Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks

Synopsis

This book examines the ideal of wilderness preservation in the United States from the antebellum era to the first half of the twentieth century, showing how the early conception of the wilderness as the place where Indians lived (or should live) gave way to the idealization of uninhabited wilderness. It focuses on specific policies of Indian removal developed at Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier national parks from the early 1870s to the 1930s.

Excerpt

I wonder if the ground has anything to say? I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said? I wonder if the ground would come alive and what is on it?

We-ah Te-na-tee-ma-ny, or "Little Chief" (Cayuse), 1855

SHORTLY AFTER THE ESTABLISHMENT OF Badlands National Monument in 1929, the Oglala Sioux spiritual leader Black Elk expressed profound consternation with the idea of wilderness preservation. For him, the creation of the national monument adjacent to his home on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota seemed only to confirm a disturbing trend. Wind Cave National Park had already been established in the nearby Black Hills, and large areas of land surrounding the park had recently been incorporated into a national forest. Remembering his youth and the time he spent in these areas, Black Elk recalled that his people "were happy in [their] own country, and were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us." Although a considerable portion of this Sioux country received federal protection, native peoples were largely excluded from their former lands. As Black Elk observed, the Americans had "made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds," and every year the two were moving farther and farther apart. In short, Black Elk understood all too well that wilderness preservation went hand in hand with native dispossession.

The dual "island" system of nature preserves and Indian reservations did not originate in the 1920s. At least until Black Elk's early childhood, Americans generally conceived of the West as a vast "Indian wilderness," and they rarely made a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.