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Free Grand Canyon rafting trip for Indigenous youth

Rafts floating down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon Trust
Rafts floating down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Indigenous youth between the ages of 16-20 have an opportunity this summer to raft through the Grand Canyon.

The idea for this free trip began out of the high cost of recreation in the canyon. Grand Canyon Youth and the Grand Canyon Trust are hosting the trip. Amber Benally, who heads a leadership program for the trust, said she thinks the expense excludes many Indigenous people from visiting.

“I think it’s super important that young people understand their cultural connections with sacred spaces,” Benally said. “I think it’s important that they learn the songs — that they understand the teachings and stories that are there.”

Benally is Diné, Hopi and Zuni, and grew up in Tuba City within the Navajo Nation — about an hour from the canyon.

As a kid, she didn’t realize her visits to the canyon were a privilege and that most of her friends had not been there.

She said she wants young Natives to know they have a place in this sacred area and in conservation.

“Native people have always been conservationists. They’ve always been soil scientists. They’ve always been environmental advocates because it’s just so rooted in our lifestyles,” Benally said. “I want young Native people to know that their identity itself is an asset to this field.”

The 16 participants will be from the 11 tribes associated with the Grand Canyon: Hopi Tribe, Havasupai Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Las Vegas Band of Paiute Indians, Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, Navajo Nation, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, the Pueblo of Zuni, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

They will be joined by four elders from some of these tribes. Though the group’s interests will steer where they visit. Amber said the older adults will decide what’s culturally appropriate to share on the river.

The application is on the Grand Canyon Trust’s website. The deadline is Friday, March 18.