By L. Parsons
Last weekend, members of the Native Youth Conservation Corps descended on McHood Park at Clear Creek in Winslow to pick up garbage along the banks and in the water.
The corps consists of heavily vetted and interested teens ages 16 to 18 from the Navajo and Hopi tribes. These teens are paid throughout the summer to participate in conservation projects around the region as they learn about their native lands and gain education in outdoor careers.
Some of the projects include restoration, garbage pick up and building water tanks. This year, the team will visit the Petrified Forest, Joshua Tree National Park and Muir Woods near San Francisco. At the end of their stint in the project, the teens are awarded an Ameri Scholarship, which offers them the opportunity for trips to other states and even around the world to participate in both recreational and conservation efforts.
Teen team leader Vanessa Frank of the Hopi team expressed an interest in continuing her work with conservation as an adult, largely due to the Americorp opportunity.
Field Coordinator for Ancestral Lands Marshal Masayesva led the team on kayaks down the creek to pick up waste left behind by recreationists. Speaking to the teens, he explained that he saw a need for outdoor jobs “out home,” as he referred to his ancestral land, “so I created one.” He now leads groups like this one on outdoor adventures that include rappelling, canyoneering, kayaking, hiking, plant and animal identification, and more.
Deputy Chief of Interpretation at Petrified Forest National Park Sarah Herve mentioned other important aspects of the program, which include the sharing of cultural identities. “These kids are the future of their cultures,” she said as she speared garbage on the creek bank. She pointed out the need for positive reinforcement of lessons their ancestors taught, specifically in regards to the land.
The Native Youth Conservation Corps is a partnership with Southwest Conservation Corps and receives money through government grants to continue its work. Herve said the current grant will keep the operation going for the next three years, helping to provide equipment for each project and food for each participant throughout the summer.
For more information on the Native Youth Conservation Corps, go online to sccorps.org/join/ancestral-lands/.