Youth hikes on the Continental Divide Trail gain traction in New Mexico
By CDTC Staff
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) New Mexico Regional Representative created a program to provide new opportunities for youth to engage and support projects on the Continental Divide Trail. Corey Torivio, CDTC Regional Representative and member of the Pueblo of Acoma led youth on guided hikes along the CDT in El Malpais National Monument. Each hike included different educational and service components, such as picking up litter or basic trail maintenance.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to help create something for our youth,” said Torivio, “because of the importance that they have in the future of society and the leadership role that they’re going to play. I want to have our kids learn the values that Mother Nature has to offer.”
The hiking groups resulted from a collaborative effort made possible by the United States Forest Service Cost Share Grant, the El Malpais National Monument, the National Park Service (Dark Skies Initiative), CDTC, and the Pueblo of Acoma. Youth ages 8-25 are provided with stewardship education, opportunities to learn about the Ancestral significance of the landscape, and given a first-time experience on the CDT.
The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, though Torivio shared some initial reactions from participants: “At first the reaction is one that any child would have when they’re young. ‘Why am I out here?’ ‘I don’t want to go hiking.’ ‘It’s cold, or it’s hot.’ ‘It’s raining, or it’s blowing’.” But, Torivio was unfazed by the lack of enthusiasm from the participants early in the program.
“That’s what we want to hear from the kids. It tells us that we’re showing them an experience that they have never seen before,” Torivio added. He enjoys watching the kids’ reactions transform from grumbles to excitement when, a few days later, their questions change to excitement and anticipation of the next adventure. The youth also engaged as a group in public “Star Parties” to share Indigenous star stories as part of the El Malpais Dark Night Sky Initiative. So CDTC created a Hiking & Training Guide to serve as a valuable educational and training tool while allowing youth to engage in an outdoor setting.
In collaboration with the Acoma and Zuni Pueblos, hiking guides integrated the Keres and Zuni languages. They educated youth about the significance of language in connection to the land, their culture, and their religious values.
Torivio said that this is just the beginning and that his hope is for programs that connect youth to their ancestral culture and the landscape to gain traction nationally. “My plan and vision are not just to teach one group of children and youth about this, but to share it with everyone,” said Torivio, who recognizes the concept as applying to a wide audience. The CDTC Youth Hiking Club joins a list of other organizations seeking to reconnect Indigenous youth to their landscape and culture. The New Mexico-based Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps focuses on high school-aged youth and engages in a variety of community projects and land-based learning opportunities.
Torivio also shared, “We all have a part in protecting the nation, and it’s not for me or for those my age. We need to think about the future– seven generations out– that is going to continue what we started.”
2022 New Mexico Youth Hiking:
Miles Hiked: Acoma/Zuni Trail 6 miles, Lava Falls Trail 4 miles, Sand Bluffs Area 8 miles, El Calderon 4 miles, Zuni/Acoma Trail 4 miles
Total Miles: 26 miles of trail in the El Malpais National Monument Area
Education/Interaction Hours completed: 10 hours
Youth Participants: 18 Acoma/Zuni Youth 8 to 14yrs. old
3 Acoma, 3 Zuni Youth 16 to 25yrs. old
Parent/Guardian participation: 10
Traditional/Religious Elders: 1 Acoma Elder, 1 Zuni ElderFor more information, contact Cornell “Corey” Torivio (he/him), CDTC New Mexico Regional Representative: firstname.lastname@example.org.