Pragmatism and Poetry: National Parks and the Story of Canada


National parks tell us a great deal about our attitudes toward, or priorities in, the natural world. But they are also artifacts and tools of the prevailing process at work in nineteenth- and twentieth-century North America: the physical, political, and imaginative construction of the nation-state. For Canada and the United States, this meant the acquisition of territory, then the more difficult task of devising ways of governing that territory, making it accessible—physically and intellectually—to a geographically and ethnically disparate population. This article looks at the history of national parks in North America, particularly in relation to the size of the Canadian territory.