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Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau conservation advocates : Grand Canyon Trust

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Colorado Plateau Intertribal Conversations

Since the first light streamed across the Colorado Plateau, it has been viewed as a place of natural wonder, panoramic beauty, and rich diversity. But for many tribal nations living on the Plateau, the landscape and its aesthetic views merely confirm their livelihood as people of the land.

The Colorado Plateau continues to be the ancient home of more than ten tribal nations, many of which continue to live in accordance with natural laws set out by their ancestors, such as living off the land and practicing good stewardship in a manner that respects all plants and animals. It is from the landscape that many tribes developed their culture and teachings. Many of the time-tested practices of tribal ancestors taught their people how to coexist with the surrounding elements and how to contribute to the land.

In today’s society, conservation is a practice that allows for the preservation, protection, and understanding of the land in its natural balance. Much of today’s conservation work in the region is based on Western science; it rarely incorporates the ancient practices and the traditional ecological knowledge of tribal communities and nations. Tribal nations have passed along such knowledge since the times of their ancestors through oral traditions and experiences of living off the land. Tribal conservation exists in careful observation and experiences with natural cycles such as the seasons, economic practices, lifestyle impacts, trading routes, and migration patterns across the Colorado Plateau. These practices have been incorporated into stories, songs, artistry, dance, and teachings to ensure it would be remembered and implemented daily for generations to come.

In an action to incorporate tribal Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into local conservation and to honor the time-tested processes, the Trust has engaged a Gathering of ten tribal nations with two representatives from each tribe. The Gathering sparked the Colorado Plateau Intertribal Conversations group to once again recapture oral teachings from tribal ancestors and implement those teachings in the protection of their ancient homeland. With the group’s knowledge of the land and community needs, they identified water, health, sacred sites, and language and culture as areas of high priority in need of creative solutions using ancient practices that could ensure their long-term protection.

The tribes participating include the Kaibab-Paiute, Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute, Uinta Ouray Ute, White Mountain Apache, and Zuni. We also have had participation from the Cocopah and Acoma Pueblo tribes.
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