Im happy to share that in a couple days I will be embarking on a multi-day Green River Trip through Desolation Canyon in north-central Utah. Im not rowing as a guide on this trip, but rather will be a participant in a writing workshop that is sponsored by the Freeflow Institute and American Rivers.
This workshop is one of about half a dozen that Freeflow offers on various rivers and watersheds across the American West.
I was accepted into the workshop as one of their “Southwest Emerging Artists” through a scholarship supported by American Rivers. I will use my time during this trip to develop an on-going multimedia project I have been contemplating for a number of years now. Theres no time like the present to get working on this idea and see how far I can take it.
The working title of my project is, “Emergence: Indigenous Guides and the Reclaiming of Cultural Narrative”.
The focus is as follows:
“Within the oral histories of the Snake Clan from the Hopi Tribe exists a centuries-old story about the first river runner in the Southwest. This story depicts the adventures of a curious boy, named Tiyo, who wonders “where does the river go?” Determined to answer that question, Tiyo sets out with the prayers of his family, in a boat carved from a cottonwood tree encountering new places and people along his river journey. He eventually discovers that the river meets the Pacific Ocean far from his homeland. In doing so, he becomes the first to raft what are now known as the San Juan and Colorado Rivers.”
This storyline will serve as the backdrop for “weaving in” and elevating Indigenous voices within the commercial guiding world, and within outdoor recreation in general. There are numerous side tangents that I intend to discuss, including the on-going efforts of Indigenous advocacy in the realms of ancestral lands, science and traditional knowledge. I will draw and reflect on my own personal experiences as both a guide and archaeologist working in the American Southwest.
In addition, I intend to interview at least 6 Indigenous colleagues that I personally know and work with either as river or land-based guides. These guides represent tribal nations across the Southwest including, Diné (Navajo), Tewa/Rio Grande Pueblo, Hopi and Hualapai. Interview topics will include discussion about their personal and cultural connections to the lands and rivers they work in, as well as their goals and what they hope to see develop within an Indigenous guiding community. We will also cover topics on traditional environmental knowledge and Indigenous perspectives on public lands management.
I also wish to raise awareness about the social, economic and health issues we face as modern Indigenous people. Many of these issues are centered around access to clean water, air and healthy ecosystems. Also, as much of the commercial guiding within the Southwest is currently offered by non-Indigenous companies, there needs to be greater presence in these realms by Indigenous people. Beyond public education, cultural tourism needs to promote the preservation and perpetuation of Indigenous knowledge and history for our own communities.
I plan on turning the collected interviews into a series of aural programs, suitable for podcasts, community radio and other audio formats. I will also produce a series of articles that will be available via my website, as well as submitted to other short-form publications, such as journals and magazines. There may even be a book in there somewhere when all is said and done.
While I have produced various short-form writings based on Indigenous Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Ancestral Connections and Environmental Stewardship, this will be my first attempt to collect and present a set of narratives from different cultural backgrounds and individuals.
Indeed this will be a long-term project, longer than anything I have done before. I hope to use my time during the workshop to develop a structured outline of content as well as “bounce” ideas off of my fellow workshop participants. We will also have daily group discussions around various writing formats and other technical aspects of journalism. These discussions will be facilitated by author, Heather Hansman, whose work has appeared in “Outside”, “Smithsonian” and many others.
Following the river trip I will begin the process of conducting interviews with my fellow Indigenous guides and colleagues. This phase will require the greatest time and effort, including field research and travel for interviews, compiling, transcribing, and editing the interviews and of course, producing both written and audio content.
To help support this work, I will be having my usual jewelry sales here on this website, as well as selling stickers, tshirts and other products that can be found on my Teepublic site, Here.
These funds will be used to offset travel costs, as well as purchase additional recording equipment, storage capacity and editing software. I also intend to pay each interviewee an honorarium for their time and participation in this endeavor. This is the right thing to do in recognition of the unique perspectives that can only be offered by Indigenous people.
I will be providing routine updates on my progress as well as “dropping” previews of the interviews as they are collected.
I am anxious, nervous and excited to begin this undertaking. I feel that after working as an Archaeologist and Indigenous Guide for 21 and 15 years respectively, these types of projects are highly needed.
Thanks for taking the time to read to the end. Ill report again in due time!