Summer 2019 Newsletter

AMLT SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

By Sara French, AMLT Dir. Of Programs & Development

AMLT Native Stewards and interns after a day of poison hemlock removal.

AMLT Native Stewards and interns after a day of poison hemlock removal.

Amah Mutsun youth learning how to make manzanita cider during the internship program.

Amah Mutsun youth learning how to make manzanita cider during the internship program.

Esak Ordonez, second from right, observes safe chainsaw use during a training offered by State Parks staff.

Esak Ordonez, second from right, observes safe chainsaw use during a training offered by State Parks staff.

During July and August, a dedicated group of Amah Mutsun youth spent several weeks of their summer vacations stewarding Amah Mutsun ancestral lands as participants in the Native Stewardship Corps Summer Internship Program. Facing coastal fog and blazing sun, thickets of poison oak, and plenty of demanding work, these interns labored side by side with AMLT’s Native Stewardship Corps (NSC) to tend native plants, remove invasive species, and reduce hazardous fuel loads. The fieldwork was coupled with skill-building and cultural activities, including studying the Mutsun language and engaging in ceremony.

These activities marked a second successful summer of the internship program, which was created at the request of tribal elders in 2018 to introduce tribal youth to the NSC and provide training in both indigenous and contemporary conservation methods, as well as elder-led guidance in what it means to be tribal leaders and environmental stewards. It is hoped that many of these interns will return to the NSC program as Native Stewards, working as the lifeblood of AMLT’s restoration efforts and fulfilling their tribe’s sacred covenant to care for Mother Earth.

We started with a goal of welcoming 8 interns to this summer’s program. Youth interest in the program was so great, however, that we decided to launch a fundraising appeal in June to support several additional internships. We were happily overwhelmed by the tremendous support for the program from our donor community. All told, 52 individuals came together to raise almost $25,000 to cover the wages, equipment, food, and travel expenses of 17 Amah Mutsun interns. We even planned a special week of programming for interns under age 16 who could not participate in the more-demanding work performed by the older interns. If you donated, helped spread the word, or just shared your positive wishes for this summer’s program, we send you our most heartfelt thanks for supporting this wonderful mix of learning, connection, growth, and hard work!

To get a sense of the experience and impact of the summer internship program, I asked Esak Ordonez, an Amah Mutsun Tribal Band member who is in his second year of study at Cabrillo College, to share his perspective. Esak is a business major, with the goal of getting an education he can apply to working with and for his tribe. He says he would eventually like to work full-time with AMLT in a management position or directly in the field. As a participant in both years of the internship program, he sees it as a great opportunity for young tribal members to express themselves in different ways and to take part in a powerful, new experience in the outdoors—one that you can’t get just hiking or recreating. Esak says he appreciates the opportunity to connect with relatives he hasn’t met before, and that working on the land, helping the environment, and taking care of the grasslands is important. He feels proud to be doing the same thing his ancestors would have been doing, but in a modern way. Also, he says with a laugh, it is good exercise!

As an intern, Esak participated in a 3-day chainsaw operation training led by Año Nuevo State Parks staff, completed a two-day introductory backpacking trip in Butano State Park, took part in a ceremonial sweat, learned Mutsun vocabulary, and gathered Manzanita for the preparation of cider. “If I wasn’t working with AMLT this summer, I most likely would have been working full time at the movie theater in Scott’s Valley. Aside from that, probably watching TV, hanging out with family and friends. I’m grateful that the AMLT Native Stewardship Corps gave me a different summer experience”, he says.

The AMLT summer internship program is truly a unique experience for participants, specifically tailored to their cultural background and geared towards the goals of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Through this program, AMLT is training the next generation of Amah Mutsun Native Stewards. We are grateful that Esak, and all of the other interns, chose to spend their summer continuing on the path of their ancestors. Through their hard work and the generosity of our supporters, this year’s internship program was an incredible success.

** For more photos of the 2019 NSC Summer Internship follow this link **