SOUTHERN UTAH — Camp Yevingkarere, pronounced yev ing kahd’ ooh, welcomed 14 campers from the Cedar, Kaibab, Koosharem and Moapa Bands of the Southern Paiute Nation Dec. 5-7. The campers, mostly 5th and 6th graders, traveled from Utah, Arizona and Nevada to spend the weekend camping on traditional homelands in Zion National Park; a place their ancestors called Mukuntuweap, or “Straight Up Earth.”
“Camps like this is the most important thing we can do at the national parks,” said Jeanette Shackelford, youth program leader for the Bureau of Land Management. “That kind of knowledge needs to be shared with this generation, its a very profound investment. I’m very glad for the support from all of the agencies.”
Paiute elders and agency experts taught lessons in language, hydrology, wildlife biology, botany, rope-making and hide-tanning. The campers hiked to Weeping Rock and spotted a prehistoric granary hidden in the red rocks. At night, Paiute elders told “winter stories” around a crackling campfire as a full moon rose above the cliffs.
“The kids are highly receptive, they are interested in learning more about their culture,” said Jeff Bradybaugh, superintendent at Zion National Park. “The elders that are teaching the classes are particularly engaged in appreciating the opportunity to pass on those cultural traditions to the young people. These are things the tribes would like to do and the camps provide the opportunity to do that.”
Students especially enjoyed learning their native language, stories, and making new friends. They came away inspired to learn more about their culture. Thanks to a National Park Foundation grant, they can look forward to attending Camp Kwiyamuntsi when they reach middle school. Camp Kwiyamuntsi, also a multiple-day camp on traditional Paiute lands, occurs each August and emphasizes cultural heritage, natural science, higher education and careers.
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Videocast by the Bureau of Land Management
This innovative and successful outdoor education program, in its seventh season, is made possible through a partnership that now includes federal land management agencies, Southern Paiute tribes, and Southern Utah University. The students stay connected with their homelands, peers and elders through the annual camps as they grow up.
“The kids loved learning the native language and liked listening to their elders and all the stories they told,” Shackelford said. “A lot of them had never been in Zions before so they were very impressed that this is where their ancestors called home.”
When they become high school students, the youth are offered opportunities to join youth conservation crews who complete historic preservation projects and other internship assignments on the Grand Staircase Escalante and BLM/NPS co-managed Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monuments, various National Park Service sites, US Forest Service lands and other BLM areas in southern Utah and northern Arizona.
Through an award-winning partnership with Southern Utah University, federal agencies have also hired several Paiute college interns and employees who return to camp as role models and encourage young relatives and friends to follow their dreams and potentially seek federal employment opportunities.
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- For more information about Camp Yevingkarere and the Southern Paiute Nation’s youth program, contact Tribal Liaison Gloria Bulletts Benson by telephone 435-688-3202 or by email
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