Rethinking Thanksgiving

Plimouth Plantation

{Plimoth Plantation originally posted by @plimothplantation} Hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving! I think it is important to take the time to reflect on what we are thankful for, but it is also important to remember the history and systems that makes much of America’s bounty possible. So this is a reminder that the first Thanksgiving took place on illegally occupied Wampanoag Land and was probably more a time of tension and uneasy relations than a time of overflowing friendship and peace. Do you know on whose homeland you are eating? Or on whose land your corn was grown and your turkeys raised? If you are thankful for the ways living in America has benefited you, also acknowledge what this privilege is build upon and fight for this country’s indigenous people. #PublicLandIsNativeLand

Zion National Park is Southern Paiute Land

Zion National Park

{Zion National Park originally posted by usinterior} Mukuntuweap, known as Zion Canyon, is the homeland and a sacred place to the Souther Paiute. Zion National Park, more than most parks I have looked at, placed the Paiute firmly in the past - even labeling the section on Native people “People of the Past.” Mormon settlement in the valley may have devastated the natural environment, U.S. policy may have forced the Paiute onto reservations, and the National Park designation may have erased “wildernessed” the land and attempted to erase the indigenous history, but none of this changes the fact that this is illegally taken Paiute land. If you visit the valley, help restore Paiute presence by using the geotag “Mukuntuweap” #publiclandisnativeland

Devil's Tower is Mato Tipila (Lakota)

Devil's Tower

{Devil’s Tower originally posted by usinterior} Matȟó Thípila or Mato Tipila to the Lakota, Dabicha Asow to the Crow, Woox-niii-non in Arapaho, and Na Kovea in Cheyenne, what is known by the park service as Devil’s Tower has many indigenous names and stories attached to it. The names above all mean “Bear’s Home” or “Bear’s Lodge.” In the story, sometimes a hunter or somethings a group of children are out in the woods when they begin to be pursued by a great bear. As they run, they pray to Creator for help. In response, the ground beneath them begins to rise until they are on top of an immense butte. The bear relentlessly tries to reach them, clawing at the butte and leaving the deep marks along the side of Mato Tipila we see today. What happens next varies as well, but sometimes this is the same bear that later came to rest at Mato Paha, or Bear Mountain, in the Black Hills. 

There have been many proposals from Lakota people, like a 2015 one from Arvol Looking Horse, but these have been blocked because the “branding” of Devil’s Tower is apparently too important to tourism. If you visit Mato Tipila, support this effort by using a geotag with an indigenous name or even writing the board on geographic names to say you support the use of indigenous names. 

Grand Canyon is Native Land

grand canyon

Thank you to Laurie Works (@bornsirius) for sharing her experience below. The names above are the Hopi, Yavapai, and Diné words for the Grand Canyon respectively. If you know the name of this place in Hualapai, Paiute, or any other Grand Canyon area language, please share! 

“When I was hiking in the Grand Canyon this past weekend, there was rarely a moment that went by without me being aware that I walked on stolen land. The canyon echoes with the voices of those who were on the land before us. The army moved the Paiute, the Navajo, and the Cerbat off of the canyon lands in 1882. For thousands of years before that, other Puebloan tribes were on the land.


I was able to walk on this land because my ancestors stole it from others, with bloodshed and violence. If I am not aware of this, I am in danger of repeating it. In fact I think many white people do repeat it, in how they go to the canyon and hear the echoes of the past and claim it for their own. I see it in the claiming of native spirituality and colonizing it for themselves. I have to be so aware so I do not do this, so that I honor my connection with this land and at the same time don’t dishonor everyone who was there before me.


May I always remember and honor that #publiclandisnativeland

Also, if you think this isn’t happening still, check out Save the Confluence, who just won a victory of keeping native land rights for the little Colorado and Colorado River Confluence, a sacred site for many of the native tribes. A capitalist organization was trying to build a team across the Confluence and Save the Confluence was able to stop them.” 

St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge is Muscogee Land

St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge

{St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge originally posted by usinterior} On the coast of the Florida panhandle, what is now St. Mark’s National Wildlife refuge was once part of the short lived State of Muskogee. From 1799-1803, this nation declared independence from the Spanish Empire and passed various resolutions including demanding the return of all stolen Muscogee (Creek) land and the death of the U.S. Indian Agent to the Creek Nation, Benjamin Hawkins (Note: It seems like other Muscogee supported Hawkins - part of a split that led to the Creek civil war a decade later). While the Spanish eventually defeated and reclaimed the State of Muskogee, it was an important experiment in what indigenous sovereignty might look like in a colonial world. 

