Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 1, 2011 Volume 3

Native youth honored for conservation work
Read the entire article: http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/living/education/Native-youth-honored-for-conservation-work-110204444.html
Condensed by Native Village

WASHINGTON – A group of Native youth traveled to Washington to attend an event that honored their conservation work and kicked off Native American Heritage month.

Washington: The 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps is a summer work program for youth in environmental and conservation work. It is run by the U.S. Department of the Interior Department. The DOI's goal in 2010 was to employ 12,000 youth.

Recently, the DOI and others held “A Celebration of Native Youth Engagement” to honor the students' success. Native youth joined elders, inter-tribal groups, government officials and others to discuss their experience and futures working in the environmental world.

Among the students attending were:

Kyle Valdez, Justin Blake and Shelly Belin, students from the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico;
Lane Wheeler, Amanda Berens and David Plant from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana;
Sebistene Yazzie, Marina Dazen and Joel Colelay from White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona

Colelay told of his experience  working as firefighter. “This one time we were fighting a fire in California. I was seeing a lot of animals, a lot of creeks. And I was wondering what happens to these animals when a fire goes through? I would like to help the animals come back from a burn. I’m actually blessed that I have a job with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Five years ago, I never thought that I’d be here, never thought that I’d have a job.”

Belin, also a firefighter, had focused on forestry.  She did  tree inventories, surveys and other forestry work.

“And that’s what I thought natural resources were," she said.  "And then, some very influential people in school ...  showed me that there were other fields of natural resources. So, one summer when I went back to Mescalero (Apache Reservation), I was told that the fish hatchery was open. And I went to visit it.

“I wasn’t thinking of working there, I just wanted to visit it and see the fish. I just thought this was cool. So I went and talked to the fish hatchery manager at the time, and she said that she would give me a volunteer position. So I worked there for one summer. And that opened my eyes to one of the resources – there’re many resources that we have on the Mescalero Apache Reservation – but that opened my eyes to one of the resources that I became so interested in. And from that moment on, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Chris Kitcheyan, White Mountain Apache, oversees the Youth Conservation Corp program at the Mescalero Apache Tribe's Fish Hatchery. He talked about the difference YCC makes in people's lives.

“I was a YCC student about 20 years ago and went on to complete a master’s degree in fisheries biology at the University of Arizona," he said.  "Supporting these bright young people completes the circle for me.”

Billy Frank Jr. from the Nisqually Tribe gave an eloquent plea for conservation and cooperation.  “We have to work with each other," Frank said.  "Our earth is crying. And it’s crying for help. In the everyday movement of our country, you can make a difference. You can make a difference.”

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