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The Privilege of Nature: Diversity, Inclusivity, and Being an Outdoor Ally

For many, the outdoors is a refuge. I'd like to think that on the trail and in the mountains I escape politics and worldly concerns, and we're all equal. But that's untrue, naive, and privileged. There are systemic, racial, and socioeconomic barriers to even getting on those trail and into the mountains.

Just because a place is public, does not make it welcoming or accessible. Barriers exist like access and proximity, the cost of gear, and transportation. And once out there, some groups may not feel safe or included.

As my country confronts its racism, I'm also doing so personally and professionally, and I encourage our outdoor community to do the same. Everyone should be able to safely access public lands and waters, free from intimidation, harm, or hate. The physical and mental benefits of nature are well known, diversity is critical to healthy ecosystems and communities, and being outside safely shouldn't be a privilege. 

Listen and Learn

While we must speak up against racism and injustice, I struggled with writing this. As a straight, white woman my voice isn't the one that matters. I'm privileged, imperfect, and still trying to learn to be a better ally.

Instead, it's essential to listen to people of color, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups. It's important to hear their outdoor stories and experiences, understand the misconceptions they face, and support their work, like raising the visibility of black nature enthusiasts through #BlackBirdersWeek.


I'm working to expand the authors and publications I read, and recently added the following to the top of my to-read list:

Amplify Voices

Over the past year I've made the commitment to follow more diverse outdoor voices on social media and beyond. This ensures I regularly see a wider representation of who is getting outdoors and how they're doing so, even if it's virtually.

Seeing people of color, black, indigenous, and LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities hiking, camping, climbing, paddling, skiing, and running makes the outdoors more welcoming and representative for all outdoor enthusiasts. And as followers or subscribers we can help amplify those voices.

Here are a few people and organizations I follow, and some I've recently been introduced to:

Support Increased Access and Inclusion

To better educate myself on how to support people of color, black, indigenous, and other marginalized groups, I've been examining the loads of resources available, such as anti-racism resource lists and resources for white people and parents. In the outdoor space there is information like Diversity in the Great Outdoors: Is Everyone Welcome in America’s Parks and Public Lands? and Five Ways to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive.

The info is out there. Doing the work for change is the hard part. It also can feel uncomfortable. But we can't go very far if we're not willing to travel beyond our comfort zones.

For those of us with the means, we also can support organizations that help increase access for all communities to the outdoors and public lands. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Black Outside's mission is to reconnect Black/African-American youth to the outdoors through culturally relevant outdoor experiences.
  • Big City Mountaineers takes under-resourced youth on wilderness expeditions.
  • Climbers of Color is a Washington State non-profit that aims to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the climbing and mountaineering community by creating leaders of color. 
  • Community Nature Connection increases access to the outdoors for diverse communities through programming and training.
  • Confluence Collective is a community of fly fishers supporting each other through exchange experiences and education opportunities.
  • The National Recreation Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life of youth by investing in recreation programs serving those who are economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged.
  • Next 100 Coalition advocates for greater inclusion of diverse communities in national parks and other public lands.
  • The Outdoors Empowered Network is growing a network of affiliates that get youth outdoors through wilderness leadership training and outdoor gear libraries.
  • The Trail Posse is a non-profit journalism and advocacy project seeking to change the perception of the outdoors to be more equitable and inclusive.
  • Women's Wilderness support girls, women, and LGBTQ+ people in accessing the outdoors and improving their health through outdoor and community connections.

Broader outdoor organizations are increasingly working on issues of inclusion and social justice from an outdoor and environmental perspective.

  • The Nature Conservancy's work includes helping the most vulnerable communities adapt to climate change, as well as working with indigenous peoples and communities.
  • The Trust for Public Land is working to ensure that every child has access to a safe place to play in nature and supporting the efforts of historically marginalized groups to create access to the outdoors through parks and green spaces.
  • The Sierra Club works to expand universal access to nature for children and youth through its Outdoors For All campaign and counts Equity, Inclusion, and Justice among its initiatives.

My Own Work

I am not a person of color, nor am I an expert on racism and social justice. I've worried about saying something wrong or missing an important point that eluded me in my whiteness. I probably have, but it's not about me. Being silently well-intentioned isn't the answer. It's a privileged cop-out.

As the co-founder and leader of Trailspace I need to clearly stand against racism and injustices, welcome all outdoor enthusiasts to our site and the outdoors, and confront my own biases. I also need to do better to make Trailspace a welcoming, inclusive outdoor space, committed to all hikers, climbers, paddlers, skiers, runners, bird watchers, and other nature lovers, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. 

So, I'm continuing to educate myself, listening, and considering how we can share more diverse voices in our own community and make the outdoors—online or underfoot—safe and welcoming for all. 


