Another Successful Tribal Stewards Field Season Complete

Gena Goodman-Campbell

For the 2022 Tribal Stewards crew, working in different places and seeing the varied scenery of Oregon was a definite highlight, but the mosquitoes, well … not so much.

Tribal Stewards is an initiative designed to give Tribal youth paid hands-on experience completing conservation projects and exposure to a range of natural resource fields and land managers. 2022 marks the third season of this collaboration between ONDA Northwest Youth Corps, and Tribal and federal land management agencies all working in partnership to host a group of Indigenous young adults in Oregon’s high desert and introduce them to natural resources and conservation careers.

Jevon Kindelay and Andrew Mike led this year’s program, with crew members Kiari Bullhead (Standing Rock Sioux), Joseph Dixon (Oglala Lakota), Alyssa James (Diné), Cyrina Kessay (White Mountain Apache Tribe), Dylias Jose (Colorado River Indian Tribes), Sylvester Juan (Tohono O’odham), Malik Martinez (Okanogan Colville), and Amare Ortega. The crew members, who are all students at the Chemawa Indian School in Salem, spent five weeks working on conservations projects with ONDA partners. This was the largest Tribal Stewards crew to date, with participants coming from Oregon, Washington, Arizona and North Dakota. And, as the season came to a close, the highest number of participants reported that they are interested in pursuing a career in a natural resources field — which ONDA was quite excited to see.

Read on for a summary of the impressive work the 2022 Tribal Stewards accomplished. You’ll also enjoy some real life perspective like only a teen can tell it, from crew member Alyssa James, who ONDA spoke with in August.


Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

“Protecting public land is part of my spiritual being. It’s central to my identity to be in wilderness and to see it protected.” Durlin is proud to protect public lands for future generations, saying, “The highlight of my childhood was our family’s weekend outdoor trips. I look forward to my grandchildren having similar experiences outside in their lifetimes, and it wouldn’t be possible without ONDA.”


Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

“ONDA stewardship trips inspire me. I get to learn new things and see new places, and in the process perform important work that improves the wildlife habitat.”


Greater Sage Grouse and Sparrows at Hart Mountain

Greater Sage Grouse and Sparrows at Hart Mountain

Week 1: Fencing springs with Malheur National Forest

For their first week in the high desert, the Tribal Stewards worked with staff from the Malheur National Forest fencing sensitive springs to protect them from livestock grazing.

Building fences was a great experience for the crew. Looking back on the summer, crew member Alyssa James said, "that was the only week that went really fast for us because they [the staff from Malheur National Forest] just kept us busy."

Tribal Stewards collecting seed at Denny Jones

Week 2: Sage grouse habitat restoration with Burns Paiute Tribe

Week 2 took the Tribal Stewards to the Burns Paiute Tribe's Denny Jones conservation property to restore upland sagebrush habitat through cutting encroaching juniper and collecting native seed that will be grown out for future upland plantings. As the temperatures increased, the crew faced a difficult, but ultimately rewarding week. According to Alyssa, "Denny Jones Ranch was very challenging. It was really hot and we did a lot of walking. But I kind of liked hiking around and being out all day working, and then coming back knowing that you’ve lived through the day."

Week 3: Beaver dam analogs with Malheur National Forest

After a hot and dry week at Denny Jones Ranch, the crew traveled back up to the headwaters of the John Day River to do work on beaver dam analogues (BDAs) with the Malheur National Forest. The Tribal Stewards enjoyed getting their feet wet (literally!) with this hands-on work repairing BDAs and splashing around in the creek.

Week 4: Fisheries work with Burns Paiute Tribe

The Tribal Stewards backpacked into a wilderness area for their fourth week in the high desert, working with the Burns Paiute Tribe's fisheries department on their brook trout eradication efforts. The crew spent three days camped at High Lake in the Strawberry Mountains Wilderness catching brook trout using fly rods and gill nets. Brook trout are a non-native species, and the Burns Paiute Tribe is aiming to eradicate them from High Lake (the source for Lake Creek, a tributary of the Malheur River) in order to support the recovery of bull trout and other native trout species.

Alyssa's take on this week: "The fisheries work at High Lakes was really fun — except for all of the mosquitoes!"

Week 5: Trail work at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

The Tribal Stewards finished out their high desert time at the John Day Fossil Beds Sheep Rock Unit maintaining trails with the National Park Service. The crew camped at the historic Cant Ranch and enjoyed a celebratory barbeque on their last night, complete with watermelon, ice cream and pie.

It was a well-deserved send-off following all that the 2022 Tribal Stewards learned and accomplished.

Sage Brown   Website

Tribal Stewards

ONDA launched our Tribal Stewards program in 2019 to provide paid opportunities for Indigenous youth and young adults to work on restoration projects and gain experience in conservation and stewardship […]

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