For the past five years, the program focused on youth from Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain areas, and this year CFI expanded that reach to include Native youth from across Utah and the Four Corners region, CFI officials said.
This program “quickly filled” with Native youth from the Diné Nation and Hopi tribe, CFI officials said in a news release, adding that CFI was “excited to host an inclusive program” where insightful discussions of differing beliefs, traditions, and histories were discussed while floating through the Southwest’s iconic stretch of river running alongside the Navajo Nation.
“I was glad that the NTGIT program has expanded to embody an intertribal group of teens that now include Hopi as well as Diné on their lands and waters on the Colorado Plateau,” said CFI Environmental Educator Chris Wiewiora. “I hope that teens from other Southwestern Native American communities will join us next year.”
For 33 years CFI has been leading outdoor experiential learning programs by river with the belief that rafting trips are “one of the best outdoor classroom settings available on the Colorado Plateau.”
Each year, CFI takes Native American youth ranging from grades eight to 12 on a multi-day experiential learning program to share career opportunities in the field of natural resources, outdoor education, the tourism industry and wilderness medicine. The program is sponsored in part by the Val A. Browning Foundation.
CFI officials said the goal of the program is “to help develop the next generation of stewards for public lands on the Colorado Plateau and provide native mentorship to help these young adults find a meaningful and fulfilling career path after high school.”
The NTGIT program began on land at the Kayenta Health Center, where teens became certified in first aid and hiked public lands in neighboring San Juan County along Comb Ridge to cultural sites. Sand Island Campground served as base camp for the first two nights of the program.
Youth participant Marion Seaton said his favorite lesson was, “practicing throwing the rope to save a life.” Furthermore Marion said he felt he learned, “how to help people in need” with his first aid training.
On the third morning the group packed up camp and set off to raft the lower San Juan River, beginning in Mexican Hat and ending at Clay Hills. Rafting this remote stretch brought participants in touch with the geology, wildlife and human history of the area. During the river float, instructors discussed guiding practices and rafting techniques and the teens had the opportunity to hone their rowing and paddling skills.
“My favorite lesson was when I got to row the boat and the guide was showing me how,” youth participant Tiki Mili said.