Reclamation Participates In American Indian Urban Youth Camp
On June 19th, Reclamation's Upper Colorado Region joined with several partnering agencies and organizations to participate in the American Indian Urban Youth Camp, held at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah, to connect urban Native American students with the great outdoors and inspire appreciation for the natural world.
Approximately 12 middle school-age students attended the camp to learn about natural resources, cultural identity, and stewardship principles through hands-on exercises and demonstrations provided by partner agency representatives from: Utah State Office of Education Title VII Program, Navajo, Ute and Southern Paiute Tribes of Utah, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region, American Conservation Experience, Latinos in Action, Urban Indian Center, Natural History Museum of Utah and Red Butte Garden. The lessons were inspired by the four components of the Medicine Wheel, which represents the sacred circle of life, its basic four directions, and the elements and symbolizing all knowledge in the universe. The lessons also aligned with Utah State Office of Education standards and core competencies, and DOI's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strategic plan.
Students walked about a mile as they visited four learning stations spaced throughout the scenic garden. Learning stations, staffed by American Indian educators and Reclamation representatives, were named after the four cardinal directions: North, South, East, and West. The day began with Eileen Quintana's presentation about female rites of passage and traditional resource use (ethnobotany). She talked about how their ancestors obtained food, medicine, and tools from the earth, and showed the girls how to grind corn using a mano and metate. Larry Cesspooch invited a mischievous coyote to entertain the campers, and taught everyone the Bear Dance. Steve Stodachiny explained the symbolism of the Medicine Wheel and showed everyone how to make beaded bracelets or chokers using the four sacred colors.
Reclamation representatives Stacey Smith and Robert Henrie taught the water component of the medicine wheel by teaching about different types of dams and the importance of water conservation. Smith and Henrie challenged the kids to become engineers and get their hands dirty by building miniature dams with natural clay, pebbles, and other materials. The objective was for the students to build dams that would hold water and utilize an outlet works system to deliver water to a home downstream. The students were asked to describe how they went about the task and then each of the students' structures was tested by pouring water behind the dams.
Lunchtime was another learning session for the students as a Navajo elder gave a blessing and members of the Nebo Parent Teacher Association prepared a traditional lunch that included two types of mutton stew, melons, blue corn mush, and chii/chin (juniper) berry pudding. Ms. Quintana also described native diets that included buffalo, juniper, and corn; and the significance attributed to the animals and earth that provide people with nutritious food.
The afternoon was spent touring the Native American Voices exhibit at Utah's Natural History Museum, which features Utah's American Indian cultures and prehistory. The day ended with "circle time" where everyone shared what they enjoyed the most about camp. All of the students emphasized how much they enjoyed Reclamation's dam building exercise, and thanked the instructors for a great day. The event was a great success and the sponsoring agencies hope to conduct the camp again next year.