Colonialism vs. Conservation: National Parks and Indigenous Peoples


Focusing on Earth Day, I share a video made in 2018 by Survival International. The video compares the history and actions of colonialism and how they compare to the conservation movement of the Western world. The photos are from Smoky Mountains National Park, my grandfather’s family’s homeland.

I am often struck by how indigenous peoples are portrayed as destroyers of land by people who live in cities and towns that are blights on the Earth.

Conservation in the United States has a violent and evil history. The conservationists stole indigenous lands just like the colonists/industrialists. Both conservationists and colonists/industrialists ended up with controlling and possessing indigenous lands. And they have repeated this evil foundation all over the world.

How the Smoky Mountains Got Their Name.

National Parks are Indigenous Homelands

This history is the reason I don’t donate to conservation organizations that are not run by indigenous peoples. There is always the chance that more harm will be done to indigenous peoples.

Yosemite National Park, Smoky Mountains National Park, Acadia National Park, etc. All are the homelands of indigenous peoples. Today, all are in the hands of colonizers and conservationists.


smoky mountains cherokee going to water
Cherokee going to water. Cherokee, NC, Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway

Indigenous Philosophy Made the Beauty Possible

It is the lifeways and traditions of indigenous peoples that have to create the lush abundance and beauty of these lands in the first place. But, somehow they can’t be trusted to continue to take care of the land. This illogical idea always confused me.

It is one of those ideas that I try to not think about because my brain hurts trying to make sense of it.


The people who think indigenous people are not smart enough to manage their homelands aren’t smart enough to manage their own lands. I bet everyone of those conservationists come from countries with a buffet of pollutions (air, water, soil, etc.) I bet their gardens have deliberately planted non-native plants. I wonder how many of the conservationists come from countries with healthy ecosystems? Probably none.

i share this video to remind us to not just believe the words of people, but to watch their actions.





Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway
Cherokee, NC, Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Donna L. Long.

More on the Smoky Mountains

The Smoky Mountains and the Threats to Its’ Biodiversity

My Trip to the Smokies

A Little About the Smokies 

Smoky Mountains, Photo Gallery


More Posts on Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

Biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples, and the Future

Colonization, Fire Suppression, and Indigenous Resurgence 

How the Ojibwe Indigenous Horse is Being Saved

The Importance of Birds to Indigenous American Peoples (video)

Disconnection from the Earth: The Biggest Con

Words Before All Else

Homeland Relationships

A Hell Of A Place: The Devil’s Role In National Park Place Names


More on Green Colonialism (outside links)

How Conservation Became Colonialism: Indigenous people, not environmentalists, are the key to protecting the world’s most precious ecosystems. by Alexander Zaitchik

Meet the Young Indigenous Activist Decolonizing Environmentalism to Save the Planet by Triana Hernandez –

Black and green: the future of Indigenous–environmentalist relations in Australia by Jenny Pickerill –


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