Explore Outdoors

We asked five of our scholarship recipients to share memories about a special place that demonstrates their relationships with the world. We received five beautiful and unique perspectives that show how our Native scholars honor and connect to their ancestors, heritage, and culture through the land.

Many of us will see parts of our own stories reflected in these stories, and that shouldn’t be surprising. There is so much we share; we live on the same land, we breathe the same air, and we drink the same water.

This Native American Heritage Month we hope to share a greater understanding of who we are and what we dream of. Carry our dreams and hopes with you and help us keep them alive.
Decorative Text DOWNLOAD ALL: Download all of the items on this page.


From Nylana (Navajo Nation)

I’ve always had a relationship with nature because of the stories that I’ve been told. Every creation story involves the environment; it’s a key symbol. After hearing the stories, it made me want to go out and explore nature and connect with it by hiking.

Hikes around the Navajo reservation and surrounding areas are beautiful. Hiking is a great way to reap the benefits of what nature has to offer and it gives us some much-needed therapy.

In traditional Navajo culture, and for those of us who continue to celebrate it, there is a spiritual connection with nature. We respect and connect with ourselves, our identity, and the Navajo spiritual value system of peace and harmony of our minds during the Corn Pollen prayers, a spiritual ceremony to honor, respect, and pray to Earth, Nature, and Universe, which are our Creators.

Hiking is also how I spiritually connect with our holy people gods. Knowing that I walk where my ancestors once traveled and stood takes me to a serene place.

With the growing number of areas that are open to local fracking and pipelines, I see nature is disintegrating. The idea of protecting nature also means we need to protect resources like air, water, sun, land, vegetation, animal life and minerals. Our resources were made without our intervention and provide life to all living beings. We need to preserve them in to connect with the things that make us whole.

Canyons on the Navajo Nation - Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend in Page, Ariz.

From Tasha (Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians)

I am a jingle dress dancer. I love dancing outside in powwow arenas with the fresh air that is filled with prayers being sent to the creator and our ancestors in the afterworld. It is the best feeling.

I’d like to share the story behind the jingle dress and how it is a healing dress. A woman’s granddaughter was very ill. The grandmother dreamt of this dress one night and was told to have her granddaughter wear it and dance in it. After wearing the dress, the granddaughter got well, overcoming her sickness. Since then, women and girls wear these dresses to help heal sick people through prayer and dance.

I am so thankful I’m an Ojibwe woman who can make my own dresses and I pray for our people in this way.

From Blue (Muscogee (Creek) Nation)

I grew up around water in the river bottoms of the Deep Fork in Oklahoma. We only lived five minutes outside of Okmulgee, but the town never felt like home. The woods did. I would spend hours in the woods alone or with friends just exploring the world around me. And I fished and camped on the river alongside cousins and friends. I don’t think there is a single place that holds more memories for me than the Deep Fork. To this day, I still refer to myself as “country” because of the time I spent in those woods and alongside that river.

As my own children grow up, I want them to have that same connection to the land and that sense of smallness one gets when they are deep in the bush and surrounded by nature. After my wife and I finish our graduate programs, I’ll take my kids to Deep Forks. But until that day comes, city parks and ponds will have to do. My little Locv loves traipsing around the trails with me and now he’s at the point where it’s a challenge just to keep up with him!

Photo of child fishing at a pond with two birds swimming by.

Yes, that is Locv by a pond at a city park in Norman, Oklahoma.


From Christen (Blackfeet Nation)

I completely love being outside in the mountains. I often get lost in my head and in the small things that won’t matter in the future as I juggle being a student, working at my job, raising my children, and meeting everyday challenges. When I am in the mountains, I can disconnect from the worries of the world and reconnect with myself and the energy that connects me to this earth.

I find the most peace in the mountains and I love sharing these experiences with my son. Our hikes together define our mother-son relationship and will be something my son will always remember. I hope all the knowledge I have shared with him will get him through any hard times he has in life. Perhaps one day he will spend time outside in the mountains hiking to reconnect with himself when he needs a break from the world.

Photo of a waterfall in Montana

From Brittany (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)

I’d like to share a special place that my children and I hike. It is located on the east side of the Missouri River and overlooks the site of the historic Mandan Indian Village.

The Mandan lived in earth lodges, which are marked at this historic spot. At the end of the walking path along the revise, at the top of this hill, there is a very beautiful panoramic view of the section of the Missouri River that separates the towns of Mandan and Bismarck, N.D. There is also a park there that my children enjoy.

historic Mandan Indian village on the Missouri River in North Dakota

Ways You Can Help

Meet BlueMeet NylanaPhoto of Native student TashaDecorative image with text: Explore outdoorsDecorative image with text: See art recommendations.Decorative image with text: See book recommendationsDecorative image with text: See Recipe recommendationsDecorative image with text: see fim/song recommendations

Decorative Text to return to the Native Heritage Month landing page