Celebrating Two Years of Let’s Move! in Indian Country
Posted by Jodi Gillette on May 08, 2013 at 11:45 AM EDT
I recently had the honor of attending an event to mark the 2nd Anniversary of Let’s Move! in Indian Country at Chimney Rock National Monument in southwestern Colorado. I hiked and learned about this magnificent landscape on our way to the top with fifty youth from the Southern Ute Montessori Elementary, the Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Butch Blazer, and a handful of youth from the Pueblos who work with the Southwest Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps partner organization that engages and trains a diverse group of young women and men and completes conservation projects for the public benefit.
I had lengthy conversations with Aaron Lowden, an Acoma Pueblo, regarding the strength and resiliency of the ancient people who built and lived in that space, and how their journey is connected to his own. Below I’d like to share some of his thoughts:
Guwaatse howba tu shinomeh kuwaitiya eshte e Aaron Lowden madiganashia kuhaiya haanu stu da aakume’ haanu stu da! Hello everyone my name is Kuwaitiya in Acoma and Aaron Lowden in English and I come from the bear clan of the Acoma people. I am a program coordinator for the Southwest Conservation Corps’ (SCC) Ancestral Lands regional office in Acoma Pueblo, NM.
Our day began in the way I began this blog with a greeting to all attending the Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC) 2nd Anniversary event and by saying a prayer. The prayer was done for the entire group before we entered the ancient Puebloan site of the recently designated Chimney Rock National Monument, CO. It is as a sign of respect for those who came before to let them know we were there to learn from them. When we started at the trail head we were joined by Southern Ute schoolchildren, the Southwest Conservation Corps, the US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of LMIC. We were also joined by Jodi Gillette, the White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Butch Blazer, the Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment at the Department of Agriculture.
Finally, we were ready to do what we all came there to do: get outside and get active. Led by the Chimney Rock Interpretative Association guides, we hiked with anticipation to see the ruins. Walking through the Great Houses on steep inclined trails the group gained knowledge by experiencing the difficult and active living conditions of the original occupants of these sites.
We learned how every single bit of rock and mortar had to be transported up to the top of this steep peak. If you were to talk with one of the ancestral inhabitants today and ask them about environmental stewardship, exercising, and eating right it’s reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t know what you were talking about, it’s just how they lived.
Today, Native Americans – particularly youth – have one of the highest obesity rates in the country. Although progress can be a good thing and has made our lives extensively easier, it is imperative that we keep these reminders and retain our old ways to have a healthy future as indigenous peoples. I feel this is even more appropriate when on the subject of Native American issues of our health and environmental stewardship. After all, if we can’t take care of the haatsi (land), how can we expect it take care of us. By getting outside and being active in our country’s public lands, and by eating right and caring about where our food comes from, we can raise a healthier, more environmentally conscious generation.
After the group finished the hike, the Southwest Conservation Corps Ancestral Lands staff prepared a popular Pueblo dish: green chili stew. We were all ready to eat after our hike! Everyone enjoyed the nutritious meal and discussed the hike while the students played outdoors.
As the day winded down and once everything was finished, we all headed home thankful for the beautiful day we had been given.
Please click here to learn more about Let’s Move! in Indian Country.
At night, it flickered in the valley below camp: the green and orange spores of light that ignited just as the sun set into the canyon, like a coin into a slot machine. Tucson, Arizona. But after four weeks in the backcountry, it might as well have been Las Vegas. It seemed a place of excess and overindulgence compared to our simplicity.
So instead I turned over in my sleeping bag and looked towards a different set of lights: some that felt less claustrophobic and shone a more natural hue. You could cowboy camp pretty reliably in Arizona in April—the nights were consistantly warm and clear. I made my bed in a flat pocket of cliffside, where the racket of frogs under the pulsating waterfall tranquilized me. I woke each morning without an alarm, knowing it was time for work based solely on the quality of light on distant peaks.
There was one night though, that I awoke mid-dream to howling winds. A light rain dampened my face, and I was forced to evacuate my cliffside manor for the shelter of a crewmember’s tent. There, the patter of the rain grew to a pound, and when we emerged the next morning, we found ourselves surrounded by a wet snow. Arizona in April.
We worked through a bitter cold that day, sawing limbs and swinging picks with hands so cold we thought our fingers might chip off with the slightest provocation, like the brittle rocks we broke away from the trail. We had endured cold before. While cutting Tamarisk in the San Pedro valley, we went to bed with Nalgenes full of boiling water, only to find them crystalized with ice by morning. There would be sweltering afternoons too, fencing in the Sonoran Desert, where we would crawl under the trucks at break just to escape the sun. Such unfavorable circumstances have become my favorite memories.
