As an environmental wonder and a National Park, the Grand Canyon has become a key symbol of American identity and is one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the country. What many visitors don’t realize, however, is the significance of this land within the cultures and histories of multiple Native American Tribes. The canyon has been home to Native Americans for centuries before the violent displacement of these peoples by European settlers in the U.S. and remains central to the cultures and identities of those tribes today. In this anthropological study, I seek to explore how Native Americans are incorporated into and represented within the official narratives of Grand Canyon National Park. Drawing on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s conceptual framework regarding erasure in the construction of historical narratives, I examine the ways in which material sources, spaces, and conversations within the park depict the histories and cultures of the canyon’s traditionally associated tribes. My research on the park’s narrative construction shows that Native Americans are either erased from its history through a focus on environmental discourse or treated as aspects of the landscape. Where human history and agency become the focus, the narrative turns to the experiences of white settlers, only discussing Native Americans in traditional contexts with extensive erasure of their perspectives. An increasing awareness of the harmful impact of erasure on the identities of minority groups, however, has recently led park officials to refocus the narrative by developing an inter-tribal heritage site at Desert View, where Native voices are amplified rather than ignored. I argue that, although these changes have positive impacts on the narrative, they do little to alter the official discourse of the park due to their bracketing within an isolated space. I compare the park’s reconstructed narrative to that of Grand Canyon West, an alternative attraction on the canyon located within the Havasupai Reservation, where Native voices are central to thinking about the park as a Native space. Together, my findings show how putting power over narratives back in the hands of Native Americans allows for Native voices to shine through, reconstructing the dominant discourse of a space to combat erasure and discrimination. I utilize these findings to demonstrate how power shapes the construction of history and how we can decolonize our narratives to reimagine our past and present
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