Well said Alicia! Thank you for posting this.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and your vulnerability to learn from other perspectives...something we can all benefit from doing.

Thanks for highlighting these various resources too. Lots to learn. 

Urban folks at the bottom confront many barriers.  We broach improving access to the outdoors in many different ways, but some barriers are systemic, beyond the scope of TS members and this forum.  I used to play Division 1 football in college.  At the time I was embarking on my pursuit of expedition level trekking and mountaineering.  My black teammates shared four observations they had on the topic:

  1. Blacks don't ski.  They don't like being in the cold.   I asked them to reconcile this with the fact some of our most populous minority cities, are also among the coldest cities to live in the US.  They commented their home town was not a optional weather driven consideration to live there.  That option was taken by their families generations ago, relocating there to flee the south, and secure jobs.  We all know someone who relocated for work or social issues.  These choices carry consequences that often stymie attempts to follow our impulses and discover the wide open outdoors.
  2. Leisure time activities that require expensive gear and time are for "privileged" folks.  The Baltis, Sherpa and other societies proximal to tall mountains were too busy scratching out a living to find time and money for frivolous pursuits, like climbing a mountain for its own sake.  They need what money they have for higher priority needs, and spend longer hours to make the same amount of money as privileged folks.  As the 1980s band, Martini Ranch, observed in the 1988 album, Holy Cow, "how can the laboring man find time for self culture?", when they are working hard and long just to afford the basics?
  3. We are herd creatures.  We do what our friends do and what we see others around us doing.  There are a lack of outdoor types that serve as role models to urban populations.  Thus wood lore is a obscure skill set, and the BC remains intimidating.  It is filled with lions, tigers and bears (and scary ass white boys in cami, obsessed with knives and other symbols of masculinity projecting power, Oh MY!).  Excuse them if they confuse us with rednecks.
  4. We are also creatures of habit.  Taking up a new past time requires changes to routines and outlooks.  Changing human behavior is one of the most difficult of all objective we endeavor.

I found all of their points compelling, and serious obstacles to broadening the urban village dweller's horizons to include extended time experiencing the wilderness


Well Said!!

As a non American white man I wish that all those whom I have met over the last 60 plus years thought and could walk this path to accept colour as their equals. I wish America well in the present troubled times, it is without doubt a great and beautiful country.

I just deleted a lot of thoughts regarding your article, but decided to keep this as short as I am able…

You and others need to keep this OUT of this forum. I do not show up here to read about your emotional issues on anything other than gear and trails. You should keep it that way… otherwise, I too, like many others will start in with their emotions, convictions, etc. and it will spiral right into the cathole just like many other platforms.

So, with all due respect…. Keep your emotions to yourself unless it has something to do with gear or trails. Thanks in advance,

I think experiences in the mountains are fair game on this forum. 

Forty-five years ago I was a counsellor/backpacking guide at a summer camp in the Sierra.  Most of the campers were urban or suburban kids whose parents could afford to send them to summer camp, but about 20% were minority inner city kids on scholarships. 

I remember one trip we took into Yosemite. We hiked in to Youngs Lakes to set up a base camp, then day-hiked over to Mt. Conness to climb it.  At about 11,00 feet there is a large snowfield beneath the steep climb to the summit (12,500 or so).  We told all the kids that anyone who didn't want to climb to the summit could play in the snow there until the rest of us returned from the summit.  There were nine kids in the group--four scholarship kids, and five paid kids. 

Four of the five paid kids decided to stay and play in the snow.  One of them, whose family was big on the outdoors,  joined us to climb the summit.  The four scholarship kids all went for the summit.  That surprised me.

Halfway up the final climb, I turned to one of the most rambunctious and outspoken of the scholarship kids and told him that I was surprised he decided to come with us.

"I didn't get my a$$ all the way up here and then not get to the top of the f***ing mountain," he said.

I burst out laughing---but I remember that line to this day.  I also remember who made it to the top, and who played in the snow. 

Many, many years later, I ran my own company and invited  all the employees on a company retreat--a camping trip in the Sierra.  It was really just an excuse for me to get more camping time, since as the owner of the company I didn't get nearly enough time off. 

We invited everyone, include partners, kids, grandparents, friends, roommates...  And all employees, including interns, temps, part-timers, and the Mexican woman who cleaned the office once a week.

That woman had never been camping before.  She was separated, and was raising four or five kids on her own.  But she came on the trip, and even offered to cook one of the nights (We all took turns cooking for the group.)

Her dinners became a highlight of future trips, and my wife and I have become close friends with her.  But the really cool part of this story is that she had never been camping before.  She had no real idea of what to expect.  But she loved it so much she went back to her own church and led a group of them on their own camping trip the next summer. 

And that still makes me smile.

Freedom is letting people do what they want. 

And we all must be open minded for our own next adventure and those of others. Those adventures may be down the next street or hundreds of miles away. Might be planned, might be a surprise.