Plus, the day after the snowstorm, the sun returned, and we were back to working comfortably in T-shirts. It was our last day of hitch, and our spirits had climbed with us as we ascended the steep final section of the Mt. Lemmon trail. The valley unfolded before us: Sabino and Romero Canyons, Cathedral Rock across the way, even Mt. Wrightson looming to the south. Each independently beautiful places, they had converged here into a wonderous panoramic. At the end of the day, we gathered on the warm red rocks and surveyed the length of the Arizona Trail we had just rehabilitated. Hawks and ravens glided on the currents of a temperate breeze, through the ponderosas and into the canyon. Arizona in April.
Corners of Tucson littered the valley floor, but we momentarily forgot about returning there tomorrow, that there was a civilization waiting for us. We were so distracted by the mountains, the red roofs of the city blended right into the rocks. If you squinted hard enough, they dissapeared altogether. And then it was nothing but mountains and blue skies for miles.
- Kelsey Perrett, AmeriCorps Member
SCC staff and crew leaders participated in a Let’s Move in Indian Country (LMIC) event held at Chimney Rock, CO yesterday. Along with Southern Ute schoolchildren, SCC staff joined staff from the US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of LMIC. There were some notable visitors that joined in the activities including Jodi Gillette (Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs at the White House) and Butch Blazer (Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment at US Department of Agriculture). SCC Ancestral Lands staff started the event with a introduction and prayer, participated in the hike and helped prepare green chili stew, oven bread and sweet bread for the event! More information will follow……
Link to Durango Herald article on the event is HERE
SCC Sonoran Desert AmeriCorps Corpsmember Andrea Klaphake represented SCC at the White House Champions of Change event last week for the contributions that she, and other AmeriCorps members deployed to New Jersey, made while assisting with Hurricane Sandy disaster relief. Below are her reflections
‘Champions of Change’
It has to be all of us
Southwest Conservation Corps was invited to the Hurricane Sandy Champions of Change event that was held in Washington, D.C. on April 24th to honor individuals and organizations on responding to hurricane Sandy disaster relief. Andrea Klaphake attended the gathering on behalf of SCC. The timeless theme of community was prevalent and shined in the extraordinary efforts of the honorees, from during and post hurricane Sandy. There were two panel discussions in which highlighted individuals and organizations ability to make contributions to areas in need. Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development, gave a speech about continuing the effort of rebuilding homes and lives that echoed the notion of the community as a resource. It has to be all of us, and SCC has responded by sending their best resource, crews, to hurricane Sandy.
SCC will co-host the CCC Legacy Annual Gathering October 24-27, 2013 in Tucson, AZ. The event this year will celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the CCC along with the 15th Anniversary of SCC.
Additional information and registration information on the event is available at:
The note below comes from Koby Langley, Senior Advisor for Wounded Warrior, Veterans and Military Families Initiatives, Corporation for National and Community Service
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It was a great moment for the national service community.
In testimony yesterday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), told the story about the unique role AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers play in the nation’s efforts to support veterans and military families.
Wendy said our agency’s commitment to veterans and their families is deep, and it’s twofold: We serve them, and we ask them to serve with us. Both strategies have tremendous benefits and results. (The AmeriCorps Vet Corps program in Washington state is one great example.)
Just look at the numbers. Last year, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs served about 1.5 million veterans and military family members in every state, and more than 27,000 veterans served in these programs.
Over the past three years, we’ve awarded grants to more than 240 organizations in more than 400 communities across the country to serve the veteran and military family community.
To illustrate how national service also taps the skills and experience of veterans themselves, Wendy shared the story of Mike Bremer. An Iraq War veteran, he served with AmeriCorps on an all-veteran firefighter team run by the Southwest Conservation Corps.
Bremer showed stellar performance and leadership, was recognized nationally as Corps Member of the Year, and was promoted to crew leader. He now works for the U.S. Forest Service.
Wendy’s statement about his service sums up what we hope to achieve: “Mike Bremer found his next mission. And we know what ours is. We are poised, ready, and committed to work with each of the committee members and the VA to serve our veterans and their families as well as they have served all of us.”
Check out Wendy’s testimony, and feel free to share this message with friends and family.
Senior Advisor for Wounded Warrior, Veterans and Military Families Initiatives
Corporation for National and Community Service
SCC AmeriCorps member Andrea Klaphake was recognized this week along with a few select other AmeriCorps members as a White House Champion of Change for her work with SCC on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. The White House honored people and organizations directly involved in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy. Andrea is currently in New Jersey on an SCC crew. Look for more details on the event after Andrea returns to Tucson.
The Southwest Conservation Corps received a grant from Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) as part of a $3 million Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program across 64 community-based nonprofits nationwide to help support land and water conservation, energy efficiency, infrastructure, and educational outreach.
