Innovative Park Programs Help Tell Native American Stories to a New Generation

Designated by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, Arizona’s Montezuma Castle National Monument became one of the first national monuments, preserving cliff dwellings in North America and showcasing the Sinagua culture’s ingenious use of the desert landscape to prosper for generations.

Sixty years later, Georgia’s Ocmulgee National Monument was added to the National Park System to celebrate the many different Native American cultures that comprise over 17,000 years of history at the park. These are just two of the many national parks across the country that interpret the history, culture, and contributions of Native Americans in the U.S.

For many students, a visit to a national park is a way to learn more about their culture and heritage. Saguaro National Park participated in Hands on the Land, a program focused on bringing Native American students to their local national park. During the 2017-2018 school year, more than 100 students from local bicultural schools for Tohono O’odham youth took part in the program.

While at the park, students partook in real life scientific research, collecting data from wildlife cameras to research five rare, small carnivore species native to the area. Along with wildlife programming, students also learned about the park’s biodiversity, famous saguaro trees, and the rich ties of the park’s history to their Tohono O’odham culture.

From culture to science to volunteerism, Native Americans are active stewards, teachers, and participants in national parks, preserving the heritage and history that make this land so remarkable. Programs like these ensure that more people learn this important layer of the American experience.

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