Teach and observe and you will learn.

Well said Hersh Johnson. I don't need to hear what you're social issues are. Just stick to gear and trails. There are other forums for this, not here. Oh and while I'm at it ppine that's so helpful, it appears that is what the rioters are doing.

I never understood why when someone doesn't like an open thread comment they can't ignore it. Like a bad page in a book, go to another.

On the trails I travel and have traveled all are equal.

In times of need all turn out to help regardless of race, colour or creed. I remember one foul stormy night in a Fiordland hut when we were all tired cold and wet and realised that a older couple had not arrived. It was dark, lashing rain but we all got dressed in wet gear to go find them. we found them 200 yards from the hut and returned with great joy in their safe though tired return. These were complete strangers to all of us and the fact that one was of asian extraction didn't matter; on the trail we are all fellow travelers and we care for each other.

On Kilimanjaro I was the sole white face in my party, I never felt uneasy but was able to share and enjoy the diverse company. Why can we not be equal everywhere and all the time and not just on the trail? 

Some ethnic and cultural groups have their own bias as to why they don't recreate more in the outdoors.   There have always been groups that are underrepresented. 

As examples, the black people next to my neighborhood had dirt streets, wells, outhouses and houses on cinder blocks.  Black don't like to get dirty compared to white people.  They want indoor plumbing and showers. 

Hispanic people believe in La Familia.  They like to travel in groups more than white people.  They are often not interested in have a picnic with only one picnic table.  They want a group area. 

These observations are not theoretical.  They have been studied a lot in places like the Outdoor Recreation Dept at the U of Washington.   It is not really the place of the NPS or the USFS to encourage outdoor recreation by specific ethnic groups.  They already go out of their way not be be biased based on color, creed or religion. 

balzaccom said:

Her dinners became a highlight of future trips, and my wife and I have become close friends with her.  But the really cool part of this story is that she had never been camping before.  She had no real idea of what to expect.  But she loved it so much she went back to her own church and led a group of them on their own camping trip the next summer. 

And that still makes me smile.

Your stories also made me smile! Thanks for sharing them with us, balzaccom. 

WOW - just when I think I've found a "gear review" website, I am inundated by political and quasi-moral crap like this.

"Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle."

Those who make the most "noise" are the the ones most guilty of the crime ... just saying.

Hi Matt, 

Like it or not natural resources issues and outdoor recreation are highly politicized.  Comes with the territory.  No use pretending it does not exist. 

I am a retired environmental consultant.  One thing I have learned is science plus politics equals politics. 

Ppine that is the most egregious and ugly example of racial stereotyping that I've seen in many, many years.  I wonder what you'd say to Shelton Johnson or Henry Louis Gates Jr. about getting dirty...

So what are white  It's always harder to make gross generalizations about people of your own race because you know them better.  Making such generalizations about other races just indicates your lack of familiarity with them.

About being PC on TS: 
I can see why some don't want to see this kind of thread on TS.  But come on!  Doesn't the title of the article telegraph the subject?  Considering skipping over stuff that doesn't interest you.  We all do it.

Cross talk:
I think people's words and what others think these words mean is creating some of the friction.  If this is to remain constructive, we need to talk more to the topic, and less about the personal character of each other.  



You and I rarely agree on anything.   I went to the first integrated school in the State of Maryland in 1955.  I played basketball with black kids for money on the playground since the age of 10.  I tutored black kids in their homes for years.  I have been a Big Brother.  In high school we went to integrated night clubs in DC.  I know more about black people than most people. 

Reread the reference to the Outdoor Recreation Dept at the U of Washington.  I mentioned their conclusions.  They are not mine. 

Most white people are afraid to talk about race which is precisely why racism is still rampant.  Have the courage to the have discussions about it. 

Ppine.  I think I just did that.  And I stand by my comments. Making generalizations about other races is always easier--but also denies the individuality of others.

So I'll ask my question again.  What are white people like?  

As everyone knows, we are Human Beings, period.  There are no divisions or distinctions beyond this.  Any attempts to self-identity as to a skin color only accents our created concepts of racism.

For example---if I constantly think "I am White" then I am constantly wrong as I am not a color but a human being.

To me, the main metric is:  How much Neanderthal blood do I have???  Which is to say---do I want to live indoors or live outdoors and get my bag nights.  This is my main criteria for judging people.  And life is too short to be indoors.

The indoor-hypnotized humans want to pave over the world with sprawl and development and destroy our last remaining wilderness areas.  I call these people Fireants.

It is a rhetorical question, but I will give you an answer. 

White people on the Frontier in 19th Century did little "camping."  They lived outdoors some of the time and slept outside while traveling.  The first people to camp and stay in lodges were the wealthy starting around 1900.  They were the only part of society that could afford to take a month off and travel great distances.  They mostly wore formal clothes and slept in hotels and lodges.  

