Should Native Americans Control National Parks? Examining an Argument for Reparations

Historians in the News
tags: National Parks, Native American history, reparations


  • Amna Nawaz:

    It is one of the joys of an American summer, trekking to and through a national park. As COVID restrictions lift, millions are expected to explore the great outdoors.

    But now a provocative article examines the deeper history of how these parks came to be and their complicated legacy.

    Stephanie Sy has our conversation for our ongoing coverage of Race Matters.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    These national parks are beloved.

    In a phrase that's often repeated, writer and historian Wallace Stegner once called them America's best idea. But in a recent cover story for "The Atlantic," author David Treuer argues now is the time to return national parks to Native tribes, who were forced off the lands. He's calling for the return of more than 60 of them, including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree.

    All told, it would include more than 80 million acres.

    David Treuer is a member of the Leech Lake Ojibwe Tribe in Minnesota and the author of "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present." And he joins me now.

    David Treuer, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."

    There were so many passages that stood out to me in your article, including the description of Yellowstone, which you write, from the perspective of history, is a crime scene.

    Describe how what happened there makes your case for returning national parks to tribes.

  • David Treuer:

    Yellowstone was created during the height of the Plains Wars between various Western tribes And the United States government.

    And in the middle of that battle, they created this park, which excluded and deprived primarily the Shoshone-Bannock and other tribes of access. They were forcibly removed, kicked out of the park, forbidden from hunting and gathering and using the park as — or that land, as they had for four centuries.

    Yellowstone is just one of many parks. And it's a pretty unique one. But we can see, even just by looking at Yellowstone, how fraught that place is with history.

Read entire article at PBS News Hour

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