National Parks, Native Sovereignty: Experiments in Collaboration

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Christina Gish Hill, Matthew J. Hill, Brooke Neely
University of Oklahoma Press, Mar 12, 2024 - Social Science - 290 pages
The history of national parks in the United States mirrors the fraught relations between the Department of the Interior and the nation’s Indigenous peoples. But amidst the challenges are examples of success. National Parks, Native Sovereignty proposes a reorientation of relationships between tribal nations and national parks, placing Indigenous peoples as co-stewards through strategic collaboration. More than simple consultation, strategic collaboration, as the authors define it, involves the complex process by which participants come together to find ways to engage with one another across sometimes-conflicting interests.

In case studies and interviews focusing on a wide range of National Park Service sites, the authors and editors of this volume—scholars as well as National Park Service staff and tribal historic preservation officers—explore pathways for collaboration that uphold tribal sovereignty. These efforts serve to better educate the general public about Native peoples; consider new ways of understanding and interpreting the peoples (Native and non-Native) connected to national park lands; and recognize alternative ways of knowing and using park lands based on Native peoples’ expertise.

National Parks, Native Sovereignty emphasizes emotional commitment, mutual respect, and patience, rather than focusing on “land-back” solutions, in the cocreation of a socially sensible public lands policy. Ultimately it succeeds in promoting the theme of strategic collaboration, highlighting how Indigenous peoples assert agency and sovereignty in reconnecting with significant landscapes, and how non-Native scholars and park staff can incrementally assist Native partners in this process.


ONE Historical Overview
THREE Indigenous Connections at Rocky Mountain National
A Case Study
INTERVIEW Gerard Baker
SIX The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial
Shared Authority and Multivocality
INTERVIEW Lance Michael Foster
Cherokee Medicine Keepers
TEN Making the Tribal SelfGovernance Act Work at Grand

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About the author (2024)

Christina Gish Hill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Iowa State University, was awarded research and publication grants from the American Philosophical Society and the American Association of University Women for her work on Webs of Kinship. Her research focuses on Plains Indian history and on Native foodways.

Matthew J. Hill is an applied anthropologist who consults with government and mission-driven organizations. He previously served as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Heritage & Society, where he acted as principal investigator for two National Park Service projects focused on early American treaty-making and the Black Hills as a contested heritage landscape.

Brooke Neely is research faculty at the Center of the American West and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.