Camping in the modern sense started to become popular around WWI.  White people started to value time in the outdoors to relax and get back to nature for the first time as the country became more urbanized. 

The advent of automobiles made access to the outdoors much easier for the average person by the 1930s.  People learned the traditions of camping from family members or were mentored by friends of families.  Still common today. 

After WWII there was another surge in the poplularity of camping.  People missed being outdoors and there was a wave of prosperity.  Roads improved access. 

By the 1950s we were in the golden age of camping.  The National Parks became really popular for the first time.

The Environmental Movement in the 1970s was the next wave of popularity.  RVs start to become popular. 

Completion of the interstate system made travel easier.  Popular media has continued to make camping, RVS and visiting NPs more popular. 

Most black people until recently have never had these experiences.  They often have no family history of camping, or do not know anyone that does.  They have not had mentors. 

You can avoid the subject.  You can say it is all stereotypes.  This is what people that study outdoor recreation have been saying for 50 years. 

Now the whole idea may change as America finally comes to grips with racism for the first time. 

ppine---you forget 20,000 years of living outdoors and "camping" by Native Americans on the North American continent.  And of course the almost 200,000 years modern Homo sapiens have lived "outdoors".

I never forget it Walter.  I worked with 3 Native American tribes in my career.  I had a contract on the Navajo Res for 6 years.  Now Nature is my religion.  I teach Washoe kids to ride horses as volunteer.  My family had a ranch on the South Rim of the GC since the 1880s.  They hired Hualapai Indians to work for them and many took the last name of their employers.  My last name is common on my reservations especially the Hualapai and Paitues in northern Nevada. Old ways are the best ways. 

Our discussion is focused on modern times, which can be arbitrarily defined as since the end of the American Frontier around 1900.

I would love to talk to you some more about Native religion and lifeways and art. 

If we get back to the discussion of race and ethnic groups in the outdoors, I think the real answer is obvious.  Most black people do not feel safe out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of white people sleeping in the open.  I cannot blame them one bit. 

The USFS and the NPS are wasting their time promoting outdoor recreation to ethnic groups until America becomes much less racist.  

I went to school at the U of Maryland in the late 60s and early 70s.  We were 12 miles from the White House.  Demonstrating against the Viet Nam War and for Civil Rights was one of my main interests for years.  We have been here before but have apparently learned nothing in the last 50 years. 

There are several outdoor organizations focused on indigenous individuals and groups in the outdoors, such as:

Also of interest:

Follow Lakota skier Connor Ryan across his homeland in search of backcountry ski potential, and discover the Black Hills ski community. This is the first ever film on backcountry skiing in the Black Hills (aka Paha Sapa) of South Dakota and buttes of Nebraska.

Native peoples have always been connected to the outdoors and nature.  Give me that old time religion. 

Most white people are afraid to engage in discussions about race.  They are afraid they will say the wrong thing or be stereotypical.   This is one of the major reasons nothing has changed much in 155 years since the Civil War the 50 years since two different Civil Rights Acts were passed. 

You have to overcome your fear. 

Actually, Ppine, I suspect that you and I agree on much more than we disagree  But I am deeply resistant to broad generalizations about people, especially those based on race.  Such generalizations do a very poor job of capturing humanity, and humanity is what we need most.

Races (if they are not a false construct entirely) are made up of people with a wide rangee of experiences and beliefs.  We do them a disservice to lump them together and wrap them up in just a few words.

Although, if we take Walter's comment back even further, we are all Africans. 

I understand your point.  We have to make some generalizations in order to have a concept of what is happening and how to change it. 

This brings to mind an old Buddhist saying; The fundamental delusion of humanity is that I am here and you are out there.

At least some of this is not racial. It is cultural.

I won’t make the mistake of exclaiming what anyone else thinks or how they feel. But my grandma was half German and half African. My granddaddy was of Welsh descent, one of the original wild tribes of the British isles before the Angles or the Saxons. They raised five kids in Little Rock, Arkansas if you know anything about that place. Three of their daughters inherited the dark complexion and the youngest was drop dead gorgeous. Nobody but nobody messed with granddaddy and all of those kids went to Central High before the segregation was dealt with on orders to the National Guard. My mother was of Normand Viking descent. I was raised on Native American reservations, moving every few years. One of my ancestors owned a castle in Maidstone, Kent, one as sent to Virginia as Governor in the early 17th century, and at least two of my ancestors may have arrived on these shores in chains, sold to the highest bidder. So I find labels odious and think the key is cultural. This is anything but black and white but that seems to be the easiest label as if it means something.

Good post ghostdog.  Reminds me of a Buddha quote---regarding reincarnation.  "Everyone has been our mother."

