Begay’s two-year commitment as Tribal Outreach Fellow will support
National Conservation Area campaign in southern Arizona
Tucson, Ariz. (December 29, 2020)—Archaeology Southwest is pleased to welcome Skylar Begay for a two-year fellowship made possible by a generous grant from the Wyss Foundation through a program that provides campaign experience, mentoring, and training for up-and-coming conservation leaders. As Archaeology Southwest’s Tribal Outreach Fellow, Mr. Begay will play a key role in planning and implementing a formal initiative to establish the Great Bend of the Gila National Conservation Area along the Gila River from Buckeye to Dateland, which lies halfway between Gila Bend and Yuma. National Conservation Areas are protected public lands designated by Congress and administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Begay comes to the position with robust experience working for the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Conservation Corps’ Ancestral Lands Program. In the latter role, he also undertook archaeological field reconnaissance in the Great Bend of the Gila under the supervision of Aaron Wright, a Preservation Archaeologist with Archaeology Southwest.
“I’ll bring the commitment to hard work, empathy, and fairness I learned from my grandmother,” Begay said. “And the respect for the perspectives of many different Tribes I learned firsthand in my work with the Ancestral Lands Program. This is a great opportunity for me to learn even more and grow even further. I’m excited to begin.”
Begay will undertake two years of intensive training within Archaeology Southwest’s Landscape and Site Preservation Program under the mentorship of program director John R. Welch and President and CEO Bill Doelle. In conjunction with campaign partners at the Wilderness Society, among others, Begay will work with Tribes to identify and support specific Tribal interests in the Great Bend of the Gila, organize Tribal visits to heritage places in the region, and facilitate Tribal communications with public land managers. Begay will also assist in discussions with local communities and private landowners. Ultimately, legislation to establish the Great Bend of the Gila National Conservation Area will be introduced by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ).
“We are thrilled that Skylar will be joining us, and we are honored that the Wyss Foundation has entrusted us with this nationally significant fellowship,” said Doelle. “All of us at Archaeology Southwest are committed to Skylar’s success as he joins the vanguard of Indigenous-led conservation in the U.S.”
Welch agreed, adding, “The world is coming to terms with moral and practical imperatives to prioritize Indigenous knowledge, management principles, and voices in the conservation of traditional homelands. Skylar Begay is going to help show us all the way forward in this long-awaited campaign.”
About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects places of the past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at archaeologysouthwest.org.
About Wyss Fellowships
The Wyss Fellows Program provides campaign experience and training for individuals who have the potential to become future conservation leaders. Fellows work at sponsoring organizations on a variety of projects and campaigns determined by the sponsoring organization during their two-year fellowship. Fellows gain experience in all aspects of conservation advocacy, including policy development, grassroots and grasstops organizing, coalition-building, research and writing, media and communications, and fundraising. Learn more at wyssfoundation.org/fellows.
About National Conservation Areas
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) twenty-year-old National Conservation Lands currently includes over 900 units covering about 33 million acres designated by Congress and the President to conserve special features, from winding rivers to mountain vistas. The National Conservation Lands offer the American people exceptional opportunities for hunting, solitude, wildlife viewing, fishing, history exploration, scientific research and a wide range of traditional uses. The BLM manages these public lands for the benefit of current and future generations, supporting conservation as a part of the BLM’s multiple-use mission. This means respecting the ties that native and traditional communities have to public lands, as well as being welcoming of diverse interests and uses. Learn more at blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands.
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