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Yellowstone turned 150 years old March, 1, 2022, which is an incredible milestone. When Yellowstone became a national park, it was the first of its kind in the world. The notion of setting aside wild land to protect it from development was alien to a lot of Americans back then. At the time, progress was often measured by how many towns and cities we could carve out of the land, land that was more often than not already occupied by Native American tribes and thousands of species of animals. Because of a lot of park rangers, legislators, policies and citizens, Yellowstone is just as unique as it was when it was founded. Thanks to these efforts, some of the park’s animal populations are healthier than they were at the turn-of-the-century and the park has been working with Native tribes who have roots in Yellowstone to discuss ways in which the tribes can play larger roles in the park.
“We’re proud to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone with America,” says Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly. “This anniversary should remind us of the incredible value of our National Park System and the need for us to continue working together to address the many challenges of the future.”
Here are some of the park’s many milestones that cover the highs and lows of its 150 years from 1872 to 2022.
Yellowstone becomes the world’s first national park
The railroad arrives in the park.
The U.S. Cavalry patrols the park to discourage the 27 tribes associated with Yellowstone from hunting and gathering within park borders. This continues for 32 years.
The Old Faithful Inn opens with electric lighting.
Park managers allow automobiles into the park.
The nation’s last remaining wild herd of 23 bison find refuge in Pelican Valley in Yellowstone. Park managers begin some of the nation’s first efforts to save an endangered species.
Marguerite Lindsley, a bacteriologist, becomes the first permanent female park ranger.
Thomas Brock, a microbiology professor vacationing in Yellowstone, becomes intrigued by the microbes living in the park’s hot pools. His research leads to the discovery that extreme environments like scalding hot pools can support life.
Open-pit garbage dumps are eliminated, ending the nightly “bear shows” where visitors watched black and grizzly bears eat garbage from wooden bleachers.
Yellowstone gets ravaged by wildfires, which burn about 36% of the park.
Kary Mullis wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his invention of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Critical to his work was microbe species Thermus aquaticus from Yellowstone. PCR is used to detect disease and identify DNA left at crime scenes
Fourteen gray wolves from Canada are released in Yellowstone, leading to the park’s first wolf pack in 69 years.
Excess Yellowstone bison that are disease-free are transported to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck, Mont., to restore tribal bison populations. This continues today.
The PCR test, with roots in Yellowstone, plays a key role in detecting the virus that causes COVID-19.
Hunters kill 20 wolves that roam outside of the park, exterminating most or all of the park’s Phantom Lake Pack. Ninety Yellowstone wolves are left as of Feb. 2, 2022.
Yellowstone turns 150 years old.
Yellowstone’s Celebratory Events
Interested in celebrating Yellowstone’s birthday? The park has a number of activities planned for the next several months. Beginning March 1, the park will host and participate in a wide range of activities to commemorate 150 years of Yellowstone. The park will focus around reflecting on 150 years of protecting the park, highlighting successes in the ecosystem and opening dialogue on the lessons learned from yesterday, the challenges of today and a vision for tomorrow.
Tribal Nations Engagement
March 1: Wind River Inter-Tribal Virtual Gathering
The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of the Wind River Reservation will commemorate the park’s anniversary while elevating the Tribal community’s voice in conserving and managing the park. Hosted by the Wind River Tribes and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly will be a featured speaker.
May 26–Sept. 30: Yellowstone Tribal Heritage Center
Yellowstone National Park and Yellowstone Forever will pilot the Tribal center at Old Faithful where Tribal artists, scholars and presenters can directly engage visitors through education.
June 1-3: Wind River Inter-Tribal Gathering
This in-person gathering will bring together Tribal Nations, federal managers, non-governmental organizations and others to discuss conservation, important issues to Tribal Nations, and the future of consultation and collaboration. Tribes associated with Yellowstone, nonprofits and agency personnel will honor, nourish, dance, heal and celebrate Native Americans. Hosted by the Wind River Tribes and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly will be a featured speaker.
Aug. 23-28: Teepee Village
Yellowstone is working with numerous Tribes to establish a temporary teepee village at the park’s North Entrance. Visitors will have the opportunity to interact with Tribal members to learn about their heritage and culture.
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