Today the Muskogee Nation of Florida, who resisted removal during the Indian Removal Act, are still fighting for Federal Recognition. Throughout much of the 19th century, it was illegal to identify as Indian in Florida, making it difficult to prove continual existence as a tribe. However, the state recognized them in 1986 and there is currently a recognition bill being considered in Congress, so possibly after over 200 years there will once again be a sovereign Muscogee Nation in northwest Florida. #publiclandisnativeland

Scott's Bluff National Monument is Cheyenne and Arapaho Land

Scott's Bluff

{Scott’s Bluff National Monument originally posted by usinterior} Meapate, now known as Scott’s Bluff, is a magnificent bluff in western Nebraska on land swindled from the Cheyenne and Arapaho in the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise. Already having to deal with thousands of settlers illegally passing through their land on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails, the Treaty of Fort Wise was negotiated as a revision of the Treaty of Fort Laramie after gold was discovered in Colorado. The Cheyenne and Arapaho gave up over 90% of their remaining land. Many Cheyenne and Arapaho people objected to the treaty arguing it didn’t represent what all the chiefs wanted, the chiefs didn’t know what they were signing, and that they had been bribed. The U.S. refused to renegotiate and tensions eventually led to the Colorado War and the Sand Creek Massacre. While the Cheyenne and Arapaho signed the treaty, this land was probably also used but the Lakota, Mandan, and Pawnee. #publiclandisnativeland 

American Samoa National Park is Samoan Land

American Samoa

{American Samoa National Park originally posted by @usinterior} Unlike much public land in the U.S., if you visit the National Park of the American Samoa, it is almost impossible to not know that you are on Samoan (Tagata Māo’i) Land. Why is this? Because this land is owned by the Samoan people and only leased by the U.S. Federal Government! This is an example of how indigenous/settler partnerships might work in other places to protect the environment and allow people to enjoy it without erasing indigenous culture or removing indigenous people from their homes. I’m not saying everything is perfect. Among other things, the Samoans are still under colonial rule from the U.S., as a territory don’t even have official representation in Congress, this photo still represents Samoa as a natural paradise rather than a cultural space, and there are always challenges when a culture becomes part of the tourist attraction for non-indigenous visitors. But it is at least a glimpse at another way of approaching and reinterpreting what we mean by “Public Land” - another model to critique, engage with, and build upon. #publiclandisnativeland

If you know more about the relationship between the Samoa people and the Federal Government around public land issues, please share! 

Cuyahoga National Park is Wyandot, Shawnee, and Delaware Land

Cuyahoga National Park

{Cuyahoga Valley National Park originally posted by cuyahogavalleynationalpark - part 2/2} If you missed the last post, I suggest reading that for context before this one. —- As the Iroquois strength in the valley waned, dozens of other nations passed through the Cuyahoga Valley after being force out of their homelands through treaties or war further East, especially the Northwest Indian War. Largely led by Miami chief Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket, the war was an attempt to contest American and British expansion into Ohio and the Great Lakes. The confederacy, including Wyandot, Shawnee, Delaware, Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Miami, Kickapoo, Kaskaskia, and Cherokee (I apologize for not listing all of these in the image! It wouldn’t fit!), was eventually pushed into and through the Cuyahoga Valley region, which was eventually ceded in the Treaty of Greenville. While is ended the war, the treaty was almost immediately disregarded by settlers, pushing these nations out of the valley and further west. The point is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park was never “empty” and has its own history of dispossession that it has failed to address or deal with. #publiclandisnativeland 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Whittlsey and Five Nations Land

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{Cuyahoga Valley National Park originally posted by @usinterior - part 1/2 on Cuyahoga} Just a short way from the home of the Cleveland Indians, one of the most racist MLB mascots, it is no surprise that the the main story told about the Cuyahoga Valley is one of erasure. It basically says, “Yes, there is an indigenous history, but by the time the Europeans got here, the Indians were already long gone.” Unsurprisingly, the story is more complex than that and it’s going to take two posts to tell it. 

A people known as the Whittlsey - we don’t know what they called themselves - had been in the Cuyahoga Valley for hundreds of years by the time Europeans were pushing into North American in the 17th century and it is true that they had left the region by the time Europeans got to Ohio, but what is often left out of the narrative is that, even though they weren’t directly removed through treaties or war like other tribes, they were still impacted by the ripples of colonialism further east. Waves of epidemic disease stemming from colonial contact probably hit their communities hard and then the better armed Iroquois Confederacy, expanding and strengthening their position in response to pressure from the East, pushed them out completely. Cuyahoga still wasn’t abandoned. With declining game and fur in the east, Ohio and the valley became an important resource area for the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, especially the Seneca (the Tuscarora hadn’t joined yet, but I haven’t forgotten about you guys @fishuponastar). When Europeans started exploring the area, it is true they may not have encountered many Native people, but the empty land was still the result of a violent removal. #publiclandisnativeland

