National Parks: A Violent Wilderness

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In this video, I take a brief look at the dispossession of Native American lands and the creation of Glacier and Yosemite National Parks. Through these two parks I analyze the often overlooked colonial history of National Parks.


 

Transcript Provided by YouTube:

 

 

00:04
growing up my family never went to
00:07
national parks my first overnight
00:09
backpacking trip wasn’t until the summer
00:12
after my senior year of high school few
00:15
of my friends and I decided to walk six
00:17
miles into a state park only to get hide
00:19
out by a ranger and turned around
00:21
because we were so clearly unprepared
00:24
it’s probably the grocery bag full of
00:26
loose bagels that gave us away but
00:28
despite our general cluelessness the
00:31
trip was awesome
00:32
over the years however as I’ve read and
00:35
hiked more America’s wooded parks began
00:37
to unravel in front of my eyes
00:40
these pleasurable preserves were built
00:42
for people who look like me in the name
00:44
of leisure and eventually created an
00:46
inaccurate vision of a world untouched
00:48
by other humans in reality America’s
00:51
wilderness areas have a turbulent
00:53
history the land of some national parks
00:55
like glacier and Yellowstone was
00:57
obtained through colonialism and
00:59
violence and the history of these parks
01:02
is marred by disregard for treaties and
01:04
a forced removal of people that lived on
01:07
the land today I want to look at the
01:08
origins of two national parks in order
01:11
to historically contextualize and
01:13
substantiate these claims in 1895 two
01:16
nations forge an agreement the Blackfoot
01:19
ceded roughly eight hundred thousand
01:21
acres of its land to the United States
01:23
in return for a payment of 1.5 million
01:27
dollars over a 10-year period in
01:29
addition the Blackfoot people were to
01:31
retain hunting and gathering rights on
01:33
the land part of the agreement read as
01:36
follows
01:37
that the said Indians hereby reserved
01:39
and retained the right to hunt ponds
01:41
head lands and to fish in the streams
01:43
they’re up and so long as the same shall
01:46
remain public lands of the United States
01:48
under in accordance with the provisions
01:50
of the game and fish laws of the state
01:53
of Montana
01:54
however this session was not without
01:56
context the Blackfoot nation really a
01:59
collection of four semi independent
02:00
tribes including the north pekin south
02:03
vegan blood and northern Blackfeet was
02:05
very strong in the early night
02:06
century however by 1895 their numbers
02:10
had dwindled roughly 2,000 people
02:12
diseases like smallpox skirmishes with
02:15
other indigenous nations in the United
02:17
States and most importantly the quick
02:20
decline of Buffalo as a result of
02:22
overhunting by mostly white Americans
02:24
force the Blackfoot peoples into a
02:26
corner the Blackfoot were essentially
02:28
pushed into selling parcels of land in
02:31
order to support themselves in the
02:32
absence of Buffalo the agreement with
02:35
the United States forged in 1895 was
02:37
accepted grudgingly by chief white calf
02:39
who stated chief mountain is my head now
02:43
my head is cut off mountains have been
02:46
my last refuge with the establishment of
02:49
Glacier National Park in 1910 however
02:52
this right to the bounty of the land was
02:54
ripped away two years after the parks
02:57
creation a ranger arrested Blackfoot
02:59
hunters and warned that they will no
03:01
longer be permitted in Glacier National
03:03
Park and have found within the park they
03:06
will be summarily injected in 1932 this
03:10
disregard for the treaty was officially
03:12
recognized by a US District Court which
03:15
decided that the lands ceded under the
03:17
treaty ceased to be deemed public after
03:19
it became a national park
03:21
thus the 1895 agreement was slashed by a
03:24
National Park in the name of a pristine
03:26
vision of nature the Blackfoot nation’s
03:29
right to hunt and fish on the ceded
03:31
eastern section of the land was shunned
03:34
in order for the park to appear
03:36
untouched in the case of Yellowstone
03:38
National Park the expulsion of the crow
03:41
Bannock sheep eaters and Shoshone
03:43
peoples proved much more forcible and
03:46
violent initially the US government took
03:48
legal routes to expel these nations from
03:51
a land they wanted to look untrammeled
03:53
however when that failed law enforcement
03:55
approached Native American nations with
03:57
violence according to an account in the
03:59
1894 annual report to the Commissioner
04:02
of Indian Affairs William Manning
04:04
Jackson Hole constable deputized 26 men
04:09
the purpose of seeking out and arresting
04:11
Native Americans that were hunting in
04:13
the area they eventually came across a
04:15
banach camp and stripped the people of
04:17
their goods marching them at gunpoint
04:20
out of the park as the neared a heavily
04:22
forested area Manning’s Posse loaded
04:24
their weapons and some of the Banach
04:26
bolted in fear the deputized men opened
04:30
fire an old man was killed and two
04:33
children lost the origins of Yellowstone
04:36
and Glacier Point to a much more complex
04:39
history of national parks on that
04:41
expelled Native American nations from
04:43
their lands in order to provide a
04:45
pristine front for tourists this history
04:48
is essential to understanding the often
04:50
untold aspects of America’s wilderness
04:52
areas back in high school my two friends
04:55
and I walked through the woods enjoying
04:57
the pleasantries of a state park but
04:59
that park was there for our use for our
05:01
pleasure for many that isn’t the case
05:03
Native American practices of brush
05:06
burning and game hunting were barred
05:07
from places like Glacier is that 20th
05:10
century recreationalists could
05:12
experience the leisure and hardships of
05:14
quote/unquote untrammeled land the
05:17
National Park escort service in DC has begun to
05:19
recognize this darker legacy of their
05:21
federally protected lands in recent
05:23
years but it’s one that we need to come
05:24
to grips with if we are to truly
05:26
understand how to ethically and
05:28
rightfully enjoy these constructed
05:31
landscapes if you’re interested in
05:34
learning more about Native American
05:36
nations and national parks I put some
05:38
links in the description of books and
05:40
papers that I found useful as always you
05:43
can subscribe and support me on patreon
05:45
and I will see you next Friday bye

 


This post was previously published on YouTube.



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National Parks: A Violent Wilderness