Native Youth #OptOutside

The Gen-I #OptOutside Call to Action is part of The Center for Native American Youth’s partnership with REI to continue to build platforms for Native youth leaders to advocate for the protection of lands, sacred sites, and waterways. This collaboration highlights how stewardship of the outdoors is central to the value systems and cultures of indigenous communities across the country. As part of this collaboration, we asked Native youth leaders in the Gen-I network to join REI on the Friday after Thanksgiving to #OptOutside and share with us what nature and the outdoors means to them. Below are some highlights of the 2018 campaign.

Paul Wilson, The Klamath Tribes, 21 years old, Grand Prize Winner 

The outdoors for me have been a domain of reclamation. For the past couple generations, the outdoor spaces have only meant sustenance and stewardship for my tribe. For many tribes, this standard has been a privilege to retain. Currently though, I have been working to reclaim my ancestral territories in a recreational manner.


Redeveloping a relationship with the outdoors that is not solely based on harvesting, hunting, and environmental stewardship has been pivotal for my works. Redeveloping and maintaining a relationship based on leisure and enjoyment in the outdoors has been a refreshing practice for indigenous youth in my community. It has allowed for the spaces we have stewarded to begin offering our youth healings. For such a long time, our communities have focused on our ecological health, and we have not had the education or access to allow for the reciprocation.

Rebecca, Ione Band Of Miwok Indians, 17 years old, Winner


This photo of me was taken at Spencer Beach Park in Hawaii while I was attending a native youth food sovereignty summit. In this picture I am reflecting on the senses and smells of the ocean, the breeze, and the water itself. Thinking about all the Native peoples that have traveled on the water and the connections made to each other and to the water. People past and present look at the water as a form of separation, when in reality it connects us all. This idea has influenced me to learn more about coastal and island peoples and empowered me to come back to my community and learn more about my tribe and the ways before me.

Chuancey Syas, Shinnecock, 18 years old, Winner

Looking out into the Shinnecock Bay, preparing, waiting for hunting season to start.


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