“You are Going to be Our Elders One Day”
Welcoming 19 youth representing four bands of the Southern Paiute to Camp Kwiyamuntsi, a tribal Elder encouraged everyone to stand and proudly introduce themselves as brothers and sisters. “We may come from different bands, but we are all the same family,” he proclaimed.
With reservations dispersed across Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, Camp Kwiyamuntsi is one of the only opportunities some Paiute youth have to gather with each other and connect with Elder leadership.
Circled around evening campfires, youth learn traditional songs, share personal struggles, and absorb lessons centered in Paiute understanding of geology, plants, wildlife, and water. Concurrently, agency leaders from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) team with tribal Elders to conduct hands-on science-based activities and traditional practices, offering meaningful mentorship for Paiute youth interested in public lands careers. “Prepare yourself,” an Elder encouraged 2019 youth, “You might have spiritual experiences here, because this will be a time of great learning.”
Rotating each year to a different region of the Southern Paiute ancestral homelands, the Zion Forever Project remains a committed, long-term partner of this top-priority project. A gift for Camp Kwiyamuntsi supports the collaborative vision among Southern Paiute tribal leaders and Zion, Cedar Breaks, Pipe Spring, BLM, and the Forest Service to train tribal youth as future Elders and public land leaders. Reflecting on her experience in 2019, one participant explained what Camp Kwiyamuntsi means to her and fellow Paiute youth, “K Camp is a sacred place to me. K Camp makes me feel proud of who I am, no matter what.”