Dave "Big Bear" Johnson honored with BLM/TPIA Volunteer Award

Excerpts from remarks by The Honorable Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior - for the presentation of the Bureau of Land Management/Take Pride in America Volunteer Award to Dave "Big Bear" Johnson:

Thank you for the invitation to join you today. One of the delights of my position is the opportunity to honor those who have done far above their duty; those who have answered the highest calls of their country. That is truly the case for Dave, "Big Bear" Johnson.

Today, we are honoring Dave for more than two decades of volunteerism at San Joaquin River Gorge Management Area. Such dedication is by itself sufficient reason for Secretarial and Presidential praise. Yet there is more. Dave has devoted his entire life to service and citizenship.

Dave is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He is a soldier and a veteran, a former Sergeant of the 101st Airborne. Dave is also a student, learned in ecology and steeped in Native American practices and perspectives.

"Big Bear" Johnson drums for fourth graders
"Big Bear" Johnson drums for fourth graders.

About twenty years ago, Dave founded the San Joaquin River Intertribal Educational Corporation, which promotes education and excellence through both academic lessons and life experience. He still serves as President of the organization.

At about the same time he was founding the San Joaquin River Intertribal Educational Corporation, Dave began volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management.

Dave's imprint is everywhere at the San Joaquin River Gorge. He has served humble posts and filled prominent roles - among them a maintenance worker, a caretaker, a ranger and a frontline contact specialist.

During the late 1980's Dave built the Gorge's Nature Trail. It has been enjoyed by thousands of school children and it remains an attraction today. Nearly a decade ago, Dave was essential in getting the Cultural Heritage Awareness Program up and running. Since then, more than 10,000 students have learned from his interpretive and educational programs. Dave is known as "Big Bear" to Boy Scouts and potential Eagles, because of his active involvement in jamborees and Eagle Scout projects.

"Big Bear" is more than a nickname though. Dave often patrols the Gorge area after dark. Thanks to his eyes and ears, damage from vandalism has been dramatically reduced. Big Bear's efforts have even led to the successful prosecution of several vandals - they perform community service under his watchful eyes.

Now 76 years old, Dave has continued to work more than 30 hours a week.

Dave, your life of service and citizenship epitomizes what Take Pride in America is all about. You have cared deeply and you have given generously. Your fingertips have touched this Nation deeply. Your efforts have made America a stronger, a prouder place, one that is worthy of citizens like you.

Thank you for your service and your citizenship.

News.bytes, issue 214

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