I enjoy and learn from, all these posts and viewpoints.

ppine said:

".. Demonstrating.. ..was one of my main interests for years.  We have been here before but have apparently learned nothing in the last 50 years. 

But we have learned (hopefully). 

We learned we hoisted the victory banner too soon.  We learned the campaign for civil rights is a war, not a battle.  Much more work to be done.

We learned bigots are born every second, and they need to be domesticated by society to be good neighbors.  And then there are those who are programmed by parents into being bigots.  The village needs to deprogram cultivated hatred. 

We learned we failed to keep vigilant, and furthermore, slacked off, failing to instill a sense of civil rights activism in the next generation.

We have learned stereotypes persist, that everyone stereotypes.  That is not going away.  The real issue is: do we allow individuals the opportunity to be themselves without being subject to arbitrary preconceptions?  Do we apply the Golden Rule?  


Whites will have to accept other races in America whether they like it or not as they will be a minority in 20 to 30 years!

Entering first grade in the one of the first segregated schools south of the Mason-Dixon Line we were color blind.  I had more black friends than white friends.  By around the age of 10, fourth grade or so we had been taught prejudice from some parents and older siblings.  We got in fights with black kids (called colored people a long time ago)  We used the n word and they called us Crackers.  That lasted to around the age of 12, when we could think for ourselves more. Junior high was pretty good. and by high school we were all friends again. 

Maybe most white people are not afraid to talk about race, they just never think about it because they are white. 

Interesting discussion for sure, better than just reading some tired old gear list posted ad nauseum. We do have an intelligent group here. 

This is a subject that will not go away even if Trump loses by a landslide and Biden gets the old guard to resign and have free and unbiased elections where the presidential race funding is limited to $10,000 to give everyone a fair chance and multiple laws enacted to make all citizens of the USA equal.

Political correctness will not succeed until someone finds a way to change the human mind; in history we all have a deep and psychological distrust of those different from ourselves and an innate wish to destroy those who are different and perceived as a threat to our own culture and way of life.


Ah--but the way to change the human mind is to talk with each other and to listen to each other.  And that's what we're doing right here.  

balzaccom said:

Ah--but the way to change the human mind is to talk with each other and to listen to each other.  And that's what we're doing right here.  

 I couldn't agree more; talk and listen with open mind and respond with open heart, never rude or condescending.

heathcote said:

" history we all have a deep and psychological distrust of those different from ourselves and an innate wish to destroy those who are different and perceived as a threat to our own culture and way of life.


 I think at some level it is of our nature to act tribal and herd-like, that some have these urges more than others, that perhaps it is somewhere lurking in our DNA.  But that doesn't mean it is futile to confront it.

Just like humans have introduced civil morays into how we conduct our sexual activities, so too, society can domesticate whatever primal urge drives us to ugliness.   But this needs to be instilled.  We need the parents and elders to be more engaged with youth.  They are the both the hope and the future.


I think you mean mores, Ed.  Civil morays mainly live under water...LOL. 

But your post is spot on.  

There is also come evidence that our more aggressive side is something that has developed as we began to live in larger and larger urban communities.  Hunter/gatherers may have seen themselves in a very different light--depending on how many carnivores there were around. 

A good book about human evolution is Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. Amazing book. I’ve dabbled in anthropology since college. The Hunter/Gatherer culture is of high interest.

I tend to think of us more like pack animals like wolves but when you see images of water parks and the like herd animals comes to mind too.

We do know our species evolved on the arid savanna on the African continent. Now we have to learn to live more comfortably together in dense urban areas. Can’t let hate hide in the shadows.

This is absolutely absurd. Take your SJW politics and manufactured white guilt someplace else. Whites have every right to enjoy the outdoors they preserved, in the countries that they built and largely maintain. There is no barrier to anyone going outside aside from that barrier they create in their minds. 

Whites have every right to be privileged in their own lands. All other groups have a place to call home, and none of them are taking a knee, they are maintaining racial cohesion and cultural pride. Meanwhile whites are crowded out, attacked from all corners and subverted by cultural Marxism that paints them as the constant oppressor. I can guarantee, that the luxury you have of virtue signalling online won't last long if you'd prefer to be submissive than to assert your place in the world. The place your ancestors fought and died for.

Get woke, go broke...and increasingly...end up dead yourself as we see more and more. They don't want you to be an ally...they hate you and want you gone.  Would you like a breakdown of the inter-racial hate crime statistics? What a joke to bring your political bias and your misguided emotional virtue signalling here. 

Take your racist crap somewhere else. 

It is not enough for Americans to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist. 

>Most black people do not feel safe out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of white people sleeping in the open.  I cannot blame them one bit.

Why? The only racially-motivated trails murder I can find of recent years was a young black man mass-murdering elderly white hikers.

