Treuer: I was at Yellowstone—
(Rich sounds layer over the melody.)
Treuer: And we’re standing, looking at one of these prismatic pools, and my 13-year-old, he’s like—
(Suddenly, the music slumps, lurching into a trippy, half-speed version of itself.)
Treuer: “Nature’s tripping balls, man.” [Hunte laughs brightly.]—which is not how he usually talks, but it was pretty funny.
Hunte: He was at Yellowstone because he wanted to interrogate what’s often called [A beat.] “America’s best idea.”
(A montage of clips.)
President Barack Obama: Maybe America’s best idea!
Leonard Lopate: America’s best idea.
Ken Burns: It was the best idea we’ve ever had, and almost …
Obama: These spaces are sacred. They are for everyone, and not just for the few. And that we preserve them for future generations …
(The montage fades out, as does the music, to be replaced by a quiet, reverent hum.)
Treuer: The original mythology of national parks is very much one of these really concerned, brilliant white guys—like Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir and George Bird Grinnell—saw that America’s sacred spaces, its mountains and its majesty, was being quickly eroded by an unruly, acquisitive Republic, and they needed to be preserved and protected [A beat.] from us so that we could continue to enjoy them, and that these are places we could go to as though they were places of worship.
Europe has cathedrals; we have Yosemite.
(Music fades out.)
Hunte: So it was this idea that we should preserve some of these areas so that future generations of Americans—like you and I—can cram our ungrateful kids [Longoria chuckles.] into the back of a car and make them go see it. (Both laugh.)
(Lilting, folksy music plays.)
National Parks narration: Our national heritage is richer than just scenic features. (A seagull’s cry echoes.)
Hunte: I did watch the Ken Burns …
Hunte: … National Parks documentary, years ago.
National Parks narration: The realization is coming that perhaps our greatest national heritage [A bird caws.] is nature itself …
Hunte: And I do remember, like, watching, being like, “This is so great. I can't believe that, you know, this country actually came together and did this thing and set aside these lands!”
National Parks narration: With all its complexity and its abundance of life.
Hunte: “Wow! We really, like, did this thing!” It actually makes you feel great.
(A few bright notes from a glockenspiel play, and then the music cuts out.)
Treuer: Well … (A long, pregnant pause. Then both crack up laughing.)
Hunte: You’re like, “Well, the funny thing about that, Tracie, is, uh …”
Treuer: Right? I mean, the Declaration of Independence sounds great too. And so does the Constitution! It just sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
(Lush lo-fi music creates a soft bed of sound underneath the conversation.)
Treuer: Parks seem like this great idea, and they are in so many ways. I’m glad they exist. But in instance after instance, Native people were removed, tricked, defrauded, silenced, and—in short—shoved aside to make those parks.