Return America's National Parks To Native Peoples
Our national parks are spectacularly glorious stolen property. Let's try to make it right.
Treuer’s Atlantic article lays out in painful gruesome detail the history of how the land which now makes up America’s national park system was systematically stolen from the native peoples who had inhabited and nurtured these places for thousands of years. It’s not a pleasant story, as it painstakingly documents a consistent ruthless pattern of murder, theft, lies and broken promises.
It may be tempting to think that this all happened in the past before we were born, and there’s nothing we can do about it now. But these crimes didn’t just happen in long ago history, as we of European descent are still sitting on the stolen property. And there is something we can do about that.
Author David Treuer suggests that we return control of America’s national parks to the native peoples these lands were stolen from. As he imagines it, the national parks would be owned and managed by a consortium comprised of all Native American tribes. The parks would still be available to all Americans, but these lands would be owned and managed by native peoples instead of the federal government. The federal government would provide much of the funding.
Here’s an interview with Treuer on the PBS Newshour which explains in more detail.
Well, of course there’s always somebody eager to shoot down every good idea, so if you’d like to hear another take on this proposal you can do so here and here. I’m not going to bother debating such small minded people.
To me, the idea seems an excellent plan. Native peoples get back some of their land, and we of European descent get back some of our soul. Everybody wins.
There’s never been a real admission or apology for the historic genocide America was founded upon. There is no act or statement that can fully make good on that crime, but we can at least engage in this symbolic transfer with open hearts.