You can find endless articles about black people feeling threatened when in proximity to majority whites, but hang on - wouldn't we say white people who without any evidence "feel threatened" by being around black people are, by definition, racists?

America certainly has a policing problem and it has economic disparity, but there is no evidence that I can find that intra-community violence is disproportionately white instigated.

I apologize to anyone who finds this post inappropriate, but I cannot let certain statements and attitudes go uncontested.  Silence in the face of hate perpetuates the problem.

Wow, that must be some strong Kool Aide you drink, Mr. Steward.

"..Whites.. the countries that they built and largely maintain..."

You mean like America? The place whites came to, and by force took possession from others?  You mean the nation whose infrastructure was built by the toil of non-whites, like the Chinese working the railroad projects and mines, the Iroquois who erected the Empire State Building (and many other high rises), not to mention an entire southern textile trade based on slave economics?  You mean the place where Latin Americans cook your restaurant meal, mow your lawn, and pick your produce?  A lot of these people's forefathers came to America before most whites.  Are they not equally as entitled?  America may be the Augusta National of sovereign nations, but is not a white folks only country club.  NEVER WAS!  Your elitism is laughable, if not galling.  Ivan, did you ever have an American history class?

"..Meanwhile whites are crowded out..."

So you feel crowded out?  I bet the native Indigenous cultures of the Western Hemisphere would identify with your lament...
Or do you mean crowded out like the way whites have displaced other cultures, customs and religions around the globe with Coke, Mc Ds, Levis and JC?  Ivan, stop whining, you give whites a bad rep, and it is hypocritical, given the greater context of our role in world affairs.  I won't get into the fact that much of white American traditions, in their current incarnation, bear little resemblance to what was practiced prior to the 20th century.  It was us, with Elvis posing as Santa Clause - or posing in Hawaiian shirts with assault riffles on state capital steps - that dis-appropriated our own culture.  Both Christmas and Thanksgiving were relatively subdued holidays, prior to the 1920s.  Many other examples, too.  Stop acting like you are the last Mohican of a dying culture.  Quite the contrary, we continue to evolve - into a more perfect union.  How about that for Marxist crap!  So stop trashing your fellow Americans, nothing classy about that.  Regardless what you think, we generally remain the standard other nations aspire to.  

Funny thing - I live in So. Cal, surrounded by a sea of multiculturalism, and I don't feel crowded out.  It kind of feels like being part of a great team, like the New York Yankees, wining, where you are judged by your batting average, not skin color.  I married a Peruvian.  She is a naturalized US citizen.  Her mom's family emigrated to Peru from Japan, back in the early 20th century.  Our daughter is in her third year, at UCLA School of Dentistry.  Her blood harks from every point of the compass rosette.  The melting pot definitely works.

As for my being submissive - HA!  I have long ago decided to stop letting the bullies and crazies run my world.  What you have to say is insane, and your demeanor, bellicose. 

Lastly I note, Mr. Steward, this is your first participation on the TS Forum.  How hypocritical of you to lecture anyone, here, about imposing their political POVs upon the community, when you come from out of nowhere with your vitriol and xenophobia.  But let me be the first to welcome you, here, to the Forum.  I anticipate more colorful remarks from your camp.  Or am I getting trolled by a Russian spambot!?


Short History of America

Europeans came and committed genocide against Native Americans and looted the whole country. 

Then they imported black slaves from Africa against their will to build America. 

Thank you to the community members who have moved this conversation forward with constructive, respectful thoughts and varying perspectives. The issues of racism and racial inequality are complicated, systemic, and long-standing, and they are prone to provoking strong disagreements, but ignoring them isn’t the answer. 

For now, we will keep this comment thread open to allow the Trailspace community a place to thoughtfully discuss issues of race and diversity in the outdoors. However, if further discussion is disrespectful, unconstructive, or a magnet for trolling, we will close it down. 

These debates and issues won’t be resolved here or easily. We all have more work to do.

Thank you.

This whole country was built into a very interesting system before 1492 and it was full of people. An interesting book on that subject is 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. 

It is believed from various evidence that around 90% disappeared almost immediately after the Europeans arrived from lack of immunity so that kind of brings us right back to today’s issues.  COVID-19 is ravaging the Navajo Nation in our state and has surpassed New York for the highest infection rate. They tend to live very remotely from each other though I’ve seen some dense communities. I have been hiking on the Rez and it is amazing.

I like getting out a lot and can see why everyone else does too. 

Blessings and Prayers to All Dine in their time of trouble.  I had a contract at Black Mesa doing mine reclamation for 6 years. 

Life on the Res changed me and now Nature is my Religion. 

There is no need to encourage Native Americans to connect with the outdoors.  They almost invented it. 

ppine said:

Blessings and Prayers to All Dine in their time of trouble.  I had a contract at Black Mesa doing mine reclamation for 6 years. 

