Native Americans (American Indian) in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii, while wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity.
The myth persists that in 1492 the Americas were a sparsely populated wilderness, a world of barely perceptible human disturbance; however there is substantial evidence that the Native American landscape of the early sixteenth century was a humanized landscape almost everywhere. Populations were large and forest composition had been modified, grasslands had been created, wildlife disrupted, and erosion was severe in places. Earthworks, roads, fields, and settlements were ubiquitous.
In 1492, Indian activity had modified vegetation and wildlife, caused erosion, and created earthworks, roads, and settlements throughout the Americas. This may be obvious, but the human imprint was much more ubiquitous and enduring than is usually realized.
Between 1500 and 1700 the North American wilderness was characterized as challenging and mysterious to be revered or feared, or in many cases, tamed and utilized. This later changed between 1700 and 1800 where eighteenth-century perspectives on wilderness range from appreciation of nature to exploitation of resources. Later, between 1850 and 1900, the Romantic Movement further influenced appreciation of nature; yet civilization displaced wildlife and American Indians, signaling to what was perceived as the western frontier.
Some American Indian tribes would burn woods to make new farmland available. This decreased the available amount of wilderness since before the white man arrive in the Americas.
In 1822, Pawnee Chief Petaleshario presented a speech to President Monroe describing the nomadic way of American Indian life and noted that numbers of game animals were decreasing due to encroaching settlement and exploration. This battle for wilderness spilled into the first half of the twentieth century where it was fought to preserve the wilderness. This was exacerbated with the advent of train travel making national parks accessible to all while preservationists attempted to save natural areas.
Some Indian fires created to make farmland spread for weeks a t time over several hundred thousand square miles, utterly destroying plant and animal life. Grassland fires in the northern plains, for instance, did substantial damage to the buffalo population.
In accordance with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (42 U.S.C. 1996 ), American Indians may use wilderness areas for traditional religious purposes, subject to the provisions of the Wilderness Act, the prohibitions in § 6302.20, and other applicable law. Prohibitions would include operating a commercial enterprise, building temporary or permanent roads, using motorized equipment, landing strips, cutting trees, building or installing structures or installations, entering wilderness areas without authorization, engage or participate in competitive use as defined in section 2932.5, and/or violating BLM regulations or orders.
In recognition of the past use of the National Park System units and wilderness areas designed under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act by Indian people for traditional cultural and religious purposes, it shall be ensured the access to such park system units and wilderness areas by Indian people for such traditional cultural and religious purposes. In implementing this section, upon the request of an Indian tribe or Indian religious community, the area shall temporarily close to the general public use of one or more specific portions of the park system unit or wilderness area in order to protect the privacy of traditional cultural and religious activities in such areas by Indian people. Any such closure shall be made to affect the smallest practicable area for the minimum period necessary for such purposes.
It took eight years of often contentious debate for Congress to enact the Wilderness Act in 1964. It is due to this Act that a goodly sample of America's wilderness lives on.
In many places tribal lands are adjacent to existing and proposed wilderness areas, and Indians may make traditional use of those federal lands for religious and cultural proposes. In many cases, American Indian tribes are a key part of the coalition of support for protecting the wilderness. An example of this would be the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe called on Congress...to designate portions of national grasslands in the Cheyenne River valley of South Dakota as wilderness.