In the past, government programs have not always honored Native American traditions and have even sought to stifle indigenous voices. Today, collaborative programs are seeking to correct past wrongs by focusing on supporting cultural traditions.
Zion National Park and the Zion Forever Project have teamed up to fund an annual camp that helps Southern Paiute youth better connect to their ancestral homelands and traditional knowledge. The camp, Camp Kwiyamuntsi, or commonly known as “K-Camp,” provides opportunities for youths to learn from tribal elders as well as get exposure to land agency partnerships such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service, and the NPS. This experience provides a blended learning of traditional ecological knowledge with land agency practices to acquire knowledge about ancestral homelands and explore future careers in land management and leadership.
Youths attend evening campfires to learn traditional tribal songs and share personal struggles with their elders and are paired with tribal elders and land agency specialists to receive both Paiute traditional ecological knowledge and land management practices in areas such as geology, plants, wildlife, and water across Southern Paiute ancestral homelands.
“A lot of the kids’ parents didn’t learn a lot about their culture and traditions growing up, so when they come to camp it is often their first time hearing a lot of this stuff,” one Paiute tribal elder said. “Coming to these camps, they get a chance to learn a part of their culture, and their history and their ancestry. They learn they are related to each other . . . they are like a sponge and must soak it all up, and it’s something that they’ll always remember.”
In addition to learning about their tribe’s history and cultural traditions, Southern Paiute youth also take part in activities that are staples at other summer camps, including guided hikes, rock climbing, and river rafting. Each year, camp locations rotate to a different region of the Southern Paiute ancestral lands.
“K-Camp is a sacred place to me,” one past participant said. “K-Camp makes me feel proud of who I am, no matter what.”
Donations from supporters help keep this valuable camp going from year to year. Zion Forever remains a committed supporter of this top-priority project. With your help, these camps will continue to be unforgettable, transformative experiences for native youths.