Just like the interconnectedness of ecology, nature, and humans, so too were the effects of policies and laws granting land to European Americans and the impact African Americans and other populations of color. As a new country, it was important to America’s development to claim, own, and control land. It was “manifest destiny”46 that America would acquire land. In the period of the 1840’s-1850’s, European Americans armed with their belief of superiority and a mission to remake the world in their own image they surged across North America commandeering land despite current control held by British, Mexican, Spanish or indigenous populations.47 As this land was “acquired” decisions were made by the American government in the form of policies and laws were made concerning how and to whom this land would be distributed and maintained.48,49 In the making of America, Europeans were given land for their military service, and their willingness to settle in “uncharted” lands. Others were given an option to gain citizenship if the occupants were deemed from another country, and if the “country” was not another, they were offered treaties that were not always honored.
As early as 1681, a Pennsylvania colony governor, William Penn ordered colonists to conserve one tree for every five cut down.50 While in 1872, Congress passed the Yellowstone Act establishing America’s first national park. And later in 1900 through the Lacey Act outlawed hunting in Yellowstone National Park and prohibited the transport of illegally obtained wildlife across state lines. Yellowstone National Park was "dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and "for the preservation, from injury or spoilation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders. . . and their retention in their natural condition."51
However, Cora Tappan, a spiritualist of the time period would declare that despite the manifest destiny (God’s vision for the procurement of all of North America) “a government that has for nearly a century enslaved one race (African), that proscribes another (Chinese), proposes to exterminate another (Indians), and persistently refuses to recognize the rights of one-half of its citizens (women), cannot justly be called perfect.”52 Blacks of that time period (and other time periods) may have been inclined to agree with her considering it wasn’t until 1865 that the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 guaranteed African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations and public transportation, later in 1883 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court declared parts of the 1875 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional, including the prohibition of racial discrimination in inns, public conveyances, and places of public amusement, and Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 upheld the constitutionality of “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races.”53 Congressional discussions of 1867 coupling land ownership (of lands taken by the government from former masters to be given to former slaves) with freedom and citizenship for former slaves never materialized in the form of forty acres and a mule as reparations for their involuntary servitude.54 Hence, many blacks and African Americans were not able to take advantage of preemptions (transfers of land from the federal government to individuals, in the form of land grants, inducements for settlements, or “payment plans for the purchase of land”55) offered European Americans for land ownership or enjoy the public parks due to questions of personhood and applicability of citizenship status and the associated affiliate rights for a colored person.