By Jessica Parker, Site Director
Having been born in Farmington, New Mexico, a town so close to the Navajo Nation that SSP staff members in Tsaile go there for construction supplies and groceries, I have always wanted to better educate myself on Indigenous culture and tradition. Luckily, SSP has given me this opportunity constantly. When I served in Tsaile as a volunteer in the summer of 2017, I got to hear the wonderful Silver Nez Perry speak on the Navajo Tribe. Learning about the economic, health, and nutrition disparities between Indigenous communities and the rest of the United States spurred the passion for social justice I have today.
“Learning about the economic, health, and nutrition disparities between Indigenous communities and the rest of the United States spurred the passion for social justice I have today.”
While working for SSP as a Construction Coordinator in the summer of 2019, I turned this passion for social justice into goals for my future vocation. Living on the Spokane reservation for seven weeks showed me Indigenous communities often do not have access to fresh, healthy produce because the nearest grocery stores are at least an hour away. As a college student obtaining my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition, this broke my heart, as I believe access to healthy food is a basic human right.
“I believe access to healthy food is a basic human right”
However, I was also greatly inspired by the Spokane tribe and their efforts in creating a community garden where neighbors of all ages can learn about land and food together. This inspired me to declare a minor in sustainable agriculture and pursue getting my Master’s degree in sustainable food systems or food policy. Eventually, I want to be able to create positive change in America’s food system so everyone has access to the nutrition they deserve.
Having all of the experiences described above, I am incredibly grateful the theme my staff team will be discussing with participants this summer is “Indigenous Communities Today.” With this theme, my staff hopes not only to shed light on some of the hardships these communities are currently facing, but also empower our participants to become allies and enact change in these communities, even though they may not live near them.
Our staff team will be working with several different community partners from Chiloquin, Smith River, and Tsaile so our participants can hear first-hand from members of native communities. It is especially important that our community partners get to share their personal experiences and provide representation for their greater communities.
“It is especially important that our community partners get to share their personal experiences and provide representation for their greater communities.”
This summer, I am ecstatic to hear Silver speak for the first time since 2017, listen to Will Hess discuss the Klamath Tribes’ fight to save the sacred C’waam and Koptu fish, and learn about how fire recovery has been heavily influenced by Indigenous cultural heritage at Collier State Park.
We feel this theme encapsulates some of the most important issues facing SSP’s partner communities. More importantly, this theme elevates advocacy work which is already happening within these communities. We hope our approach to listening and learning from Indigenous Communities Today can empower summer participants to positively impact not only the communities SSP serves, but their own communities as well. I cannot wait to meet you all this summer and learn with you!