Native American Culture Presentation

Ellyn Biggs and Linda Harvey

The SaddleBrooke Ranch (SBR) National Parks Club was pleased to host Ranger Jason Nez at its March Meeting at which nearly 100 people attended.

Jason Nez was a ranger 23 years ago. Now he is an archaeologist, working for the National Park Service (NPS). In this position he assists in the preservation and protection of Cultural and Natural Resources of Indigenous people from fire in Grand Canyon National Park (NP). Even before a fire occurs, Nez surveys fire prone areas and assists with the development of plans and tactics to mitigate damage to artifacts and cultural spaces. He uses all the available technologies from phone apps to old school paper maps to assist in fire management. Nez utilizes his unique position in the NPS as a way to educate others about Indigenous resources, and engage with all levels of fire management to plan proper treatment and defenses to minimize and avoid damage to those resources.

He explained fire is necessary to keep our forests healthy. Fire creates biological and chemical reactions that encourage good changes. However, extensive tree densities caused by years of fire suppression is causing fires that destroy rather than enhance large areas of our forests, containing our natural and cultural resources. Artifacts from different time periods continually reveal how Indigenous people lived and cared for the land they loved. Their story of history is a story of adaptation and survival in a changing world.

While Jason’s formal educational background includes a degree in environmental science from Northern Arizona University, his education began as a child living and growing up as part of the Dine (Navajo) Nation. The influence of his Dine family from whom he learned Indigenous history and culture, combined with traditional ecological knowledge gives Jason a unique perspective that contributes to his work with the NPS.

He is of the Zuni Edgewater Tribe, born of the Salt Clan. When introducing himself, he also mentions his maternal heritage, his paternal heritage, his maternal grandmother, and his paternal grandfather. He grew up about 80 miles east of the Grand Canyon in Coal Mine Mesa, into a small remote community where establishing relationships is important in developing “who we are and who we were and what do our prayers and customs mean.” Everyone in the community is considered a relative. All males from his father’s clan are considered father, and all females from this mother’s clan are his mothers. When not working, he returns to Coal Mine Mesa where he lives in a Hogan he built with help from family. It is completely off the grid.

On behalf of the SBR National Parks Club, we thank Ranger Jason Nez for joining the club via Zoom with his presentation. He provided the group with an understanding of the Indigenous resources in the Grand Canyon, as well as how the NPS is working with Native Americans to protect cultural sites, and how the Native Americans remain an important part of the land they have called home for time immemorial.

If you are interested in joining the SBR National Parks Club and are a resident of SaddleBrooke Ranch, you can sign up through the GroupWorks app or send an email to [email protected].