Applications open for second Indigenous-led youth trip through Grand Canyon
You told me you wanted to go on this trip to connect with your ancestors. Will you tell me more about that?
Staying with the idea of not being raised around traditional elders, knowledge keepers, it was definitely hard to accept that growing up, a little bit. Just because there were so many questions of how prayers are done, or how ceremonies are done. I think that really encouraged me to want to seek that knowledge for myself, and to be able to share that with my siblings, or my younger cousins, just to keep that tradition and language alive within them, as well… Almost to make my ancestors proud, you know?
How do you think this trip would have been different if it hadn’t been—this is a unique expedition, it’s all Indigenous, young people, wisdom keepers. If you had gone say on a commercial trip through the Grand Canyon, a different kind of trip, how would the experience be different?
It would have been completely different. The first day we got to the river, our knowledge holders were asking us to say our prayers, to give whatever offerings that we have. They led us through that ceremony of grounding yourself and keeping your mind clear. Cause the first day we went the water was clear. It was beautiful, it was blue. They were telling us, make sure your mind is that same way, and you carry that same mindset through the whole trip… We were preparing for a spiritual journey. It was on a completely different spiritual level.
Was there a favorite moment that you want to share?
Probably when we went to Nankoweap, it’s the granaries you hike up to on one the canyon walls. That moment was very impactful and very spiritual, too. One of the knowledge holders was sharing stories with us of how they would keep the grains up there and how they would survive down there during very harsh times, and also traditional stories and he was singing a couple songs. You could just feel everyone’s emotions were very high at that moment. It brought everybody together again in that moment.
What would you say to young people who are considering applying for this year’s trip, maybe they’re not certain yet—what would you say to encourage them to apply?
Be mentally strong coming into this. I struggled the first three days to adjust to life on the river….. But as you work through each kink and as you come together with your group, everything completely changes. There was a shift that third day, where everybody was like, okay: We’re being honest with each other, we’re being vulnerable with each other, and this is going to make us stronger in the end.
It sounds like the Canyon is the maybe right place to have those kinds of conversations.
Yeah, cause the Canyon is a very strong teacher. The river teaches you things, the animals there too, even the plant life. It all comes together and really puts your mindset in a different perspective than any other thing in your life, is what I felt.
Kendra, thank you so much for speaking with me.
Yeah, no worries.
More information about the Regional Intertribal Intergenerational Stewardship Expedition (RIISE) here: https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/grand-canyon-river-trip-native-youth-and-elders