Glacier National Park is Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Orielles Land

Glacier National Park

{Glacier National Park originally posted by @glaciernp - post 2/2 looking at the tribes of Glacier National Park} On the western side of Glacier National Park is the homeland of the Salish, Kootenai (or Ktunaxa), and Pend d’Oreilles Nations of the Flathead Reservation. The history of U.S.-Indian relations is filled with less than fair treaty negotiations, but the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 and subsequent “agreements” with the Flathead nations are still exceptional. The two parties came with entirely different expectations, both intending to leave in control of the Flathead homeland, but poor translations, that according to one witness were barely intelligible at all, and underhanded dealing on the part of Isaac Stevens led to Chief Victor giving up 20 million acres of land. Illegal settlement and railroads, military intervention, and even the U.S. forging marks on behalf of chiefs eventually forced the nations to move the Flathead Reservation. Throughout all of this, the tribes remained committed to peaceful resistance. 

The Flathead nations are also a great example of hour conserving wilderness and honoring treaties don’t have to be mutually exclusive. On fact, they run their own wilderness area, the Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness, and are fighting for management of the National Bison Range. Past wrongs can’t be undone, but there is still room to move forward with more respect for indigenous claims to our public land. #Publiclandisnativeland

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail is Pueblo Land

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

{El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail posted by the BLM @mypubliclands} This national historic trail commemorates the U.S. side of a route between Mexico City and Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), NM. This trail is largely interpreted as a Spanish route used between the 1580’s and the 1880’s, used to maintain trade routes, spread Christianity, and generally maintain colonial rule over the region. However, before is was appropriated by Spanish conquistadors, it had been used by indigenous people for thousands of years as an important trade route into Central America. At it’s northern end it connects around fifteen Pueblo communities and passes through dozens of other indigenous lands on its way to Mexico City. The question I want to ask is, why is it the 300 years of Spanish conquest that makes this trail worth memorializing and not that thousands of years of indigenous cultural and material exchange and nation building? #NativeHistoryMatters #PublicLandIsNativeLand

Yosemite National Park is Ahwahneechee Land

Yosemite National Park

{Yosemite Valley originally posted by @usinterior} Ahwahnee, known as Yosemite Valley, is now one of the country’s most famous National Park, an icon of John Muir’s conservation movement and America’s best idea, but before this public “wilderness” was constructed, it was home to the Ahwahneechee People. The Ahwahneechee experienced multiple violent removals from the would be park beginning in 1851 when their villages were burned to the ground by the California Militia and ending in 1969 when their homes were again burned for a firefighting drill. Despite the U.S. government’s claim that the Ahwahneechee are extinct, members of the tribe are still fighting for Federal Recognition and use of Ahwahnee for cultural practices. When you visit Yosemite, remember it is native land and fight with the Ahwahneechee for their right to use it. #publiclandisnativeland 

Indigenous People's Day

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{Grand Canyon National Park originally posted by @usinterior} It has been encouraging seeing all the posts today acknowledging Indigenous Peoples’ Day and critically thinking about Columbus, but it has also been interesting to see how many people approach it. I have seen posts thanking Native people for their “sacrifice” or posts using passive voice like “the decline or” or “the elimination of.” Let’s remember that the colonial encounter in the Americas wasn’t a passive process. Columbus represents very real people who actively and with full knowledge of what they were doing enacted genocide on indigenous people. Public Lands like the Grand Canyon aren’t the result of an unfortunate race passively disappearing in the wake of settlers, but of violent, state sponsored removal. When you fight for these public lands, remember to also fight for the Native people who still feel the impact of 1492. 

The Grand Canyon is the homeland of numerous southwestern nations including the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, Paiute, White Mountain Apache, Yavapai Apache, and Zuni peoples. 

Great Smokey Mountains National Park is Cherokee Land

Great Smokey Mountains

{Great Smoky Mountains National Park originally posted by @greatsmokynps} The story told at Great Smokey Mountains National Park is one of removal, but it isn’t Cherokee removal, it is the removal of white settlers who were displaced in the creation of the park. Barely mentioned is how these settlers got there in the first place as a result of the Indian Removal Act that forced most of the Cherokee off of there land to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. Like much “public” land across the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created out of violent and coercive colonial action. Only a single line on the website acknowledges that Cherokee people still live in the area, having resisted hundreds of years of attempted removal and assimilation. Their reservation is open, so if you visit the national park, also visit the reservation and learn the indigenous story of the land. #publiclandisnativeland 

