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Park Hosts Native American SCA Crew

Canyon De Chelly National Monument

National Park News

Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) joined together for a second summer to host an all Native American high school work crew, providing the local youth with valuable job and service-learning experience that enriched their lives and brought them a greater sense of connection to the resources of Canyon de Chelly.

The SCA crew at Canyon de Chelly is the first all Native American crew in the program’s history.  Support came from various partnerships with private donors and government or non-profit agencies, including an National Parks Foundation “America’s Best Idea” grant, which supports educational and conservation-minded programs. 

This summer’s SCA participants call the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona home, with some having family ties to the Canyon itself.  Chelsea Gorman, whose family has been living and farming in the Spider Rock area of the Canyon for many generations, reported that the SCA made her appreciate the environment and rethink how she lives her life on a daily basis. 

The project was designed to protect the unique landscape of Canyon de Chelly by engaging youth through conservation efforts within their local community and to ensure participants are provided with training, career development, and education.

The crew removed invasive Russian Olive and Tamarisk trees as part of the park’s watershed rehabilitation program and ongoing efforts to protect archeological sites.  The crew also helped re-grade a walking path near the Massacre Cave Overlook area and helped construct a traditional Navajo hogan outside the visitor center.

At Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, crew members took part in the annual sheering and hoof-trimming of the Churro Sheep flock then helped install historic siding on the park’s sheep corral.

The crew members enjoyed the variety of projects and were honored by giving back to the community.  When asked what he will remember most about his summer experience, Nolan Begay replied, “I will remember the commitment to serving a small role in the greater good of the environment and protection of our national parks.” 

This year, the crew’s motto – “Teamwork makes the dream work” – was reflected in all they accomplished, from the massive piles of brush cleared in the canyon to the finer details of daily life.  Don’t be surprised if you encounter SCA alumni the next time you visit Canyon de Chelly, as many of them expressed great interest in continuing their service for the park.  Others may even go on to study biology or forestry in college and pursue careers in conservation. 

The youth realize that they are now part of a much larger team than just that of their five-week SCA crew.  Kayla Curly shared that, “SCA has changed the way I see things around me and helped me to realize that I can be part of something bigger.  I now know I can do more as part of this incredible land and people to make it a stronger and better place to live.”

The “Native American crew” model was based on the SCA national crew model, with special consideration for the specific needs of a locally based crew on the Navajo Nation.  Crew members consisted of eight participants with a keen interest in the Canyon de Chelly ecosystem who were recruited from the local high schools and two crew leaders who were also selected from the local area.

Thanks to all who have made the 2012 SCA conservation crew at Canyon de Chelly National Monument possible including private donors, the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation through the “America Best Idea” grant and the friends and family who have supported these youth throughout the program.  If you missed the kaleidoscope of tents at the campsite and yellow hard-hats this year, have no fear, for SCA plans to return for another season in 2013.


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