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"K Camp is a Sacred Place"

By Janine Doyle posted 06-16-2020 10:26

  

K Camp


In tandem with agency leaders from the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as well as Paiute tribal Elders, the Zion National Park Forever Project is a long-term partner for the Camp Kwiyamuntsi (K Camp) project.

This collaborative program brings together Paiute youth to connect with each other as well as with Elder leadership, an otherwise rare opportunity due to Paiute reservations being dispersed across Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

Below is our interview with Zion Forever's Assistant Director of Philanthropy Kacey Jones about this program.

What prompted the foundation of K Camp?

Jones: About 10 years ago, three agency staffers (Jeff Bradybaugh, Angie Bulletts and Gloria Benson) recognized that there wasn’t a consistent interaction for Paiute communities on public lands. There wasn’t a bridge between the Park Service, BLM and other federal agencies who had this top priority to welcome Native American students. They thought, if we want to do this, we really need to build a bridge.

Y Camp was started for younger youth, and then it built into K Camp for teens in a very critical time in their lives. Part of the amazing thing about it is that the youth from the Paiute reservation are dispersed across three states, so they don’t have many spaces like this to all come together.

K Camp

Tell us about the relationship/history between Zion National Park and the Southern Paiute people.

Jones: Ultimately, this land is theirs. Zion has had a long-standing relationship with the tribe, and it remains a top priority for us. The history is a big part of our park film, "We the Keepers" - in it, a Kaibob Paiute Tribal Member, India Bulletts, speaks is quoted: "Both of my parents taught me from when I was little that my ancestors connect me to this place. Zion helps me know who I am from my history and my people." 

Part of how K Camp and the park’s affiliation started came with Jeff Bradybaugh (Zion National Park Superintendent). It’s a top priority project for him. Foremost, those tribal relationships are so very important to us, and tribal youth are incredibly important to us.

“This program has helped our agencies break down barriers. This program is personal. It’s about community.”

Tell us about your collaboration with agency leaders and Tribal Councils to create a programmatic evaluation of this project.

Jones: My background is as a programmatic evaluator, and I had worked with tribal communities prior to Zion Forever. I had approached Jeff about doing an evaluation as a volunteer before I came to work for the project.

As soon as I joined Zion Forever, I brought the idea to Jeff and he called a major convening with all of the agency partners and stakeholders. We discuss how to collectively go about doing something like this. We went to all five of the Tribal Councils – we wanted to do it in the right way and wanted their permissions to do so. Whatever we learned, we wanted to take back to them to have a written record of it.

That’s part of the interesting thing – there are these incredible experiences that are happening for these youth every summer, but if they’re not written down, it wouldn’t be sustainable.

The participants have the right to have a voice in the project that has been created for them. They get to change the program because they have a voice in it – they make it more grounded, more meaningful for the youth that experience it after them.

K Camp

Can you speak to the importance of collaboration for this project – what tips do you have for working with agency and community partners on these kinds of projects?

Jones: Especially when establishing new relationships with tribal partners, you need to go into it anticipating that long-term commitment. I’m here today and I’m gonna be here ten years from now.

You also need to be in a space where you can fully commit because it takes a lot of work and communication. For K Camp to happen, there are three different agencies, multiple parks just within  the NPS, multiple state BLM agencies, university partners...it’s a big collective to make these things happen. To do it well, you have to stay in communication and you have to stay committed to the joint vision for where it’s going and why you’re doing it.

In the early years, trying to find funding was difficult, but they stayed innovative and committed.

“These camps and other native gatherings are always just a huge relief I feel since I don’t have to be reserved...you can be more open with your native self because you are with other natives. And even the Park Service people understand a bit more because they’ve been around these camps a few times. It’s an environment where you feel ok and comfortable to be native.”

How can other nonprofits start projects like these / start these conversations with local groups?

Jones: It all starts with a conversation. You may have an idea, but in order for a program to really get traction, you have to have a conversation with your partners. Say, we’re approaching this as partners, this is what we think, but what do you think? What would be helpful to you?

As a designer or partner, you have to go in with flexibility to give space to design and have stewardship over it. All partners need to be fully invested from the beginning.

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