Paiute Tribal youth learn traditional skills, natural resource sciences from Tribal elders, BLM and partners
Rachel Carnahan, Public Affairs Specialist
In 2006, Gloria Benson started brainstorming with agency and Tribal peers about ways Paiute youth could experience and learn more about their Native homelands.
Benson, who is Kaivavich Nungwu, brought a unique and invaluable blend of insight and perspectives to the discussion as a member of the Kaibab Band of Paiute and as a Tribal liaison for the Bureau of Land Management.
Soon after several discussions, the “Yevingkarere Camp” was born, with the first camp taking place in 2007. This April marks the 16th year since the camp was created, and it continues to thrive. The goal, Benson said, “was to get southern Paiute youth back out into their traditional homelands, where Tribal members used to collect materials such as willow for basketry and wikiups, or cedar and sage for prayer ceremonies, as well as other plants for food or medicine.”
Getting the camp started and continuing its success requires a lot of agency support. BLM and National Park Service staff help with everything from group grocery shopping, packing trailers with cook stoves, and setting up camp as well as providing interpretive information.
"The Parashant National Monument has always been 100% supportive," Benson said.
Benson is the kind of motivated, caring, respectful and patient person who has worked hard for many years to see the camp through and carry on its success through collaborative efforts with other agencies and bands.
The Yevingkarere camp, geared toward 10 to 12-year-olds, takes place on the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument near Mt. Trumbull. The location allows youth from area Paiute Tribal bands in Arizona, Utah and Nevada to make a personal connection and feel tied to these lands just as their ancestors once did.
Camping in these traditional homelands lends to an immersive experience for youth, who for three days participate in various traditional practices and learn about monument resources and stewardship as traditional elders teach right alongside agency scientists.
Traditional language has also become part of the camp curriculum and a variety of skills are taught, including a modernized version of tanning, beading, and moccasin making. Teaching traditional Tribal values to youth is also integrated into the camp, such as prayers and giving an offering of food before meals, “to give back to mother earth in thanks, gratitude and honor,” Benson said.
For Benson, being a part of the event as a mentor for Tribal youth and as an agency representative who shares in the stewardship of these lands, the event brings sweet satisfaction in carrying on traditions.
“That’s how we were raised. It wasn’t just one person who would go deer hunting, the whole family went because everyone had a job. These are the values that are taught,” she said.
Benson holds great hope in the program’s future too.
“The hope is that they can carry that on with their own families for years to come,” she said.
Its youth like high school senior Tavavee Shearer who at age 17 is carrying on that love for her culture, instilled by her family, as a Yevingkarere Paiute youth camp instructor.
Shearer, who is also Kaivavich Nungwu, first attended the Yevingkarere youth camp at age 10. She recalls feeling excited for her first camp, and she admits, a little nervous.
“I really didn’t know any of the other kids from the sister bands. Going in it was a little nerve wracking,” Shearer said.
But she took comfort in knowing her mother Leann would also be attending that first camp as a presenter, teaching the youth the art and skill of making southern Paiute clothing.
“My mom’s been a big factor in cultivating my love for the culture and my knowledge in general,” she said.
And other Paiute leaders and elders like Dorena Martineau expanded Shearer’s circle and made the camp an enjoyable and memorable experience.
“I really liked participating in the activities, like when Dorena did her beading that was a lot of fun. She’s a kind and patient mentor and she gives the best hugs,” Shearer said.
Martineau’s style of teaching also resonated with her, as Martineau taught, “it really doesn’t matter what gender you are, or how light your skin color was you can still carry on cultural and contemporary traditions,” Shearer said.
Tavavee, whose name in Paiute means “sunshine,” said she looks forward to the next camp in April.
“I’m looking forward to passing on the cultural knowledge because our culture is something to be proud of. It’s what makes you Paiute,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have people in my life nurture that knowledge and encourage me –and I want to help others flourish in that way.”
Benson's hope is that the camp continues well into the future.
"The foundation has been set and others will be able to carry it forward," she said.
This successful outdoor education and cultural heritage program is made possible through an award-winning Service First partnership including the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Kaibab, Cedar, Koosharem, Kanosh, Indian Peaks, Shivwits, Las Vegas and the Moapa Bands of Paiute, Bureau of Land Management Arizona, Zion National Park and Zion National Park Forever Project.
Did you know...
Yevingkarere camp, meaning “Ponderosa Pine Sitting,” was created in 2007
The Paiute word Yevingkarere is pronounced yev ing kahd’ ooh
Kaivavich Nungwu, loosely translated, means people of the “Mountain Lying Down”