Photo by Michael Dryland, retrieved from North Cascades National Park Flickr

A Peek into Wilderness: North Cascades National Park

This is part one of the series, “A Peek into Wilderness,” by graduate student Montana Napier. You can view part two here.

Before I speak on wilderness areas, I want to first acknowledge that North Cascades National Park is the traditional homelands of the Sauk-Suiattle, Nlaka’pamux, Stó:lō, Swinomish, Upper Skagit, and other tribes. The indigenous people of this area have stewarded the land throughout many generations. I ask that you take a moment to consider the complex history of the land – the many legacies of displacement, migration, and settlement that has contributed to the establishment of the United States, Washington state, and our national parks. 

The word wilderness contains many meanings. For some, wilderness means a wilder place, where the noise and chaos of modern life is absent. In wilderness, there are no sounds of honking cars, or the white noise of tires driving on a nearby road. No fast food wrappers, or television screens, or department stores. Instead, it is a place where fat and healthy bears roam free among other wildlife, and the plants grow and grow in an uncontained way. To many in Washington, wilderness areas serve as a refuge from urban areas: a place to put the phone away and experience the world in its natural state. And for others, wilderness equates to home.

For my natural history project, I examined as many facets of wilderness as possible within a short, three-week period. My goal was to learn about the Stephen Mather Wilderness area in the North Cascades and its history within U.S. legislation. How was this federally designated area established? What does that designation mean for the greater North Cascades Ecosystem?

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