Native Americans And The National Parks
Author: Philip Burnham
Publisher: Island Press
Category: Business & Economics
The mythology of "gifted land" is strong in the Park Service, but some of our greatest parks were "gifted" by people who had little if any choice in the matter. Places like the Grand Canyon's south rim and Glacier had to be bought, finagled, borrowed -- or taken by force -- when Indian occupants and owners resisted the call to contribute to the public welfare. The story of national parks and Indians is, depending on perspective, a costly triumph of the public interest, or a bitter betrayal of America's native people.In Indian Country, God's Country historian Philip Burnham traces the complex relationship between Native Americans and the national parks, relating how Indians were removed, relocated, or otherwise kept at arm's length from lands that became some of our nation's most hallowed ground. Burnham focuses on five parks: Glacier, the Badlands, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. Based on archival research and extensive personal visits and interviews, he examines the beginnings of the national park system and early years of the National Park Service, along with later Congressional initiatives to mainstream American Indians and expand and refurbish the parks. The final chapters visit the parks as they are today, presenting the thoughts and insights of superintendents and rangers, tribal officials and archaeologists, ranchers, community leaders, curators, and elders. Burnham reports on hard-won compromises that have given tribes more autonomy and greater cultural recognition in recent years, while highlighting stubborn conflicts that continue to mark relations between tribes and the parks.Indian Country, God's Country offers a compelling -- and until now untold -- story that illustrates the changing role of the national parks in American society, the deep ties of Native Americans to the land, and the complicated mix of commerce, tourism, and environmental preservation that characterize the parks system. Anyone interested in Native American culture and history, the history of the American West, the national park system, or environmental history will find it a fascinating and engaging work.