Posted by: Kirsten | Saturday, 26 January 2008

Our National Parks… Drawn and Quartered

So how many of you out there have been collecting those nifty state quarters since 1999?  Come on, admit it.  Every time you get a quarter you flip it over to see if it’s one you don’t have yet, right?

Well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of state quarters that feature National Parks from around the country.  Let’s see, there’s California with both John Muir and Yosemite (that’s Muir Woods, Yosemite, and Muir Historic Site all rolled into one), there’s Oregon’s Crater Lake, New York’s Statue of Liberty, Massachusetts’ Minute Man, Illinois’ Abe Lincoln, Missouri’s Gateway Arch, and plenty of others.

Even South Dakota has its four-headed Mount Rushmore National Memorial on the state quarter.  Then, soaring high over Mount Rushmore isn’t the Bald Eagle, or a Peregrine Falcon, or some other majestic bird of prey.  It’s actually a bird that isn’t even native to these United States.  It’s a Chinese ring-necked pheasant.  Go figure.  Of all the wonderful symbolism each state has to choose from, South Dakota chose a species that’s better known for target practice than anything else.

The pheasant arrived in Great Britain around the 10th century, but was wiped out in some locales by the early 17th century. In the 1830s it was brought back as a game bird, and didn’t take much longer to arrive in the United States.  By 1857, the pheasant hit U.S. soil and now it’s found from coast to coast and Mexico to Canada.

Don’t get me wrong — I love South Dakota.  I flew into Rapid City with my son last August for plenty of homeschool learning and sight-seeing, and will do it again this summer as we head to a North Dakota dinosaur dig. Yeah, I know it’s the South Dakota state bird…  but I can’t help thinking how many native American bird species have been displaced by the introduction of the pheasant, and how it’ll never be addressed because people enjoy hunting them for sport and food. 

Funny how over time we learn to embrace our mistakes, even feel a sense of pride about them sometimes.  And to think, that giant carving of Mount Rushmore that everyone so loves was even created by a noted member of the KKK.  So, yeah, embrace our past.  So much to be proud of and still so many mistakes. Learn from it.  It’s the only past we’ve got, and it’s all chronicled there in our National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites.  As homeschoolers, we have that option of digging a little deeper with our kids.  Well grab a pick, a shovel, and a chisel and dig deep…  George, Abe, Tom, and Teddy wouldn’t have it any other way!

Parke Diem!
— Jon

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