Protected Areas, Indigenous Peoples, and Reconciliation in the United States of America
Finegan, Chance Nicholas
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This dissertation examines the relationship between the Chinook Indian Nation and United States National Park Service (NPS) at two small national parks along the Columbia River Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Despite a tendency to have poor relations with Indigenous nations, the NPS has at these two sites built a strong, positive working relationship with the Chinook Indian Nation. Through sharing circles and semi-structured interviews, this research traces the development of this relationship and identifies lessons-learned and best-practices that may be instructive for staff working at parks where the NPS/Indigenous relationship is more strained. This research integrates settler-colonial studies with park management. It asks if the NPS/Chinook relationship is an example of decolonized or reconciliatory park management. I conclude that, while the NPS and Chinook 1) have much to be proud of in their work together and 2) are challenging some of the ways in which settler-colonialism continues to be enacted (e.g., making concerted efforts to present Indigenous as well as settler narratives for park visitors), the parks are not necessarily decolonizing, for current efforts are not directly concerned with ensuring future Chinooks will live as citizens of a prosperous, sovereign Indigenous Tribe re-connected with its ancestral territory and culture. I assert that 1) reconciliation and decolonization are ongoing relationships, not end states, and 2) the good NPS/Chinook relationships staff at these two sites have demonstrate how to renew park/Indigenous relationships at a micro-level. This dissertation uses stories told to me by NPS staff and Chinook Elders to identify lessons-learned and best-practices emerging from these two parks. I draw on three stories (in particular, the partial reconstruction of the Village at Fort Vancouver, the carving of Okulam, and the Qiqyaqilxam project) to highlight these lessons. It is primarily through sustained personal engagement that the NPS and Chinook have developed a strong, positive relationship. Yet, focusing on personal relationships will only take settlers and Indigenous peoples part of the way towards reconciliation.