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Things We Never Knew: Nat'l Parks, Muir and Native Americans
on March 28, 2000
Mark David Spence has crafted a fascinating look at three national parks: Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite through the filter, the lense as it were, of Native American presence.
Citizens of the United States did not always see the national parks in terms of an empty wilderness, untrodden by human footsteps. Rather, early on in the 19th century Americans, such as Catlin for example, tended to look at the wilderness in its 'natural' state, that is, its condition before European conquest, advancement, and domination. This state, therefore, included the presence of Native Americans within these three national parks. This presence took on, at times, both a temporary or a permanent character.
Although the book can read with a pace that only a historian would love, there are sufficient insights to enlighten even the armchair historian. Perhaps one of the most fascinating facets is the role that John Muir took in defining Yosemite as a region that should be absent of the Native Americans, the very people who had dwelt in the Valley for centuries. His comments could easily be construed as racist, naive, and bigoted.
I cautiously recommend this book to you, although personally I found it fascinating.