Yosemite National Park

Land Acknowledgement: Yosemite National Park currently sits on land belonging to the Ahwahneechee People. In 1851, their homes were burned down by the California Militia. In 1969, the remaining homes were destroyed in a firefighting drill. While their community has been deteriorated by imperialism, there are still Ahwahneechee People fighting for federal recognition. We ask that you take a moment to see if you are occupying Indigenous land via this link.

The National Park postcards from Yosemite reveal a long and complex relationship between nature and tourists. The postcards all display a colonialist-capitalist view of the park. Through our research, we’ve developed an understanding of how it has been colonized and commodified. The postcards explore issues in the United States such as the erasure of Indigenous cultures, the objectification of nature, and general attitudes of entertainment culture in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This postcard illustrates a group of men and women enjoying the wintertime at Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley. It was likely produced in the early 1910’s and used as advertisement for the area after Yosemite National Park was officially established in 1890.
Depicted above is a group of sightseers passing through the Wawona Tree Tunnel, which served as a popular tourist attraction until it fell in 1968. The linen material and vibrant colors suggest that this postcard was printed in the late 1930’s.
This postcard depicts the phenomenon in Yosemite known as the Glacier Point fire fall- a former attraction in which Yosemite employees would burn trees then push the coals down the large cliff, creating a blazing “waterfall of fire.” The attraction was inspired by a natural phenomenon that occurs just one weekend a year, in which the sunlight illuminates the Horsetail falls and attracts visitors to see the orange cascade. The man-made fire fall was halted in the late 1960s after complaints from environmental groups. This postcard demonstrates the general attitudes that positioned national parks as amusement parks created for attraction and consumption. What similarities can you draw between your experience with American theme parks and National parks?