Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier celebrates centennial on Tuesday, May 11

May 10, 2010, 8:18 am

One hundred years ago, on May 11, 1910, the people of the United States set aside 1 million acres of their finest federal land, protecting the tremendous mountain scenery of Glacier National Park.

And no one noticed.

Nearly a week later, the local Daily Interlake newspaper ran the following story: “There has been some local inquiry as to whether the Glacier National Park bill had been signed by the president. An inquiry sent to Associated Press headquarters brings back the reply that the bill was signed on May 11th.”

End of story.

Two sentences, buried at the very bottom of the page, beneath a story about a conference in St. Louis “on the education of backward, truant and delinquent children.”

“Clearly,” said Michael Ober, “it wasn’t a big deal for the locals. If anything, it was just a small blip on their radar. There were just so few people, and there was so much land out there. And these were hardscrabble people trying to scratch out a living; they didn’t even have a concept of a vacation, let alone a national park.”

The very notion of a park, he said, “was like nailing Jell-O to a tree. It just didn’t stick very well.”

And the headlines of the day – or the lack thereof – “are very revealing about how truly marginal the event really was,” Ober said.

Fast-forward exactly 100 years, to Glacier’s May 11, 2010, centennial, “and you can see how the locals’ relationship to the park has changed. Today,” Ober said, “that park is a big part of how we identify ourselves. It’s literally who we are.”