Known as one of United States of America’s most iconic landscapes and considered an imprint on the rich cultural history of America, Bears Ears is at the threshold of politically charged discussions and threats to our Native tribal communities. Soul River Inc received was welcome into an warm opportunity for youth and veterans to come to Bears Ears by through the blessings of the Navjo Nation Mrs. Charlotte Morris, Oljato Veterans Organization Secretary-Treasurer, Jonah Yellowman, Spiritual Advisor for Dine Bi Keyah, Bears Ears Coalition & ABNDN President Oljato Chapter. Bears Ears, is an ‘outdoor museum’ with dense concentration of Ancestral ruins and rock art, it is a destination that offers many opportunities for recreation, exploration and discovery and very very sacred to the Navijo people.
In June, veterans and youth with Soul River Inc. embarked on a cross-cultural science expedition to Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding community. Upon arrival to the Navajo Nation, the Oljato Veterans Organization welcomed Soul River Inc. veterans into the community celebration to participate in the raising of the colors: “We stood together in this moment of emotional and life transforming experience as we marched together with Navajo veterans. We stand together as one from the battle to the community on to our land.”
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“This is our critical moment. We have earned a great deal of healing on our journey, and now we must return the favor. Bears Ears has the ability to reground ourselves, have moments of serenity in nature, + to heal the broken bond between us and indigenous peoples.” Riley Brooks
“Bears Ears National Monument is a place where community is created and where memories will last forever. It is a land that heals everyone who embraces its presence. It is a place that needs to be protected, not just for the people and the land, but for the community it creates. It is my job to advocate for the protection of Bears Ears and I will continue to do so until change happens.” – Kiran Weasel
“Because Bears Ears is being taken care of by Native tribes it is important for them to know and participate, or be included in all management or decision making of the land they live in, the land they take in so sacred and dear to their hearts and culture.” – Kenia Claros Martinez
“By welcoming us into the community, the Navajo Nation took the first steps towards what America needs as a nation: healing. I experienced their generosity first hand and I know that they are willing to share more of their culture with those who want to listen.” – Andre Tharp
“Anyone who is willing to open their heart and mind will be forever changed by the outstanding culture and history Bears Ears offers. Going on this trip with Soul River Inc. I really had no clue of what to expect. I never thought in a million years that I’d walk away with lifelong connections and a whole new view on life and my priorities.” – Ayanna Beaudoin
“I feel it is our responsibility to make sure people can have the same experience I did…Rather than destroying Bears Ears we should invite people with mental and emotional pain to come get healed like I and the vets did.” – Gabriel Bliss
“Native people hold a vast amount of knowledge about this land as well as how to care for it properly…Their love for this land extends to everything that lives off of it. We have nothing to fear if all we want is harmony and health.” – Sofina Gilbert
“In a sweat lodge I participated in, a Navajo woman prayed for Bears Ears and for Donald Trump. She prayed he could just pause for a moment and think, clear his head and really think about what he is doing. How powerful is that, her praying for the person she is fighting against?” – McKenna EricksonSweat Lodge
SRI Group shot
Thank you to OARS, Pew Foundation, John Holsten Monument Valley Rappeling and Columbia Sportswear
Your support was the glue to our process, intertwine into the lives of veterans and youth. You gave the platform for all of us to stand on and the back bone that propel us to move forward successfully and your youth to grow into leaders.
A few letters from our youth!
SRI YOTUH LEADER Kenia Claros Martinez
SRI YOTUH LEADER Kiran Weasel
SRI YOTUH LEADER Sofina Gilbert
SRI YOTUH LEADER McKenna Erickson