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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Mapping The National Parks

[Detail] The Grand Canyon. Clarence E. Dutton, 1882.

Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision-Making

Mapping the National Parks provides students an opportunity to study the issue of landownership and property rights. By reading the special presentations about the four parks featured in this collection, Acadia, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and Yellowstone, students will learn who owned and controlled these lands prior to their becoming national parks. Trace the land's history from Native Americans to European settlers to Americans to the federal government. Explore the following questions in a class discussion:

  • What does it mean to own the land? How might different cultures understand landownership?
  • How do people and nations assert their claim to land?
  • What are the different ways landownership transfers from one person to another?

Continue the discussion by asking students to consider how they would react to the federal government designating land they owned to be a national park. Would they object? Would they demand certain compensation? Introduce the concept of eminent domain, defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as:

a right of a government to take private property
for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign
power over all lands within its jurisdiction.

The U.S. Government uses the right of eminent domain for power lines, damns and other public utilities. Search on the phrase eminent domain in, legislative information online, to find current examples of the government's use of this right.