Dr. Megan Kate Nelson: Saving Yellowstone

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ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Acclaimed author and historian Dr. Megan Kate Nelson discusses her latest book, “SAVING YELLOWSTONE: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America.” Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Spreaker, PodBean, or SoundCloud.

 


Each year, nearly four million people visit Yellowstone National Park—one of the most popular of all national parks—but few know the fascinating and complex historical context in which it was established.

“SAVING YELLOWSTONE: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America” by historian Megan Kate Nelson (author of the Pulitzer Prize Finalist “The Three-Cornered War”) shines a light on the creation of our first national park and the tensions of the era that lead to a weaken of the Native population.

In 1871, the geologist-explorer Ferdinand Hayden led a team of scientists through a narrow canyon into Yellowstone Basin, one of the last unmapped places on the continent, in hopes of proving that tales of majestic landscapes and untold natural wonders, but also of incomparable danger—were true. Hayden saw this mission as a way to secure his place in history, but the American government that was funding the expedition had its own goals: to give Americans a sense of achievement and unity.

In the wake of the Civil War, and to encourage the westward expansion of the still-forming nation. The expedition was a success, Hayden’s team returned with notes and samples, photographs and sketches—and with concern (tinged with self-interest) over the apparent eagerness to commercialize the land that they sensed among white settlers they encountered.

Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has written about the Civil War, US western history, and American culture for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, and Civil War Monitor. Nelson earned her BA in history and literature from Harvard University and her PhD in American studies from the University of Iowa, and she has taught at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. Nelson is the author of Saving Yellowstone, The Three-Cornered War, Ruin Nation, and Trembling Earth. https://youtu.be/Kfv37-iomCo

 

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