Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation

By Karl Jacoby | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4
Nature and Nation

On the morning of August 24, 1877, Frank Carpenter awoke to a sight unlike any other he had encountered in Yellowstone National Park: five mounted Indians riding into his camp in Yellowstone's Lower Geyser Basin. For the past two weeks, Carpenter, along with several friends and family members, had been sightseeing in the nation's first park, created some five years earlier to protect Yellowstone's unique natural features. Dramatically situated on a high plateau, the new park boasted thousands of geysers, boiling springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and other geothermal oddities—all testimony to the region's location over a rare volcanic hot spot in the earth's crust. Like the handful of other sightseers trickling into the area in the 1870s, Carpenter and his companions quickly became enchanted with Yellowstone's strange geological formations, which had already earned the park the nickname “Wonderland” after the recently released Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.1

Tourists at a time when the industry was in its infancy, Carpenter's party met few other visitors during their initial days in Yellowstone. This situation changed abruptly, however, in the early hours of August 24. Shortly after dawn, just as the travelers were beginning to awaken, a party of five Nez Perce Indians, led by a man who called himself Yellow Wolf, rode into view. The Indians demanded food and ammunition and, after unsuccessfully attempting to pass themselves off as Shoshones, admitted to being members of Chief Joseph's Nez Perce band. This was a shocking revelation, for as both the Indians and the tourists

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