Amazing coincidence but you definitely were using my aerial mapping photography in your reclamation endeavors. For more than 30 years I flew up over Black Mesa and mapped everything once a month and did a backup flight 5 or 6 days prior in case of weather. We landed on Black Mesa often. I heard they shut down, one of the biggest coal mines in the United States. It was interesting that all those humongous draglines and even their coal train to the Navajo generating station were all electric. I’m not sad they are gone but I started doing the mapping when I was practically a kid. 

Mr.Peabody's coal train has left the country. The company did some good things for the Navajo Nation.  They sent many employees to college.  They provided free coal for heat, and produced income for  people that have few other sources of it. 

I was mesmerized by watching the big draglines.  They ran on high voltage 440 or 600 volt cable across the sagebrush.  Each one had cartoon character painted on the back.  My favorite was Baby Huey. 

We mostly stayed at Tsegi Canyon which was always an experience.  We took a few evenings off to see Navajo artifacts on the Res.  There were no trails to any of them, only local knowledge.  I can tell stories about the Res as long as you want to listen.  Nature has become my religion. 

Memories are burned in my heart forever.  Native Americans have shown me a new path.

Tsegi Canyon is one of those amusing names.  Tsegi means canyon.  So it's canyon canyon.  Canyon de Chelly falls into that same category, 

Living at Tsegi is decidedly not funny.  We were always the last to get served at the restaurant even after 6 years.  Life on the Res is like visiting a foreign country.  White people get to learn what prejudice feels like.  We got stared at.  After awhile one learns to deal with it.  

Hmmm.  I lived at a Navajo boarding school in high school for a while--one of six gringos in the whole school.  The kids were pretty darn nice to me...but i do remember being woken every morning at about six so that everybody could tune in to the local radio station, which reserved that time for a Navajo language news broadcast.  And it wasn't national news, it was rez and family news.  

I participated in two Sun Dance ceremonies (1999, 2000) on Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota---home of the Sicangu Sioux ("Burnt Thighs").  Everyone camped in July on the hot South Dakotan plains for the 2 week ceremonies and my main job was to work the four sweatlodges set up for the dancers and friends at the Sun Dance.

Albert White Hat ran the Sun Dance along with many other tribal members including Duane Hollow Horn Bear.  Here is a pic of Albert and Duane---

Bernie-Hunhoff-White-Hat-6-19-13.jpgThis pic is from here---

No cameras were allowed at the actual Sun Dance of course and the event was taken very seriously by everyone involved---and you were always being watched by some elder sitting in a lawn chair hundreds of feet away. 

Howard Bad Hand gifted me a Lakota star quilt and it looks much like this---

Pic from---

You learn alot when you have to keep your mouth shut and behave.

Very happy to hear of experiences with Native Americans by others on the forum.  Native religion, lifeways, and culture are totally linked to Nature and living outdoors. 

On the other hand, for many ethnic groups in the US, there is very little if any cultural connection to the outdoors.  It will be an uphill battle by the NPS and USFS to convince people to try outdoor recreation if they are not interested in it.  I don't really see the point. 

The Federal Government might serve the people of the US better by doing their best to eliminate racism in their hiring practices,  treatment of employees, and reviewing their interpretive sites, visitor centers and signage.  

And since we're talking about the National Park Service, sexism is also an issue...

Every Rez I ever lived on was a third world country. No matter how much you are infatuated with their culture you will never be one of them and they will let anyone who thinks otherwise know it. I did like my time therein but the one where I seemed to fit best was a northern Res where many were half Chippewa and half French. Some of them were gorgeous. I know Barbra Peltier, my girlfriend was. Some looked like Michelangelo sculptures. Chippewa are closely related to the Navajo, same Athapaskan language roots. 

I never cared about their religion but did adopt some of their philosophy on the importance of finding the path and then the difficulties of staying on the path. 

I follow Tipi's lead on this topic. 

Yep, if you ever want more than the minimal tourist experience on tribal lands: shut your mouth, listen carefully, respect their rules, express gratitude at every opportunity, and respect the culture and land.  Try to leave it all better off in the wake of your visit, but let people earn it, as there is no pride in receiving charity.

Decades ago, I was sharing a drink with friends in a local bar reservation bar I will not identify, as it is not relevant to the story, when a hulking giant of a man sitting next to me at the bar started talking aggressively at me. 

"I don't like your hat!"  It was a black Stetson with a simple leatherette band I braided.  I had shoulder length hair, blue cotton work shirt under a Levi trucker jacket, pressed jeans, and hiking boots - a typical blue collar space cowboy of the era.  He was burning a hole in my forehead with his stare, not blinking, poker faced.  My friends and I are the only three non-locals present.  Feeling like an outsider was an understatement.