“We are excited to be a recipient of this highly competitive Wells Fargo environmental grant program,” said Jody Karr-Silaski, Executive Director. “We truly appreciate being recognized and will use this grant to expand the Southwest Conservation Corps current youth programs in the San Luis Valley by providing more opportunities for 14-20 year old participants to explore career paths in natural resource conservation while completing high-priority projects on public lands in their own communities.”
The Southwest Conservation Corps was named among 64 nonprofit recipients of Wells Fargo’s 2013 Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program across the country in honor of Earth Day. The grant program began in 2012 as part of Wells Fargo’s commitment to provide $100 million to environmentally-focused nonprofits and universities by 2020. It is funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through a $15 million, five-year relationship to promote environmental stewardship across the country.
“We’re pleased to announce the Southwest Conservation Corps as a recipient of Wells Fargo’s environmental grant program to help provide long-term solutions to the region’s environmental challenges,” said Ashley Grosh, head of Wells Fargo Environmental Philanthropy.
The goal of the Wells Fargo Environmental grant program is to provide cash grants for highly impactful projects that link economic development and community well-being to the stewardship and health of the environment. Southwest Conservation Corps was identified by Wells Fargo and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) as being in need of extra help with the San Luis Valley Engaging Youth in Conservation program.
“We sought out the best ideas and programs to protect and conserve the environment for local communities,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Through Wells Fargo’s generous contributions, these community-based projects will provide immediate benefits to local ecosystems and will help build and strengthen environmental stewardship ethics.”
The grant program funded proposals in select cities/regions (see full list) in the following focus areas:
- sustainable agriculture and forestry
- conservation of land and water resources
- energy efficiency and urban infrastructure
- community outreach and environmental education
The community and environmental impacts of all grants will be measured and reported.
For example, in 2012, the Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program collectively funded 8,621 acres of habitat restoration and 165,970 newly planted trees. The grants also helped reduce more than 2 million gallons of runoff water and an estimated 331,840 pounds in CO21.
The full list of 2013 winners can be found at http://blog.wellsfargo.com/environment/.
Details of the program and a link to the 2014 application can be found at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation application website: www.nfwf.org/environmentalsolutions.
1 Environmental impact estimates were made using the National Arbor Day Tree Benefit Calculator. For more information visit: https://www.arborday.org/calculator/
About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.4 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 9,000 stores, 12,000 ATMs, the Internet (wellsfargo.com), and has offices in more than 35 countries to support the bank’s customers who conduct business in the global economy. With more than 265,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2012 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.
A leader in reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions and building sustainably, Wells Fargo has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership, the Carbon Disclosure Project and the U.S. Green Building Council. Since 2005, Wells Fargo has provided more than $21 billion in environmental finance, supporting sustainable buildings and renewable energy projects nationwide. This includes investments in more than 260 solar projects and 34 wind projects that generate enough clean renewable energy to power hundreds of thousands of American homes each year. For more information, please visit. www.wellsfargo.com/environment.
About National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Established by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) sustains, restores and enhances the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, it has awarded over 12,100 grants to more than 4,000 organizations and leveraged $618 million in federal funds into $2.1 billion for on-the-ground conservation. To learn more, visit www.nfwf.org.
I sit on a lichen dappled sandstone edge. My companions are healthy juniper trees and blossoming ephedra to my left and right. This edge of ancient rock stands proud and strong as a border to the vast space that lays to the south. The kind of vastness so wide and deep the silence is almost tangible. The “sleeping Ute” slumbers to the southeast, serving as a protector for the seemingly endless stretch of piñon and juniper laden mesas and canyons. The only bare land is sandstone too steep for even these hardy high steppe inhabitants. To the west are the Abajos and further north the La Sal mountains. Our home San Juan district is to the east. A majority of the places our crews will work this year are within view. The projects and opportunities are finally within reach.
While the work is always meaningful, the most promising part of Four Corner’s 2013 season is absorbing knowledge behind me. The only sounds I can hear are those of mutual teaching and learning. While a few seasoned crew leaders prepare a delicious dinner, newer leaders gather to exchange knowledge. We’ve only been together for a week but the comradery and respect is obvious. The smooth metallic sound of file on metal temporarily quiets the voices, allowing hands on practice for techniques shown. Every one of this year’s fourteen conservation crew leaders is bringing valuable experience and passion to our organization.
The endless landscape I am admiring has already begun to meld with the endless potential of the FC leaders and staff. The year will naturally have ups and downs, mesas and canyons. I predict this group of exceptional people will soar with confidence like the red tailed hawk who calls this beautiful place home.
- Lexie Carey, 2013 Four Corners Crew Leader