National Parks Are Native Lands
Indigenous people were forcibly removed from their homelands, yet strong connections still exist between Tribal communities and the lands that have sustained them since time immemorial. In some cases, Tribes were specifically removed to create national parks, and the National Park Service continues to struggle with that dark legacy. Tensions over access to sacred sites within national parks have continued for decades after the parks’ creation and in some cases remain ongoing.
There is no single narrative that adequately acknowledges the original stewards and inhabitants of our national parks — hundreds of Tribes once lived on the lands we now call the United States, all with their own unique traditions and cultural connections.
Tribal Co-Management and Leadership
In 2021, Chuck Sams became the National Park Service’s first Indigenous leader in the agency’s 105-year history, and Deb Haaland became the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in U.S. history when she began leading the Department of the Interior. As of 2022, 80+ co-stewardship agreements exist between the National Park Service and Indigenous Tribes and communities. Tribes and agencies must work together to ensure inclusion of Tribal priorities, values and stories in the stewardship of our public lands at every level.
For the last four years, Bears Ears National Monument has been at the center of a critical fight over Indigenous land rights. This awe-inspiring, culturally rich site was part of the largest removal of federal public land protections in U.S. history. But now that the monument is restored, could it serve as a model for Tribal collaboration in our parks?
Advocacy & Victories
As the original stewards of our public lands, Indigenous communities and Tribal leaders have played a key role in advocating for and winning victories for cherished landscapes and cultural sites. Learn more about the stories of these co-led victories – and the fights that are still ongoing.
A proposed 211-mile industrial mining access road would disrupt caribou migration, the subsistence lifestyles of rural Alaskans, and the integrity of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. NPCA is working to prevent construction of this expensive, unnecessary and damaging road, which won’t benefit park visitors or local communities.