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June 22, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Should national parks be given (back) to Native Americans?

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To read the transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: Trekking to and through a national park is one of the joys of an American summer. As COVID restrictions lift, millions are expected to explore the great outdoors. Now, a provocative article examines the deeper history of how these parks came to be — and their complicated legacy. Should national parks be given (back) to native tribes to protect and manage?

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • What happened to the Native Americans in the area in the creation of Yellowstone National Park?
  • Why, according to Treuer, are Native Americans better equipped to protect national parks than the Park Service Administration?
  • When was Yellowstone National Park created?
  • Who was forcibly removed from, and denied access to, Yellowstone land after the creation of the park?
  • How should reparations be paid to Native Americans, according to Treuer?

Focus questions:

  1. “But this country has…a fundamental problem in its persistence in believing the myth of its own innocence vis-a-vis slavery and vis-a-vis the theft of Native land,” Treuer said. What do you think might have contributed to this myth of innocence? How might we push back against it, and do you think we should?
  2. Why might national parks need to be protected “from the very government that created them in the first place?”

Media literacy: What do you think was the intended effect on the audience of including photos of Yosemite and other national parks during the interview? How do visual examples of the subject matter help us understand the material better?

Additional resources:

  • Read the mentioned article from the Atlantic.
  • Check out this interactive digital map that shows which part of the land Indigenous peoples had lived on at some point in history. Were you surprised by any of the information here?
  • Check out this article about a national park ranger attacking an unarmed Indigenous man on sacred native land in Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico.
    • How might this incident further support Treuer’s argument that native tribes should protect national park lands as opposed to governmental institutions such as the Park Service Administration?

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Jacqueline Kim and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Kim is a junior at Amherst College.

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