YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — The National Park Service is facing an existential crisis. If they don’t find a way to make their sites more welcoming to minority groups, the parkland may be stripped of its relevance, or worse. And so, Native American tribes with historical claims to the land are finally being embraced by the same government that drove them away over a century ago.
“We were pulling our hair out, trying to come up with a workable solution, when Charlie here suggests, ‘Why not just open some Indian casinos?’” said Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.
“Charlie was joking,” continued Jarvis, “but we did some checking and it turns out his idea wasn’t completely nuts.” They discovered that one way to boost the number of minorities within the parks would be to honor the many broken or unratified treaties the United States negotiated with various tribes in the late 1800s, which would allow many Native Americans to live on their ancestral lands.
According to a 2011 study commissioned by the Park Service, only one in five visitors to a national park is nonwhite.
“We’ve been here for two days, walking around, and I can’t remember seeing a single brown person,” said visitor Carol Cain.
The scheme to lure back Native Americans is part of a multipronged effort to change those statistics. Nonprofit groups like GirlTrek and the American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation have begun organizing and funding expeditions for minority groups. Moreover, the Park Service is actively recruiting minorities to diversify the ranks of the park rangers.
Jarvis was quick to point out that, in the past, authorities would often allow a few remaining tribe members to act as décor or unpaid guides for white tourists. “There’s no reason that we couldn’t reinstitute this policy, which would have the dual benefit of adding attractions to the sites while saving on payroll expenses,” he explained.
“Ironically, if white settlers and the expansionist federal government hadn’t decimated the native population all those years ago, they wouldn’t have achieved minority status in the first place,” noted Charlie Tindell, a park ranger at Yellowstone. “I’m pleased to say everything worked out for all parties in the end.”