In 1872 a massive amount of land that was sequestered between Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho was seized by the government, and molded into what is today known as Yellowstone National Park—America’s first and biggest park. The Yellowstone Act of 1872 declared the 3,471 square miles of “unclaimed” land as a federal park. In today’s society we think of that land as wilderness, as being untouched. Our civilization has conditioned humans to believe that parks such as Yellowstone are as Henry David Thoreau put it so nicely, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”(Cronon). Is that really the case? Can we as humans, whose society is built up into skyscrapers consider a land that is crisscrossed with man-made trails really be wild? To answer this question of wilderness in Yellowstone, I will be taking a look at the three categories that influenced Yellowstone’s wilderness. The first, which will be told in a two sequence mini story, is the sovereignty of the land that Yellowstone was founded on. The second is the tourism that has redefined the term of “wilderness” that is found in National Parks. The third and final sequence of the exhibit will focus on the animals that influenced the landscape of this particular National Park. Taking a look specifically at the wolves that were reintroduced into Yellowstone.
In a quick introduction to the exhibition pages that will follow; the first mini story that will be displayed is the controversial topic of Native Americans. Thinking in the frame of history, in which the sovereignty was stripped from the indigenous people whom lived on the land. Through the window of the formation of Yellowstone, the images will analyze how Native Americans thought about the land, and how they view in it current day, now that it belongs to the United States government. How were their concepts of wilderness different from our own? What negative affects are seen through the trends of current Native Americans that used to use the land in which Yellowstone is situated?
The second mini story that will be told through images three and four will be how tourism began, and what it looked like when Yellowstone was first created to now. This mini story will also talk about the creation of trails, and roads throughout the park, and how those have “tainted” our current day concept of wilderness.
Lastly, image five will go into the effect wolves have on the landscape of Yellowstone National Park, and will conclude the journey of Yellowstone National Park’s history through the frame of people and animals.
Can Yellowstone National Park categorically be deemed wilderness if the definition of wilderness today is “uninhibited or untouched?” (OED).
By Merrick Preti