National parks are selected as places of national importance, with national meaning. At the same time, the political process that shapes park management is often a local one. This biases park interpretation away from national concerns and toward local ones. The National Park Service's corporate interests and decision-making processes often reinforce the role of local interests except in the rare cases of congressional intervention. A close look at the political environment of Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas, illustrates these points. Congress mandated the site to interpret westward expansion and its impact on American Indians. It became instead a program of park interpretation based on westward expansion and the role of African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” within it. As a result, Indians have effectively been written out of the story of this “Indian fort.” Interestingly, Native American issues reappear in commercial establishments, both the gift shop in the park and businesses in the town of Fort Davis outside the park. If businesses perceive a demand for information about Native Americans among tourists, presumably there is a similar, unmet demand among the same tourists as they visit the historic site. Given the role of local concerns in park interpretation, national intervention will probably be necessary to provide political support for reinterpreting the site.
Pahre, R. (2011), "Fort Davis National Historic Site: An Indian Fort without Indians", Denzin, N.K. and Faust, T. (Ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 37), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-27. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-2396(2011)0000037003
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