Mount Rainier is Native Land

Mount Rainier

{Mount Rainier National Park originally posted by @mountrainiernps} As I was doing research on Takhoma, or Mount Rainier, it became clear that this place has an incredibly rich indigenous story, one almost completely invisible to visitors to the park. It is impossible to capture in a single image the diversity of languages and cultures that used the resources and lived on the land that is now Mount Rainier National Park and even the five tribes mentioned in the image are far more diverse than the a single name can express. And if you are part of a Native community I didn’t mention that has claims to this or have more information about it’s history, please comment and share. Taken from the indigenous people in the exceptionally unjust Treaty of Medicine Creek, when you visit Mount Rainier, remember this is Native Land. #publiclandisnativeland 

Apostle Islands National Park is Ojibwe Land

Lake Superior Apostle Islands

{Apostle Island National Lakeshore} Mooningwanekaaning (Madeline Island) and it’s surrounding islands in gitchi-gami (Lake Superior) are among the most unique and beautiful public parks in the country. They are also Ojibwe land and water, carved out of the Red Cliff Reservation to “protect” them and promote tourism in northern Wisconsin, an explicit example of how public lands lead to Native dispossession. #publiclandisnativeland

White Mountains National Recreation Area is Gwich'in Land

White Mountains Alaska

{White Mountains National Recreation Area originally posted by US Interior} Just reminder that even though these beautiful landscapes are represented as remote wildernesses and as places people go to mostly for recreation, for the Gwich’in, this is not a tourist destination, it is a homeland. Ethical outdoor recreation means taking into account the indigenous people who live and making a living in the area you are only visiting. As many fight today for public land conservation down at Bears Ears, remember that all public land was first Native land. Respect the land and respect the people. #publiclandisnativeland

Everglades National Park is Seminole Land

{Everglades National Park originally posted by US Interior) Pa-hay-okee has been represented as an uninhabited and uninhabitable wilderness for centuries. For early European and American explorers, it was a mosquito infested wasteland and for modern tourists, it is a pristine, one of a kind wilderness. For many years, however, this wetland was a refuge for the Seminole Nation. When the U.S. government removed much of the nation to Oklahoma as a result of the First Seminole War, part of the Seminole Tribe were able to retreat into Pa-hay-okee. Using their knowledge of the area and guerrilla fighting techniques that fit the landscape, the Seminoles survived two more costly wars with the United States in the 19th century. Despite much of the Florida Seminoles moving to the newly created of Seminole reservation in southern Florida, many Seminole families continued to live in Pa-hay-okee until the were coerced into leaving by the National Park Service during the creation of Everglades National Park in the 1940’s. In 1962, the Miccosukee, who were among those who stayed in the Everglades the longest, were also federally recognized as a separate nation. 

The Everglades is not a wilderness, it is Seminole land and has supported Native civilizations for centuries. If this is not possible today, it is only because of the dramatical political and ecological changes instituted by the United States. When you visit, be an ethical tourist by acknowledging Seminole sovereignty, supporting Native owned businesses, advocating for indigenous centered ecological preservation, and using indigenous place names. #publiclandisnativeland 

Second Beach in Olympic National Park is Quileute Land

Olympic Second Beach

{Second Beach at Olympic National Park originally posted by US Interior} kʷoʔlí·yot’ Land. Second Beach is part of the ancestral homeland of the Quileute Nation and borders their reservation at La Push, Washington. Although they lost most of their land in the Treaty of Olympia in 1856, like many tribes, they retained hunting, fishing, and gathering rights throughout all of their ceded territory. This give the Quileute overlapping resource sovereignty along much of the Olympic coast including Second Beach. When you visit, respect Quileute land and sovereignty. #publiclandisnativeland 

National Bison Range is Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Orielles Land

National Bison Range

{National Bison Range originally posted by US Interior} The National Bison Range is 18,800 acres of illegally taken Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreilles land and completely surrounded by the Flathead Reservation in Montana. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) were compensated at less than a seventh of the actual value of the land - the difference of which they wouldn’t get for another 60 years. Last year, after years of contention, CSKT thought they might finally be getting their land back when the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended returning the land to tribal management. Enter Secretary of Interior Zinke - remember him? The one behind the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante National Monuments, leaving thousands of cultural resources unprotected? The former Montana representative reversed the Obama era management plan, choosing to keep the National Bison Range under FWS control because he didn’t want to reduce public land and didn’t trust CSKT management abilities. 

Bears ears showed that Zinke clearly has no problem removing federal protection and changing federal jurisdiction. However, transfering the National Bison Range to BIA trust land - since this is still a colonial country and tribal land is still considered government trust land - is represented as selling off public land. This is stolen land to begin with and even if it weren’t CSKT has both a proven record of quality resource management and stated commitment to keep the land accessible. The common thread between Zinke’s seemingly opposite policies at Bears Ears and the National Bison Range is an attack on indigenous sovereignty and an investment in settler control of land and resources. #publiclandisnativeland