The legend of the first Thanksgiving presents a beneficent, benign colonialism made possible by the hospitality and generosity of Indians not a bit bothered by these zealous sycophants come to claim the native homelands. Of course, the story we tell ourselves does not bother with how this all looked from the perspective of the Wampanoag people. ♨
National parks reveal who we are as a people, what we value, how we envision the future. We learn something of ourselves by viewing our national parklands, monuments, historical sites, battlefields, and other units of the National Park Service through the critical lens of the curious student. ♨
In recent years the National Park Service has begun engaging the diverse peoples of America to tell a more inclusive story of our national heritage. This more inclusive tale allows us to envision a nation that honors the strength and wisdom of our differences. ♨
Ensconced in an alabaster landscape beneath a darkly sodden sky, porcelain jewels effuse their turquoise wisdom. We contemplate in this lifeless land a frightening prospect for a world relinquished to its acidic origins.
Voters seem much more in agreement about national parks than just about anything else, but the politics of funding our parks have left them with an enormous backlog of “deferred maintenance.” As a nation we have not been very good at putting our money where our mouth is. The immeasurable value of national parks, though, more than justifies an investment in their future.
Christopher Columbus has become more symbol than historical person. The dreams that his memory inspires as well as the tragedies that resulted from his voyages remain part of our national tale.
In her memoir The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks, Terry Tempest Williams offers an intimate portrait of national parks as she guides readers on a reverential tour of parks through meanings that these places have etched in her memory and experience.
Natural Bridge in Virginia may be America’s first natural feature promoted as a tourist destination. Thomas Jefferson characterized Natural Bridge as “the most sublime of Nature’s works,” and now it is recognized as an affiliate site of the National Park Service.
The Rio Grande divides two lands, two tongues, two ways of seeing and believing. It occupies a borderland where the living, the dead, and the river’s watery sustenance follow a winding course to distant seas.
Can we move away from the master narratives of white privilege in our parks? Can we begin thinking of our park system as places of reconciliation? Can they become spaces for listening to what the myriad voices—human, natural, spiritual—have to teach us? Can we move from narratives of conquest to queries of connectiveness?
On a quiet country road in Logan County, Ohio, a humble marker notes the site of tragic encounter, the place of massacre and displacement, the trailhead of one people’s Trail of Tears. Passersby hardly notice the isolated and mostly forgotten forested hill, once the location of a Shawnee village that, according to a news report from the Ohio Historical Society, …
When I mention that I am working on a history of religion in Yellowstone National Park, people are often puzzled. They usually say something like, “Is there religion in Yellowstone?” And then they might remark, “Oh, you must mean Native Americans.” “Yes,” I reply, “I will include something about how Native American people regarded the area, but my project is…