Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail

Top 10: Parks with American Indian Significance

November 12, 2009, 12:54 pm

Mesa Verde National ParkIn recognition of Native American Heritage Month, has compiled a list of the Top 10 National Parks with American Indian and Alaska Native significance. Many of our parks are rich in history so in order to better appreciate the public lands that we visit, we must understand their past.

Canyon De Chelly: Chinle, AZ

Located in Chinle, AZ, Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land, which sustains a living community of Navajo people. Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, the cultural resources of Canyon de Chelly include distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery while exhibiting remarkable preservation integrity that provides outstanding opportunities for study and contemplation. The NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the living Navajo community.

Mesa Verde National Park: Durango, CO

Mesa Verde National Park is located in the high plateau country of southwestern Colorado. The park was established in 1906 to preserve the spectacular archeological remnants of the thousand-year-old culture of the Ancestral Pueblo people. About 1,400 years ago, long before any European exploration of the New World, people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde (Spanish for "green table") for their home. For more than 700 years their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone villages in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls.

Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail passes through the present-day states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. It commemorates the the removal of the Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia by the federal government, and the paths that 17 Cherokee detachments followed westward in the winter of 1838-39, when at least an estimated one-fourth of their population died on their way to "Indian Territory" (today Oklahoma).

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument: Crow Agency, MT

Located near Crow Agency, MT, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indians’ last armed efforts to preserve their way of life. Here on June 25, 1876, 263 soldiers and attached personnel of the U.S. Army, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer, died fighting several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. American Indian losses reported by Sitting Bull's account were 36 killed and 168 wounded, while Red Horse made the count as 136 killed and 160 wounded. Visit between Memorial Day to the end ofand late August and catch one of the many tours around the monument lead by a park participate in a ranger-guided tour of the monument grounds.

Everglades National Park: Flamingo, FL

Florida has a rich history of indigenous peoples, dating back some 15,000 years when the landscape was vastly different. During the Seminole Wars (1817–18, 1835–42, 1855–58) independent bands of Florida Indians established themselves in the Everglades to avoid removal from Florida. By 1913, Seminoles in the Everglades numbered just a few hundred. They made their villages in hardwood hammocks, islands of hardwood trees that formed in rivers or pine rockland forests.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument: Coolidge, AZ

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument preserves a Hohokem farming community and "Great House." The Hohokem were an Ancient Sonoran Desert People that discovered that as their villages grew, farm land adjacent to the rivers was becoming scarce. To bring water to land farther away from the rivers, they began to dig canals around 400-500 C.E., a technique the Hohokam continued to use for the next thousand years. Archeologists have discovered hundreds of miles of prehistoric irrigation canals in the Gila River valley, as well as the Salt River Valley of Phoenix, the Santa Cruz River Valley in Tucson, and on the Indian reservations of southern Arizona. Created as the nation’s first archeological reserve in 1892, the site was declared a National Monument in 1918.

Lava Beds National Monument: Tulelake, CA

As one of the longest continually occupied areas in North America, the history and cultural legacy of the lava beds stretches back thousands of years. Located in Northern California, explore the history early Native Americans left behind in rock art and at archeological sites, the conflict of the Modoc War, and the traditions and heritage of homesteaders, ranchers, cave explorer, "CCC Boys," and the modern Modoc and Klamath tribes.

Great Smoky National Park: Gatlinburg, TN

The Cherokee Indians, a branch of the Iroquois nation, can trace their history in this region back more than a thousand years. Originally their society was based on hunting, trading, and agriculture. By the time European explorers and traders arrived, Cherokee lands covered a large part of what is now the southeastern United States. The Cherokee lived in small communities, usually located in fertile river bottoms. In the early 1800s, The Cherokee Nation was established with a democratic government composed with a constitution and code of law. Unfortunately, the Cherokees did not enjoy prosperous times for long. Gold was discovered on Indian lands in Georgia. Political pressure was exerted by President Andrew Jackson to confiscate Indian lands and remove the Cherokees to the West. This culminated in the 4,000 deaths of Cherokees in the "Trail of Tears."

Sitka National Historic Park: Baranof Island, AK

Alaska's oldest federally designated park was established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka. All that remains of this last major conflict between Europeans and Alaska Natives is the site of the Tlingit Fort and battlefield, located within this scenic 113 acre park in a temperate rain forest. Southeast Alaska totem poles and a temperate rain forest setting combine to provide spectacular scenery along the park's coastal trail. In 2010, as the park celebrates its 100 year anniversary, an entire year of celebrations are on tap.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site: Wagonmound, MT

Located in Montana/North Dakota, Fort Union Trading Post was the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri from 1828 to 1867. At this post, the Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and other tribes traded buffalo robes and other furs for trade goods such as beads, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, and cloth.

Image: Mesa Verde National Park


Fort Union is in New Mexico, several hundred miles south of MT.  The National Monument is near Watrous, NM.  It is not on the upper Missouri but in the northeastern New Mexico plains about 85 miles north east of Santa Fe and about 25 miles north of Las Vegas, NM. 

There are actually two sites in the National Park Service with "Fort Union" as part of their title.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site is located on the border of North Dakota and Montana, while Fort Union National Monument is located in New Mexico!