An exciting new youth initiative was launched this summer in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP)—the Tribal Youth Corps program. High school students from the Wind River and Fort Hall communities have been working long hours to complete a variety of preservation projects within the Mormon Row Historic District.
Led by Phillip Hurtado and Jodyann Dempsey from the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) and Morgan Albertson, GTNP’s cultural and resources technician, the first crew worked from June 19 to July 9 on a variety of projects. These included building several wooden footbridges over old irrigation ditches near the John Moulton barn and establishing a “no-parking” zone in front of the TA Moulton Barn. The latter contribution will help vegetation regrowth and allow for unobstructed views of one of the most photographed barns in the United States.
The second group, which started in mid-July, is constructing another footbridge, improving drainage around several of the historic buildings, and replacing barbed wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing.
Living at the Gros Ventre campground in tents for the duration of their program, these students and their crew leaders are on the job five days a week from 8am to 4pm. In exchange for their contributions to the Mormon Row projects, they receive a small stipend and an AmeriCorps educational award that can be used to pay for educational costs at eligible post-secondary institutions.
The program’s goals are to reconnect American Indian youth to the Grand Teton landscape while helping with cultural preservation projects and to introduce them to careers in the National Park Service. Tribal Youth Corps not only creates a unique opportunity for the students, but helps fulfill the NPS Centennial goal of relevancy with the next generation.
Although the majority of their time is spent completing hands-on projects, these students are also introduced to a wide variety of park professionals including rangers, firefighters, archeologists, and civil engineers. A highlight for the first crew was meeting with David Vela, GTNP’s superintendent, where they described the projects they had completed—they felt really honored to meet someone so important.
While not working, the crew has engaged in a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities including rafting on the Snake River, swimming in mountain lakes, and going on an overnight backpacking trip. They also love to play basketball, recently having a rousing game in the Moose employee area with the education and outreach ranger assigned to their group.
One 16-year old crew member, Jada, who participated in the first term, loved it so much she signed up for the second month. Another, Xavior, wants to return to the Wind River reservation after college to be a game warden.
The Tribal Youth Corps program is supported by the Foundation through a generous grant provided by TAUCK. Additional funding comes from the Montana Conservation Corps and the National Park Service.