U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Washington, D.C. (ICC) November 2010

The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrated Native American Heritage Month by saluting Native American youth at a special Tribal conservation event in Washington, D.C. 

The event celebrated the accomplishments of some very special students from the Native American Youth Conservation Corps and Student Temporary Employment Program that worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fisheries Program. Students from Mescalero Apache (NM), Salish Kootenai (MT), and White Mountain Apache (AZ) Tribes joined tribal elders, statesmen, and inter-tribal organizations from across the country to discuss the successful engagement of Tribal youth in fish and wildlife conservation activities and the promise and possibilities for the future.

“Engaging youth from Tribes in protecting and restoring fish and wildlife populations is one of the best ways to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders in natural resource conservation,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This special event celebrated the accomplishments of Tribal youth as we work together to better manage our shared resources.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Fisheries and National Conservation Training Center, the Secretary’s Office of Youth and Careers, Salish Kootenai College, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency came together to honor these students and offer an opportunity for them to share their experiences.

 “I am pleased to share in the celebration of National Native American Heritage Month with the other agencies here at the Department of the Interior,” said Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk. “The success of this initiative demonstrates the emphasis we have at Interior upon respect, sovereignty, education and the promise our youth possess in delivering a positive future for Indian Country.”

These students are part of a larger effort to engage America's youth in the projects and issues we face in the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Acting Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Rowan Gould. “Our dedicated staff works closely with the kids on a vast array of environmental issues, and exposes them to opportunities that may drive their future education and career pathways.”

For example, Youth Conservation Corps participant Wacey Cochise of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico will continue his college career at New Mexico Highlands University studying Wildlife Biology. Amanda Berens of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana is also seeking a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana.

Fish and Wildlife Service Supervisory Fisheries Biologist, Chris Kitcheyan (White Mountain Apache), administrates the YCC program at the Mescalero Apache Tribal Fish Hatchery in New Mexico and has seen for himself how lives are changed. “I was a YCC student about twenty years ago and went on to complete a Masters degree in Fisheries Biology at the University of Arizona. Supporting these bright young people completes the circle for me,” said Kitcheyan.