Fall 2018 Newsletter
CONNECTING NATIVE YOUTH TO THE COAST
Sara French, AMLT Director of Programs and Development
“So are we doing anything else besides just walking?” I looked down to see Bear, one of our youth campers, shuffling beside me with a perplexed look on his face. We were on an ethnobotany hike at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, and yes, my plan as the activity leader was just to walk and talk about the medicinal, edible, and otherwise useful plants that we encountered. We were a group of about 30 people – Amah Mutsun campers ages 12-17, Native Stewards serving as staff, and tribal elders who came out for the week to support their youth and the program. I took a quick assessment of the situation. It was a glorious day in the redwood forest. The beautiful Purisima Creek was babbling away below us. I was leading a group of tribal members who were visiting a part of their ancestral homeland that most had never seen before. I turned to Bear and said “Well what else were you hoping we would do?” He replied “Aren’t we going to stop and explore or something?” Great idea, Bear. At that moment we happened to be at a perfect spot to access the water, so we veered off the main trail and headed towards the banks of Purisima Creek.
As our group gathered around the flowing water, I wondered what I should do or say to make this an educational and meaningful experience for everyone. It turns out I didn’t have to say anything. Tribal Elder Catherine made her way to the front of the group, flanked by her teenage daughter Elizabeth and another camper named Lexi, who are all members of UwiSmak, the Mutsun women and children’s traditional signing group. Elder Catherine explained she had never been to this place, and she wanted to offer a song to the ancestors to let them know the Mutsun and Awaswas people were here again. The women made offerings of water and tobacco and then began to sing a traditional Mutsun song. Their voices rose up, seeming to follow the beams of light breaking through the redwood canopy around us. The campers became silent and reverent as they contemplated their connection to this place, both past and present. It was a beautiful and powerful moment. Creating the space for opportunities like this is what makes the AMLT Coastal Stewardship Summer Camp for Native American youth so special and so important.
Altogether, AMLT ran two weeks of summer camp this past July, hosting a total of 40 youth campers and 17 adult volunteer chaperones at the historic Cascade Ranch along Highway 1 in Pescadero. Campers enjoyed a variety of activities aimed at teaching about coastal resources, engaging in cultural practices, and reconnecting with the coastal territory of their ancestors. Each evening tribal elders led a talking circle that gave campers a chance to reflect on challenges and opportunities they face as young indigenous people in the modern world. Campers engaged in ceremony daily, including participating in a purification ceremony in the sweat lodge we built on site. Campers also had lots of opportunities for crafts, play, and learning new skills. Everybody loved being there. They especially loved visiting the beach!
This is only the second year AMLT has held the Coastal Stewardship Summer Camp but already the program is making a difference in the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band by connecting the youth to the land and practices of their ancestors. Our prayer is that this camp will run for many years to come and that it will expand to include more youth from neighboring tribes. This year our camp was generously supported by the State Coastal Conservancy Explore The Coast grant, by Youth Outside, and by our individual donors. You can help make sure AMLT has the capacity to offer the summer camp in 2019 and beyond by making a one-time or recurring donation today!