Every summer since 2011, there has been an all Native American SCA Conservation Crew helping to preserve the natural and cultural resources of Canyon de Chelly. When I first arrived to the park as the CVA last June, the 2016 crew was just starting as well. I joined them for their first day, playing awkward ice breakers and crowding into 4X4 vehicles to traverse the sandy wash of the canyon. From there however, our paths split. While I stayed at the visitor center learning what I would be doing for the next year of my internship, the SCA crew was down in the canyon camping, maintaining trails and bridges, and removing invasive plants. We would occasionally meet back up; for example the Interpretation staff cooked a thank-you meal for the crew for re-mudding the Hogan, and replacing the gamble oak branches on the shade house. The last time we all gathered together however, was during the final dinner where park rangers and the SCA crew plus family were all invited. Each student was smiling ear to ear and laughing at inside jokes from their time as a crew. Not only that, you could tell all of the students were more comfortable with themselves, and not afraid to stand up and address (or even sing to) family and staff. It was amazing to see how much each student had grown from when I first met them.
Now, another summer approaches and we are looking for a new SCA high school crew. Knowing how much the crew members from last season enjoyed and benefited from their experience, I really wanted to expose as many local Native students to this opportunity. So in the past few weeks, I worked with four local high schools to set up times when I could present to students about volunteering in National Parks, and specifically about the SCA Canyon de Chelly Conservation Crew. I visited two schools nearby where a majority of our crew members typically come from, as well as two schools further away to pull in Native students from areas we don’t typically serve. I was particularly excited to give a presentation at the Hopi Jr./Sr. High School. While the park has no issue recruiting Navajo students, we have never been able to recruit any Hopi Students, despite the fact that the Hopi Tribe has just as much history with the canyon as Navajos. Hopefully this year our SCA Conservation Crew will have a mixture of Navajo and Hopi students. I think it would be a great opportunity for the two groups to learn more about each other, as well as learn how to work with one another toward a common goal. In any case, I look forward to meeting the new crew this summer.