The Story Behind the Growing Number of Tribal National Parks

This week brought with it the announcement of a new national park, one which will eventually encompass 444 acres on the border of Nebraska and Kansas. The governing body setting this new park up isn’t the National Park Service, however; instead, it’s being established by the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

The Ioway Tribal National Park “will overlook a historic trading village where the Ioway people bartered for buffalo hides and pipestones with other tribes during the 13th to 15th centuries.” When it’s completed, Ioway Tribal National Park will join a growing number of tribal national parks across North America.

It’s worth mentioning here that this isn’t an exclusively American phenomenon. Similar parks have been established in other countries where Indigenous populations faced warfare, oppression and relocation in the name of colonialism. Booderee National Park, located on the east coast of Australia, is owned by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and jointly managed by Parks Australia and the Indigenous community there.

There is another factor in the establishment of tribal national parks: making sure that history is conveyed accurately and that visitors to sacred sites behave appropriately while there. The website for Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park mentions that several areas within Antelope Canyon can only be visited with a tour guide — something that helps keep the stunning landscapes protected for future generations.

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