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Wild Country: Re-centering Indigenous communities in national parks through collaborative management

Authors: Susannah Maher*,
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Land Use
Keywords: Settler Colonialism, national parks, federal land management, collaborative management, Indigenous communities
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

National park histories are fraught with violence and violations and often result in the erasure of tribes. For example, Yellowstone National Park, which was established in 1872 to conserve biodiversity and wilderness areas, is now the standard model for parks around the world. In this paper, I use settler colonial discourse to understand the role national parks maintain in reinforcing and informing settler colonialism. In particular, I examine wilderness narratives to understand how the current National Park Service (NPS) structure excludes Indigenous people from decision making. I investigate alternatives to the National Park Service management model by citing different examples of collaborative management (co-management) including collaborative decision making (Badlands’ Southern Unit), natural resource co-management (salmon fishery in Washington state), and Tribal Parks (Navajo Nation). Through this investigation, I demonstrate that collaboration between the National Park Service and Indigenous people can be achieved, that co-management is a way to recenter Indigenous peoples in the management of conservation areas, and that restructuring NPS can increase knowledge of sacredness and reinforce tribal autonomy and governance. Ultimately, this paper contributes to broader Indigenous resource management scholarship, and shows that an alternative to current federal land management models is possible.

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