Tribal Youth Corps Share Perspectives

A resting moment as this crew member peels a log that will form the base of a bridge.

On a morning this past July, our intern Mick Wang went out to the west shore of Jenny Lake to capture some of the work being done by the Foundation-supported Tribal Youth Corps (TYC). These students traveled from the Wind River and Fort Hall reservations to Grand Teton to work for a month and are the second TYC group to do so this summer.

Working in Grand Teton National Park as a part of a trail crew is a challenging job. Among the hot temperatures and occasional bug bite, these young people were focused and thoughtful. They are building a small bridge that will soon connect two trails for visitors in the Jenny Lake backcountry area. Teamwork is required to hand carry 30-foot timber logs up and down uneven slopes. A passerby asked what the crew was up to, to which one TYC member responded, “It’s a bridge and one day you’ll get to walk on it!”

The crew using a swede hook to carry 100+ pound wooden logs to set the framework for a bridge that visitors will one day use.

According to this year’s Montana Conservation Corps Crew Leader Max, this second session of TYC students “…are soft-spoken and polite, and have many stories to tell once they open up to you.”

When asked about how this work relates to the lives back home, one responded, “To us, we are living out a prophecy of our ancestors. Every generation has the opportunity to choose which path to take. In our case, it’s whether or not we continue to practice our traditions or adopt this more American life.”

The crew stops for a moment for a quick team picture.

To them, Grand Teton represents the present, and the work they’re doing this summer represents their desire to be part of its future. “As Native Americans, we were here before there was an America. And we’re proud of that fact,” said one TYC participant.

TYC is becoming more well-known among participants’ family and friends, and two of the female crew members are returners from last summer. The goal is for this program to continue growing in the coming years to engage more and more young Native Americans from the region. Thanks to our partners at Montana Conservation Corps and Grand Teton National Park for helping us to implement this impactful program.

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