Native American Management and the Legacy of Working Landscapes in California

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Elsevier B.V.


When the Spanish first settled in California in 1769, they entered the homeland of more than 300,000 California Indians whose ancestors had inhabited the region for at least 12,500 years.1,2 These Native Californians were some of the millions of native people living in every part of the continent at the time of contact with Europeans.Yet the idea that the original American landscape was unworked land is persistent and widespread. It colors our relationship to the historical landscapes of North America, particularly those protected in our state and national parks. Because these parks were envisioned as places where people do not live and work, the Indians who lived there had to be removed in order to create these “pristine” landscapes.3,4 The resulting park landscapes do not represent islands of pristine nature, but a historically unprecedented creation—a radical departure from the past.5 Over the past century and a half, national parks have helped to defi ne American ideals about the human relationship to nature. In this model, people are removed from nature, becoming spectators rather than active participants.