CEDAR CITY–As part of the Ancestral Lands Program, the National Park Foundation (NPF) is providing a $252,100 grant to connect Native Americans to their ancestral lands.
Southern Utah University’s Outdoor Engagement Center, along with several other land agency partners, are working together to engage 66 Utah Native American youth and young adults as part of this historic program. These Native American crews will complete important conservation projects in both the Grand Staircase Escalante and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The internships began in May and will last for 40 weeks.
“It’s been a great collaborative approach between the National Park Foundation, who had a donor interested in employing Native American Youth in Utah; Conservation Legacy’s Ancestral Lands Project based out of Durango, and the Utah Corps,” said Briget Eastep, director of Southern Utah University’s Outdoor Engagement Center, in a release. “This is one of the coolest youth engagement endeavors we’ve done. We hope it will lead to stronger relations with the tribes and national parks in Utah.”
Not only are crew members participating in meaningful projects, they are also developing career-enhancing skills, creating educational activities and promoting awareness of their cultural identity. The relationships being strengthened between the National Park Service, Conservation Legacy’s Southwest Conservation Corps, the local native Tribes, the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC), and SUU’s Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC) will lead to future connections that will diversify NPS visitors, complete important infrastructure projects and maintenance, while providing work opportunities and training to underserved youth and young adults in southern Utah.
Faralene Williams, crew leader for the Native Americans participating in the program, said that this experience has been extremely impactful. “Being Native American, I feel the Ancestral Lands Grant program is important because it helps support the land our culture believes is sacred. The program enables Native American youth to complete valuable projects that help them connect in positive ways to their surrounding community, gaining valuable job experience and skills, as well as expose them to future careers with public land agencies.”
The Outdoor Engagement Center facilitates meaningful experiences in the natural world for the SUU community.