Continuing the Conversation
In a concerted effort to widen its representation, the National Park Service is working on increasing relationships with tribal partners to better include Native American input on park management. Zion’s Cultural Resource Division is seeking to build better relationships with tribal partners by hosting annual multi-day gatherings to provide space for open discussion and communication with tribal members about a variety of topics and concerns, and to ask for tribal input on future park initiatives.
The National Park Service feels it is imperative to ask for tribal perspectives in order to better manage resources and to increase communication that strengthens relationships as they move to the future. In 2004, the park hosted a tribal retreat and cultural exchange with positive results and has sought to continue the tradition to build stronger relationships with tribal partners ever since. In November 2022, the park hosted a smaller-scale gathering attended by Southern Paiute tribal bands as well as two representatives each from the Pueblo of Acoma and Hopi tribes, all of whom are consulting parties with the park.
The funding being sought will cover everything needed to plan the meetings, facilitate logistics, and host subject matter experts. The three-day gathering will include a ride-with-a-ranger shuttle tour as well as presentations about park wildlife and vegetation. Zion Cultural Resources Specialist Courtney Mackay said the gathering is an ideal occasion for the tribes to build relationships with each other as well as to communicate their insight and concerns with park staff.
The contributions from tribal partners are immeasurable in historic and cultural significance. Mackay mentioned one instance, in which a rock slab containing petroglyphs naturally broke and fell to the ground. The Park Service initially wanted to remove it from the site to preserve it, but tribal partners advised NPS staff to leave it where it fell as relocating it would cause even more damage.
Zion firmly believes that inviting tribal members to visit the park provides the best format for park staff to hear, understand, and communicate with tribal partners. These gatherings foster growing relationships with tribes whose ancestral homelands the NPS manages. Building relationships will help support future resource protection, management strategies, and address future concerns. The park hopes to continue to hold these gatherings in future years to promote ongoing communication and collaboration. The National Park Service plans to continue growing the program and include all tribes who view Zion as their ancestral homelands.