Celebrate National Parks Week

It’s National Park Week (April 16-24), with this year’s focus on “Healthy Parks, Healthy People,” drawing a connection between environmental and human health and the crucial role our nation’s national parks play in both.

In case you can’t get out there and enjoy all of America’s 394 national parks, the team over at has compiled a nice list for you to peruse, from the “10 National Parks to See Before You Die,” to the “10 Least Visited National Parks.”

Despite the wide array of terrain, flora and fauna on display in the nearly 400 different National Parks across America, they all have one major thing in common—American Indian roots.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the selections made and highlight the people who had cherished the region long before it was given National Park status:

Their first pick, and the most visited park in the country, was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. reports that this magnificent park has 800 miles of hiking trails that wind their way up the Appalachian peaks, 16 of which are more than 6,000 feet high.  This park boasts incredible bird watching (as well as an abundance of other wildlife), and was “founded” in 1940 with conservation efforts by the likes of industry titans such as John D. Rockefeller Jr and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was in the White House at the time of the park’s dedication.

Of course the Cherokee were there long before the Great Smoky Mountains were registered as a National Park.  The Cherokee had extensive trails throughout the Smoky Mountain region, as well as cultivated croplands, towns, and a sophisticated political system.  Many were forcibly removed during the Trail of Tears, but today, the town of Cherokee in western North Carolina, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee, is a thriving community with the tribe taking advantage of their long standing understanding of their surroundings, running a successful tourism operation through the park.

The Grand Canyon is of course a popular and essential choice.   Dan Shapley of reports that this is the second most visited park in the nation, a chance to see in vivid technicolor and mind blowing scale millions of years of geologic history.

Teddy Roosevelt may have perserved the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908 (it was designated as a national park 11 years later), but the Havasupai have lived in and around the park for more than 1,000 years.  Like the Cherokee, the Havasupai have proven to be amazingly resilient, and after legal battles that took decades, now own and operate several tourist ventures in the park, including the incredible Skywalk, the horseshoe shaped, cantilevered engineering marvel that hangs nearly 5,000 feet over the canyon floor and was commissioned and now owned by the tribe.

For more, visit TheDailyGreen’s list here, and check back in with us as we do a tour of the National Parks and their American Indian roots.


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Celebrate National Parks Week