Although the Park Service recently has placed some emphasis on protecting samples of North America’s ecosystems, the earliest national parks were viewed as natural museums—monuments to national grandeur that would edify visitors. Not only were these early parks to preserve monumental and unique natural attractions, but they also had to be of no use to mining, lumbering, agriculture, and other “productive” industries. Natural Museums examines the notions of park monumentalism, “worthlessness,” and national significance, as well as the parks’ roles as wilderness preserves and recreational centers.
In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, an American buffalo herd once numbering 30 million animals was reduced to twelve. It was the era of Manifest Destiny, a Gilded Age that treated the West as nothing more than a treasure chest of resources to be dug up or shot down. The buffalo in this world was a commodity, hounded by legions of swashbucklers and unemployed veterans seeking to make their fortunes. Supporting these hide hunters, even buying their ammunition, was the U.S. Army, which considered the eradication of the buffalo essential to victory in its ongoing war on Native Americans.
Into that maelstrom rode young George Bird Grinnell. A scientist and a journalist, a hunter and a conservationist, Grinnell would lead the battle to save the buffalo from extinction. Fighting in the pages of magazines, in Washington's halls of power, and in the frozen valleys of Yellowstone, Grinnell and his allies sought to preserve an icon from the grinding appetite of Robber Baron America.
Grinnell shared his adventures with some of the greatest and most infamous characters of the American West—from John James Audubon and Buffalo Bill to George Armstrong Custer and Theodore Roosevelt (Grinnell's friend and ally). A strikingly contemporary story, the saga of Grinnell and the buffalo was the first national battle over the environment. In Grinnell's legacy is the birth of the conservation movement as a potent political force.
National Parks – ‘America’s Best Idea’ – were from the first seen as sacred sites embodying the God-given specialness of American people and American land, and from the first they were also marked as tourist attractions. The inherent tensions between these two realities ensured the parks would be stages where the country’s conflicting values would be performed and contested. As pilgrimage sites embody the values and beliefs of those who are drawn to them, so Americans could travel to these sacred places to honor, experience, and be restored by the powers that had created the American land and the American enterprise.
This book explores the importance of the discourse of nature in American culture, arguing that the attributes and symbolic power that had first been associated with the ‘new world’ and then the ‘frontier’ were embodied in the National Parks. Author Ross-Bryant focuses on National Parks as pilgrimage sites around which a discourse of nature developed and argues the centrality of religion in understanding the dynamics of both the language and the ritual manifestations related to National Parks. Beyond the specific contribution to a richer analysis of the National Parks and their role in understanding nature and religion in the U.S., this volume contributes to the emerging field of ‘religion and the environment,’ larger issues in the study of religion (e.g. cultural events and the spatial element in meaning-making), and the study of non-institutional religion.
When the national park system was first established in 1916, the goal "to conserve unimpaired" seemed straightforward. But Robert Keiter argues that parks have always served a variety of competing purposes, from wildlife protection and scientific discovery to tourism and commercial development. In this trenchant analysis, he explains how parks must be managed more effectively to meet increasing demands in the face of climate, environmental, and demographic changes.
Taking a topical approach, Keiter traces the history of the national park idea from its inception to its uncertain future. Thematic chapters explore our changing conceptions of the parks as wilderness sanctuaries, playgrounds, educational facilities, and more. He also examines key controversies that have shaped the parks and our perception of them.
Ultimately, Keiter demonstrates that parks cannot be treated as special islands, but must be managed as the critical cores of larger ecosystems. Only when the National Park Service works with surrounding areas can the parks meet critical habitat, large-scale connectivity, clean air and water needs, and also provide sanctuaries where people can experience nature. Today's mandate must remain to conserve unimpaired—but Keiter shows how the national park idea can and must go much farther.
Professionals, students, and scholars with an interest in environmental history, national parks, and federal land management, as well as scientists and managers working on adaptation to climate change should find the book useful and inspiring.
The National Park Service's ambivalence about wilderness is traced from its beginning to the turn of the twenty-first century. The Service is charged with managing more wilderness acreage than any government agency in the world and, in its early years, frequently favored development over preservation. The public has perceived national parks as permanently protected wilderness resources, but in reality this public confidence rests on shaky ground.
Miles shows how changing conceptions of wilderness affected park management over the years, with a focus on the tension between the goals of providing recreational spaces for the American people and leaving lands pristine and undeveloped for future generations.
In the view of the English colonists and their descendants, Indian converts to Christianity were expected to repudiate native traditions and affirm the superiority of European civilization, to serve as role models, and to spread the gospel far into the wilderness. Yet as Bernd C. Peyer shows, Indian missionaries did not always fulfill the expectations of those who trained them. Once the Indians recognized that conversion alone did not guarantee protection from discrimination, they devised a variety of strategies, theological as well as practical, to resist assimilation into the dominant white culture. Making effective use of their literacy and education, they called attention to the discrepancy between the Protestant ideals they had been taught and the Anglo-American practices to which native people were subjected.
By uncovering this subtext of dissent and resistance, Peyer at once alters and enriches our understanding of the evolution of the American Indian literary tradition.
The bibliography also takes the reader back to suggestions of the idea long before the contemporary debate. Lakota author Charles Eastman brought up the subject in 1919, Mohawk teacher Ray Fadden developed it in the 1940s, and John F. Kennedy touched on it in 1960. Bringing the debate to its full flower in the present day, the bibliography illustrates both fervent support and equally emphatic denial in the academy and the public press. The book is both a scholarly tool and a lively exploration of issues bearing on the study of history and multiculturalism.