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Native American History & Culture in Parks

National parks help preserve and connect people to Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Indigenous heritage – past and present.
NPF's Native American Fund
  • Stewardship
    Indigenous peoples are the first stewards of these lands. NPS works with Indigenous communities to support cultural and traditional places and to enhance NPS’ understanding of the history and traditional management of the resources that are now within national parks.
  • Expanding Stories
    NPF is committed to helping to expand the stories and perspectives shared through national parks, including past and current generations of Indigenous peoples.
  • Collaborative Leadership
    NPF supports NPS trainings and conferences so that NPS can develop collaborative relationships with Federally Recognized Tribes and Native Hawaiian Organizations.

Honoring Communities of Indigenous Peoples

National parks share stories of generations of Indigenous peoples, including Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian, both historically and present day. Most, if not all, of the lands in today’s national parks were once home to Indigenous peoples. From Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and Navajo National Monument, our national parks preserve, protect, and honor the historic and present stories of the communities tied to these lands.

The National Park Foundation (NPF)’s work helps rehabilitate and preserve historic sites and artifacts in national parks across the country. NPS, NPF, and tribal partners are working to expand storytelling in parks to share a more comprehensive history of the U.S. so we can all gain a greater understanding of our land’s history.

NPF uses the language Indigenous peoples, Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian. While the intent is to honor inclusivity and be representative of various ways that people identify, we recognize that this language does not account for all identities. We recognize the importance of and need for specificity in reference to distinct communities.

NPF's Work in This Space

NPF supports programs and projects that connect people and parks to the important stories of America’s Indigenous people, places, and events.

  • A timber barn surrounded by bison in the valley of mountains
    Service Corps
    Wind River Stewardship Crew
    The Wind River Stewardship crew, supported by NPF and organized by the Montana Conservation Corps, mobilized Native American youth from nearby tribal communities to protect natural and cultural resources in three iconic parks in the Northern Rockies.
  • A still lake reflects a snowy mountain landscape in the distance
    Protecting a Glacier Bay Cultural Site
    NPF helped add a 150-acre cultural site to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The property is a sacred site for the Huna Tlingit and will be managed in collaboration with the Hoonah Indian Association.
  • From behind, a female hiker leans against a tor and uses binoculars to look across a vast green landscape.
    Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Experience
    In collaboration with Sitnasuak Native Corporation and affiliated tribes and thanks to The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, an NPF grant of $4.4 million will support renovation of the existing visitor center and outdoor area to create a welcoming and inclusive space.
  • Mission convento fragment through window
    Historical Research Internship
    Through our Women in Parks program, NPF supported Dorien Scheets on an internship with Tumacácori National Historical Park. Dorien’s research explored the links between Indigenous women and the Mission system using archeological mission artifacts and oral histories.
  • A condor stretches out its wings as it takes off from a rock
    Supporting Condor Recovery
    In May 2022, NPF supported the release of two California condors in Redwood National & State Parks, within Yurok ancestral territory. The species is critically endangered, with only about 330 birds in North America, and has significant meaning to the Yurok Tribe, who led the project.
  • A yellow and pink meadow leading to green mountains in the distance
    Helping Parks Share Their Stories
    A 2020 NPF Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning grant helped Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore revamp its formal education program. Newly designed activities help students explore and learn about Anishinaabek culture and its ties to the park.

Related Stories

  • Superintendent Alisha Deegan
    Interview with a Superintendent
    Superintendent Alisha Deegan lives and works in her peoples' ancestral lands, now known as Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.
  • Woman wearing pale pink blouse smiles wide with blue sky and vast ocean behind her.
    Secretary Haaland Makes History
    Secretary Deb Haaland made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.
  • NPS Director Charles F. Sams III
    Charles Sams is the First Tribal Citizen to Lead NPS
    Charles Sams is the 19th Director of the National Park Service. He is an enrolled Tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and is Cayuse and Walla Walla with blood ties to the Yankton Sioux and Cocopah Peoples.