Ancestral Lands Program Season Celebration

Nothing beats a mid-summer celebration—especially when it involves homemade food, a gathering of friends, and recognition for great work in the community and far beyond.

The Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps—a program of Conservation Legacy and Southwest Conservation Corps that provides job training, employment and conservation exposure for Native American youth, primarily from the southwest—held just such a celebration last week.

Corps members butchered a sheep, made traditional stews, roasted vegetables, and prepared handmade breads for about 40 people–all in recognition of their hard work to restore and steward lands and especially to celebrate community and bonds among tribes.

Acoma crewFor the Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF), the celebration was timely because it marks a budding partnership and new way for us to bring restoration and stewardship to the National Conservation Lands. In March, CLF asked people around the country to make a donation to support this Ancestral Lands Program through an unusual but urgent campaign. We called it #ServiceNotSeizure, and it was created to counter the illegal actions of armed people who seized, occupied and vandalized the Malheur Refuge in Oregon.

More than 100 people took action and made donations to bring an Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps made up of young people mainly from the Acoma Pueblo to do restoration work at El Malpais National Conservation Area in New Mexico and at Rio Grande Natural Area in south-central Colorado. Both areas are part of BLM’s National Conservation Lands. The Conservation Lands Foundation is grateful for our partnership with the Ancestral Lands Program–and excited to support this generation of on-the-ground conservationists.

flat bread


After lunch, Sharon Pinto, Regional Director for Bureau of Indian Affairs –  Navajo Region, presented Corps members with certificates, and everyone was invited to talk about their experiences with the program.

Cornell Torivio, a member of the Acoma Tribe and founder of the program, told the Corps members, “You are doing just what your ancestors did… caring for the land, restoring the land, taking care of your families. I am so proud of each and every one of you.”

You can make a donation in support of the Acoma Pueblo Ancestral Lands Corps, or contact char@conservationlands.org for more information.  On September 19, the Corps will begin restoring riparian habitat at Rio Grande Natural Area and remove abandoned fencing from a Wilderness area at El Malpais National Conservation. More photos and stories to come.


(photos by C. Overby)


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