The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) returned to Ignacio, Colo. for their 32nd Annual Southwest Regional Conference that was hosted by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. This year’s conference started on Monday, August 13 and ended Thursday, August 16. The NAFWS is a non-profit organization that assists Native Americans and Native tribes with the assistance and management of fish and wildlife resources.
To officially welcome the participants, Southern Ute Chairman Christine Sage attended the opening ceremony of the conference and encouraged everyone to establish working ties and significant networks that would benefit them and the Native populations they serve, as well as the resources they protect.
The conference this year emphasized the theme of “Strengthening our values by reconnecting to the land” by coordinating workshops, exhibitions and meetings in a full four-day agenda.
This regional meeting brought tribal officers and management together to work alongside one another in an effort to educate and advise the general welfare of various fish and wildlife organizations.
In addition to the workshops, the conference offered hands on learning experiences that combined traditional classroom learning with outdoor field sessions that helped individuals to become even more involved with the different aspects of natural resource management.
“I am honored to share my knowledge and skills to the Native American youth in attendance today,” Southern Ute Wildlife Fishery Biologist Ben Zimmerman stated about his time spent with the youth out at Scott’s pond on Wednesday, August 15.
Youth were one of the many focuses this year, so as to get them even more engaged, the Mescalero Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service teamed up with Southern Ute Wildlife. Together they helped youth from varying tribes absorb information about water sampling and surveying fish, vegetation and birds, while out at Scott’s Pond.
When they weren’t spending the day in work sessions, conference participants were encouraged to partake in the various shoot competitions that were hosted by the Southern Ute Tribal Rangers and the Wildlife Resource Management Division.
“For a number of years, the archery shoot hasn’t been included and so this year I thought it would be a good idea to bring it back,” Southern Ute Wildlife Biologist, Aran Johnson stated about the Friendly Archery Shoot Competition that was held this year at Ernest “Muz” Pinnecoose’s property.
Overall, the conference was a time to remember that, by protecting tribal sovereignty through managing resources that balance economic developments, tribes will create new ways to engage and positively impact the youth.