Tag: Grand Canyon

This Land Was Your Land, But Now It’s My Land: The Grand Canyon as an Icon by Emily Grimaldi

This Land Was Your Land, But Now It’s My Land: The Grand Canyon as an Icon

The Liberty Bell, as discussed by Gary Nash, represents freedom, independence, and the founding of a country. However, Nash also exposes the dark past of the Liberty Bell, as it was believed to be a representation of freedom, but not for the slaves living in America. The bell was said to ring for liberty, but millions of Americans were still oppressed.

Though its crack is significantly larger, the Grand Canyon National Park shares both the good and bad histories of the Liberty Bell. The Grand Canyon represents wonder, freedom, and the adventurous spirit of the United States. Often called “The Great Unknown”, the Grand Canyon was a literal blank spot on the map until Joseph Christmas Ives sailed up the Colorado River in search of a trade route to the West. The mapping and “discovery” of the canyon is an example of the adventurous spirit of Americans and the beauty of exploration.

Prior to this discovery and exploration of the canyon, the U.S. government began to acquire western lands through public domain. Along the way, Congress and various presidents created treaties with American Indians that resulted in small reservations and in some cases, relocation. Several decades later, following Ives’ exploration, most Navajos were removed from their reservation near the Grand Canyon, and relocated to a smaller area in New Mexico. War was waged between various native groups and the U.S. military for several years, but eventually the U.S. won and was able to acquire the reservations surrounding the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919, thus officially making the native lands  federal property. Not until 1975 with the passage of the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act were some natives able to gain back a tiny piece of their ancestral land.

This story of the founding of the Grand Canyon National Park through the removal of Native Americans is comparable to the history of the Liberty Bell and slavery. The Grand Canyon and Liberty Bell represent wonder, freedom, and liberty, but not for everyone in America. Native Americans are unable to enjoy the meaning of the Grand Canyon because to them it meant losing their lands and being oppressed. Slaves were not represented by the Liberty Bell because it existed in a time where they were not free to enjoy what it represents.


With all this information in mind, some may still find it difficult to liken these American icons to such dark beginnings. It is important not to overshadow these origins with what these icons mean to America today. We must acknowledge the complicated histories of the Liberty Bell and the Grand Canyon in order to better understand how they serve American society today.







Nash, Gary B. The Liberty Bell. Yale University Press, 2010.