Partnering with Indigenous Tribes Offers Hopeful Path for Public Lands Preservation

January 17, 2018

Coalition of American Indian recreation leaders brings unique message to Denver’s first Outdoor Retailer Show

While the struggle over the preservation of Bears Ears National Monument and other wild places continues, a coalition of American Indian recreation enthusiasts has a unique message about how to protect public lands. The group will discuss their vision during a panel at the Outdoor Retailer Show on Jan. 27 in Denver. As the massive trade show relocates from Salt Lake City to Denver this winter over Utah government officials’ lack of support for public lands preservation, the message from this rare gathering of American Indian activists is especially relevant.

The panel, “Indigenous Connections: Re-envisioning Recreation and Public Lands Preservation to Incorporate First Nation Values and Traditions,” seeks to inspire the outdoor industry to see things from a Native American perspective. Goals of the panel include exploring how the outdoor industry can effectively partner with indigenous people for the purposes of public lands conservation, and building a more racially and culturally diverse population of outdoor recreation participants.

According to Len Necefer, PhD, a Navajo tribal member and founder of the Denver-based gear company Natives Outdoors, “Combining forces between indigenous tribes and the outdoor industry is the strongest potential partnership we have to protect public lands, revitalize the health and cultures of native peoples, and address barriers to outdoor access for all communities.”

In addition to Necefer, other panelists include:

  • Jaylyn Gough: A Navajo Nation member, avid outdoors woman and founder of the group Native Women’s Wilderness. She is based in Boulder.
  • Aaron Mike: A member of the Navajo Nation who is based in Flagstaff, AZ, founder of Pangea Mountain Guides and an Access Fund Board member.
  • Jolie Varela:  Member of the Paiute and Tule River Yokut tribes and founder of Indigenous Women Hike. Jolie will be hiking the John Muir Trail in 2018 as a way to point out that it is actually an ancestral trade route of the Paiute. She is based in Bishop, CA.

The panel will be moderated by Annette McGivney, Backpacker magazine Southwest Editor and author of the new book Pure Land, which explores Native American history in the Western United States and indigenous relationships to nature.

Since the outdoor industry profits from recreation on lands that are the ancestral home of Native tribes, some issues to be addressed by the panel are potentially controversial. These include: What are the barriers and benefits to encouraging non-Native recreationists to embrace a more Native view of nature that approaches wild places as a spiritual and cultural sanctuary rather than a weekend playground? And should some spots on public lands that are sacred to indigenous peoples—such as the San Francisco Peaks, Devil’s Tower, and Bears Ears—have public recreation restricted out of respect for Native traditional practices and uses?

The panel will take place at Outdoor Retailer on Sat. Jan. 27 at 10 a.m.; location The Camp (booth 56117 UL).

Financial and administrative support to make the panel possible is provided by Verde Brand Communications, www.verdepr.com.

For more information contact:

Len Necefer: len@natives-outdoors.org; (401) 935-8074

Annette McGivney: amcgivney@aol.com; (928) 699-9064