Brenna Goggin

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. James Josefson

Degree Award Date

Spring 2006


Native American, Political Activism, National Park Service, land rights, tribal sovereignty, organization theory, structured polity theory, Garbage Can Model


American Politics | History | United States History


In the summer of 1832, George Catlin made a trek across the United States. As an artist, he wanted to experience what everyone called "The Wild West." This experience would begin a chain of events that would destroy thousands of lives but save what is now known as one of "America's jewels," Yellowstone National Park. Instead of becoming famous for being an artist that depicted life out in the west, Catlin became known as an advocate for a "nation's park. " This idea of a national park would catch on and begin a series of tragic events for America's native people. Homes would be destroyed, families separated, and a powerful government organization, the National Park Service (NPS) would be built. The NPS and Native Americans have been in constant war with each other over land rights, tribal sovereignty, and the future for both parties involved. In the power struggle, Native Americans have tried various techniques to gain back most of the land and freedom they have lost. In this paper I will attempt to explain the successes and the failures of the Native American's efforts to gain access to the National Park Service and to get the NPS to be responsive to Native American interests. I will also argue that NPS policy towards Native Americans is better explained by analyzing Clemens's organization theory and Skocpol's structured polity theory than other theories brought forth like the Garbage Can Model.