The Ioway (or Iowa) Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is creating largest tribal national park in the US. The park will be used for hiking, camping and bird-watching. But most importantly, it will protect the land for future generations of tribal members of the Ioway Nation, and preserve the stories and heritage of its people.
The 440-acre park will sit on the Kansas and Nebraska border, overlooking the Missouri River just south of Rulo. It's the second tribal national park to be created in the US, and the largest, following the creation of Frog Bay National Park in Wisconsin in 2011. The land is part of the Rulo Bluffs Preserve — part deciduous forest, part Great Plains prairie. It's an ecological gem; providing an excellent habitat for migrating songbirds, and a nesting habitat for forest birds like woodpeckers and warblers.
As a tribal national park, it will preserve the stories and cultural traditions of the people who were connected to the landscape for centuries, and protect its delicate ecosystem and natural resources. It will also serve as a recreational spot for sustainable 'leave no trace' outdoor activities.
The land is a rich part of history. It's home to the Leary archaeological site, a National Historical Landmark under the National Park Service. The site is the largest Oneota site west of the Missouri River, and includes 3000-year-old burial mounds, and a trading village that used by bison-hunting plains tribes between the 13th and 15th centuries.
"We’ve been here for a thousand years now and, unlike other people who can buy and sell land and move away, we can never move away," Lance Foster, the vice chairman of the tribe, told the Associated Press (AP). "This is our land forever. And we’ll be here for another 1000 years."
You can find out more about the Ioway Tribal National Park here.