Yellowstone, Tourism and Native American Dispossession

Authors: Randall Wilson*, Gettysburg College
Topics: Historical Geography, Natural Resources, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: national parks, yellowstone, dispossessioon
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In United States history, the creation of Yellowstone National Park is often held up as a progressive turning point in the rise of environmental conservation. Frequently labeled as the harbinger of “America’s Best Idea,” some credit Yellowstone with inspiring the establishment of protected areas across the globe. But beneath the veil of this celebratory narrative lies a much more complex history of Yellowstone as a place of contradiction and conflict between cultures, political interests, economic concerns, and the ways we use and value non-human nature. For Yellowstone is also the place that witnessed the dispossession of indigenous peoples for conservation purposes, early disputes over public and private land rights, conflicts between human recreation and environmental protection, national debates over wildfire policy and endangered species protections, and more recently, questions of social equity over park visitation. In this paper, critical place theory is used to map out the historical evolution of Yellowstone as a special type of place in the history of the United States: one of national import and influence over conservation matters, but one that has also infused our environmental institutions, ideas and values with powerful and problematic conceptual assumptions about nature and society that have rendered a lasting legacy of conflict.

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