Reconsidering national park interpretation of the Great Plains and trans-Mississippi west

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The National Park Service lias generally interpreted its sites in the Great Plains in terms of a Eurocentric narrative of westward expansion. Though some sites are changing (e.g. Little Bighorn), others are not (e.g. Seotts Bluff). liven those sites that have changed still retain important elements of traditional narratives, which often date to the 1930s or to the Mission 66 period (1956 66). The newest sites, such as Washita Battlefield, tell newer stories that resonate well with today's visitors. These provide a model for revising older sites, (jiving greater attention to causes and consequences, aiming for a richer mix of disciplinary perspectives, including a wider range of historic and prehistoric peoples, and providing more balance in eases of war or cultural conflict will all improve interpretation. Exploring multiple meanings of resources such as wilderness will bring the National Park Service's practices closer to modern academic literatures. Engaging both controversial histories and modern controversies over policy constitutes good pedagogy and should also be part of updated interpretative programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-122
Number of pages24
JournalGreat Plains Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Interpretation
  • National parks
  • Westward expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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