The bar tender says, "Hey Long Tooth, why are you giving that boy a hard time, you just got out of jail.  Yikes! (I still don't know if this was a thing Long Tooth and the bar tender pulled on white boys, or if Long Tooth was sincerely looking for trouble). 

"Well I can see why you don’t like my hat, your hat is practically a work of art!"   He was sporting a clean but worn Mahan lid, with a really nice feather band.

"You like it?" he said, with obvious pride in his face.  "I made it myself.  You want to buy it?"  Oh boy, I thought, how do I get out of this without sounding insincere or disrespectful?

"Well honestly, I can't afford such a fine hat, let alone own two hats: otherwise I'd take you up on your offer." Changing the subject again, I said, "Hey, that cinch on your bolo, did you make that too?  I’ve never seen one like that"  Long Tooth was physically starting to relax back down.  He described its symbology, and that the craftsman was a friend of his.  It had personal significance for him.  As a onetime jewelry designer, I can attest it was finely crafted, nothing like the trading post trinkets you get at the gift shops.

We ended up playing pool, and Long Tooth routed me and my friends. We were hustled!  We ended up closing the bar, and I followed him to a trailer that was home to his friend, admired his silver works, and commented I wish the market would support such fine craftsmanship. This gave the silversmith, Bill, the cue, and he was pitching his work my way.  I told him I did not have the cash on hand, but if I mailed him the money (cash) would he mail back a bolo and cinch, and perhaps a ring?  The deal was struck.  It cost what fine jewelry $$$$hould.  We talked - actually I mostly listened - smoked, and drank well into the evening.  I heard many sad stories, but also many stories of grim determination, pride and hope.  

I left behind the unconsumed spirits.  Mailing the money was an act of faith, but more a commitment to my own word.  About eight weeks later I received two amazing pieces of jewelry in the mail, along with the story behind each piece.  They were better than anything Bill showed me in his studio.  I got far more than what I expected.  I felt humbled, this had to be some of  Bill’s best work, his treasure.  I am terrible on jewelry, so not a suitable guardian for works of this caliber.  I mailed them back, explaining the honor it was to be presented such treasure, but would he please gift these pieces on both of our behalf to one of the council's fund raising events, perhaps a scholarship or healthcare fund?  

I try to engage the local culture wherever I travel, making sure at least a portion of my travel budget ends up directly supporting the sustainability of the indigenous communities of the region, be it the Piutes of Owen’s Valley, the Quechua of Cuzco, or the society at the center of this story.  It is not charity.  It is fair trade, IMO; my attempt at equity for what I came for, compensation for suffering my presence on their lands, and the hope that it helps the community make a better future for themselves.


Good story Ed. 

I used to buy rugs out of people's houses.   I bought some really good jewelry over the years, some by Victor Coochawatya when he as still alive. 

"In order to live outside the law, 

You must be honest."

Bob Dylan

They like to fight Ed, between themselves or others. 

Once I witnessed an act I never forgot. We were all playing soccer and a gopher idiotically wandered into the middle of us. Nobody ever said a word. They instinctively made a circle around it and tightened. Finally it could see no way out and made a last ditch run to escape. A boot expertly caught it square killing it instantly. Everybody went right back to the soccer game with not a word. I came to admire their economy of energy output and their refusal to bring up old negative images.

I once met a man up in the Navajo Nation maybe 7 or so years ago. He interested me immensely. He had been a Marine and reminded me of how patriotic Navajos are. I already knew that all the Native Americans I grew up with were the most patriotic people I have ever known. I asked him to write his name in my field notebook, flipped the page over and he took up two entire pages drawing a stylized mountain range at each cardinal side. Then he put a tiny dot right in the center before going into the oral traditions of his people. He pointed out a blue house in the distance and said a Code Talker from WWII lived there. He spoke of ancient defeats and then pointed out a mountain range to the west and told of a pass where his people constructed a huge log roll and squashed a Calvary troop, then pumped his fist in the air and said yay, score one for us as if he was light heartedly saying Go Dodgers or the like. He indicated he might invite us to grandma’s for some blood sausage but we had to push north into the Utah territories for a couple weeks of canyon country backpacking. I did get him to write down his contact info and he did include his high ancestral name.

I’ve been to a bunch of tribal dances and always find them interesting in their own right but none of those memories compare with the strangely personal vignettes observed in the younger days and later on. I adopted into my own some of the things that impressed me but I never wanted to be anyone else and found satisfaction in finding my own path.

I took my Mom to a Potlatch at the Omak Stampede in eastern Washington years ago.  The family has been in Washington since 1889.  My Mom was on walker then, but hiked across the pasture to see the ceremony.  She was brought to tears by the generosity of people she had never met.  She was the was the oldest person there and gifted many times.  She had a very difficult childhood growing up near Seattle in an old house with no phone, no electricity and a well.   It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.  God Bless the Colville Nation. 

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