National parks across the country preserve and share the stories, histories, heritage, and traditions of Indigenous peoples. Join us in visiting a small sample of the national parks that honor and celebrate Native American heritage and history.Less
Alcatraz Island was used for camping and gathering food, as well as seclusion and isolation, over 20,000 years ago by Indigenous peoples. Over 10,000 Indigenous people, later called the Ohlone, lived in the area before colonizers from Spain and Portugal arrived. In November 1969, a group of Native American activists in the Bay Area occupied the island in a powerful act seeking to reclaim their ancestors’ space.
A unique and remote park, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve protects a small remnant of the 1,000-mile-wide grassland that once connected Asia and North America. During the last Ice Age, plants, animals, and people moved between these two continents. While the bridge flooded around 10,000 years ago, the communities founded by those who traversed the bridge remain. Cultural groups of their Seward Peninsula remain closely tied to the ancestors who first crossed over from Siberia.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument’s namesake was abandoned around 1450 by the ancestral Sonoran Desert people who had built it in the 1300s and lived in the area for centuries prior. Archeologists have discovered hundreds of miles of prehistoric irrigation canals built around 400-500 A.D., with which they cultivated several varieties of beans and squash, as well as cotton and tobacco.
While it is difficult to know how long human inhabitants had been in the area of Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve when Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey described it in 1794, we do know that there were people living in the nearby Groundhog Bay over 9,000 years ago. Today, descendants of the Indigenous peoples who occupied Glacier Bay before the last glacial advance, now known as the Huna Tlingit, embrace their homeland, its resources, and retain strong connections to their culture and traditions.
Over several hundred years, the people of Hawai‘i cultivated traditions that were passed on through generations and continue today. Visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park can discover windows to the past through places such as Pu’u Loa, one of the largest petroglyph fields in Hawai‘i, or Kaʻauea, a site referenced in Hawaiian chants and oral histories, now featuring a reconstructed hula platform and hale, a traditional style Hawaiian house.
The Knife River region of North Dakota has been home to various peoples for an estimated 11,000 years, and Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site preserves and interprets the area’s rich history and culture. Visitors today can see the shallow depressions in the ground where some of the earthlodges were built and maintained by Hidatsa women. Examine artifacts in the park’s museum and explore a full scale reconstructed earthlodge, a Hidatsa garden, and village sites.
Native American groups, including Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu camped along the landscapes of Lassen Volcanic National Park in warmer months when hunting and gathering potential was at its peak. Artifacts left behind from their stays are displayed today at the park’s Loomis Museum, and descendants of these tribes still live in the area and are valuable to partners to the park, continuing to educate visitors on both their historical and modern tribal cultures.
Just 10 miles northeast of Natchez, Mississippi, along Natchez Trace Parkway, lies the second largest Mississippian period ceremonial mound in the United States, known as Emerald Mound. Built between 1200 and 1730 A.D. by Mississippians, the flat-topped mound covers eight acres and reaches heights of 60 feet. There are seven mound groups along Natchez Trace Parkway, and an established trail at Emerald Mound allows visitors to climb to the top of the mound to survey the surrounding countryside.
First created in 1909, Navajo National Monument protects the remains of three large pueblos dating back to the 13th century. However, archeological evidence suggests that there have been human inhabitants in the region for thousands of years. The park’s three pueblos were all built in large natural alcoves within the Navajo Sandstone Formation and today, the land surrounding the park is part of the Navajo Nation, as the Navajo, or Diné, moved into the area around 1800.
The name of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore comes from the Anishinaabek story of Sleeping Bear. The area is rich in history stretching all the way back to 11,000 B.C. Today the park continues to work with Anishinaabek partners to expand storytelling about these landscapes and the people who lived there. Visitors can explore these stories and more through the park’s programs, scenic trails, and recreational opportunities.