The U.S. national parks have been lauded as "America's Best Idea." However, as journalist, historian, and English scholar Philip Burnham points out, the establishment of the National Park Service (NPS) depended on the displacement of Native American communities from their land. In this 2016 episode of "Your Call," a broadcast of San Francisco's KALW, Rose Aguilar interviews Burnham, the author of Indian Country, God's Country: Native Americans and National Parks, about the oft-overlooked history of Native Americans and national parks. During the interview, Burnham addresses the histories of Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Yosemite and examines the Antiquities Act: the 1906 law that allows the U.S. president to proclaim certain sites to be national lands and monuments. As Burnham notes, the establishment of early national parks rested on the myth that those lands were "worthless" and essentially untouched by previous communities. In reality, Native communities had shaped and preserved those lands for years. In addition, Burnham and Aguilar discuss how U.S. national parks have historically addressed or ignored this aspect of history and how indigenous communities have organized to raise awareness about these issues.
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