David Treuer's piece for the Atlantic is peppered with so many bold lines it's hard to whittle down which to share. But this is a strong one: "The American West began with war but concluded with parks." In his lengthy piece, Treuer, himself a Native American living at Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, makes the case that America's national parks should be returned to the people who originally occupied them. He charts the history of how native people were violently removed from them and the fallacy that what was preserved by the US government was "a virgin American wilderness." Rather, they had been cultivated by Native peoples for 15,000 years, perhaps longer. And the treaties that got tribes off the land featured "cruel terms"—and even those were rarely honored. Treuer argues that this is broadly a time of "historical consideration," which makes now the time for change.
He sums up his case succinctly: "For Native Americans, there can be no better remedy for the theft of land than land. And for us, no lands are as spiritually significant as the national parks. They should be returned to us. Indians should tend—and protect and preserve—these favored gardens again," with the parks remaining open to all and with binding covenants put in place that would require the level of conservation meet or exceed what is in place today. And while the parks are far from equivalent to the amount of land taken from Native Americans, their 85 million acres are roughly equivalent to the 90 million acres that the General Allotment Act of 1887 took from them. "To be entrusted with the stewardship of America’s most precious landscapes would be a deeply meaningful form of restitution," writes Treuer. (Read the full piece, which shares the precedent that exists for significant land transfers.)