Program increases Native American cultural awareness of river guides

<i>Courtesy photo</i><br>
Joëlle Clark, left, program director for Native Voices on the Colorado River, coordinates with Nikki Cooley, Diné river guide and San Juan River Basin project coordinator, for the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Foundation.

<i>Courtesy photo</i><br> Joëlle Clark, left, program director for Native Voices on the Colorado River, coordinates with Nikki Cooley, Diné river guide and San Juan River Basin project coordinator, for the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Foundation.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Cultural information will flow through the Grand Canyon like the Colorado River, thanks to a new partnership highlighting the area's indigenous influences.

Northern Arizona University's Department of Anthropology and the Institute for Native Americans are teaming up with the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association for "Native Voices on the Colorado River," a continuing program to ensure guides and travelers in the canyon learn the perspectives of Native Americans.

"The goal is to increase public understanding and communication about the relationships of tribes affiliated with the Grand Canyon," said Joëlle Clark, Native Voices program director. "By better understanding the cultural significance of the Colorado River, we hope to increase respect for the area and protection of it."

Clark is working with an advisory board with members from 11 different tribes: the Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Zuni, Navajo (Diné), Yavapai-Apache, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Las Vegas Paiute, Moapa Band of Paiute Indian and San Juan Southern Paiute.

Products from the program will include river-guide training seminars, cultural DVDs and a Native American Perspectives of the Grand Canyon newsletter and Web site.

The products will help river guides share knowledge about places such as a chasm in the canyon's North Rim where one Paiute tribe honors a spot for afterlife emergence, or help them convey why the Zuni celebrate an area on the Colorado River so their crops are fruitful.

"There are so many cultural stories, oral histories and relationships to the Grand Canyon region that we are beginning by working with different tribal groups and councils to learn how to appropriately represent them," Clark said.

Funded by the Grand Canyon River Association, Native Voices was developed in response to a National Park Service mandate for enhanced interpretation of Native American perspectives in the Grand Canyon.

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