The generational passing of values of appreciation for nature and the environment is a sacred practice held dear in many Native communities. However, as technology has become more accessible to children, some Native Clubs and their respective Tribal Elders have found it difficult to connect youth to the natural world and pass along values that accompany that connection.
To bolster Native youth’s appreciation for nature and its inhabitants, the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Cheyenne Nation has created a three day Environmental Camp to provide a break from modern technology and highlight the importance of the land. 2019 marked the third year of this vital event and included camping, learning about their ancestral connection to the land and exploring traditional practices for hunting and preparing food. This year also featured guest speaker, Elder Linwood Tallbull from the Northern Cheyenne Nation, who showed Club youth how to create Pemmican, a customary survival food from dried meat and berries. In addition, campers learned how to identify different animal tracks and the process of utilizing deer while minimizing waste. Altogether, the lessons demonstrated a profound reverence for the natural world and its capacity to feed and nourish the community.
The Environmental Camp also featured examples of how Club youth can utilize their knowledge of the natural landscape for future professional endeavors. For example, Scott Williams from the Natural Resources Department delivered an exhibition on air monitoring, teaching Club youth how to measure the quality of their air and its impact on the surrounding environment. Club alumni and renewable energy instructor, Kyle Alderman talked to campers about the importance of clean energy and encouraged Club youth to apply what they had learned to serve their community. “The kids love the camp, and sometimes don’t even want to return inside,” explains Director of Unit Operations, Emma Harris. “For a lot of them, this is their only exposure to camping and the outdoors, and the experience is enlightening.”