of various nationalities. In this sense, to enrich an already rich story. They are truly the gems of America.

READ HIS STORY

Our Initiative

Our initiative is to diversify our national parks by using a three layered approach:

Awareness - get people to stop and realize there is a problem here
Education - give them exposure to first hand experiences 
Action - take action by donating, volunteering, or spreading awareness

We're focused on connecting to more diverse audiences and creating content with this audience in mind. Join Our Facebook Group below to join the discussion, share information, and connect with like-minded individuals. 

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Organizations advancing native american inclusion outdoors

As an outdoor enthusiast, you may be wondering what you can to do support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors. The recent prominence of the Black Lives Matter Movement has brought issues of inequality and racism in the outdoors to the forefront and has made us question what we can do to be better allies and help drive change.

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