Our mission is to promote resilience among Zuni youth, so they will grow into strong and healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. 

We pursue our mission by providing Zuni youth with positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that build on the strengths of their community.

OUR impact

OUR stories



Circles are important symbols. They can represent many things for Native communities, and at ZYEP they take on particular power when we see our children grow into healthy, thriving members of our community — and then teach, mentor, and serve the next generation.

Meet Tahlia Natachu, our executive director. Tahlia was born in San Diego while her mother served in the U.S. Navy. When she was 3 years old, her parents decided the family needed to return home to Zuni.

“They wanted me to grow up in my culture, and I’m so grateful for that,” Tahlia says. “There’s no place like Zuni. I went to school here, and I loved it. There are the challenges that come with lack of resources, but we have so many caring people in this community.”



For Elroy Natachu Jr. and Kandis Quam, the decision to join the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project this year was not a difficult one to make. The 31-year-old cousins, born just a month apart and raised in Zuni, are working artists and business partners — and the nonprofit youth organization is in the process of launching an art apprenticeship program that will give young people the artistic and business skills they need to create thriving art careers of their own.

As in so many Zuni families, art is an intergenerational calling that is deeply rooted in the culture. Natachu’s father is a silversmith, and his mother works with textiles; as a boy, he said he also was exposed to pottery and traditional cooking.

“I had my hands in a lot of things,” he recalled. “I used a sewing machine for the first time at the age of 10."

Quam’s parents and grandparents are artists. Most of the family, she explained, are either fetish carvers or jewelers.



When Tre’ Riley was growing up in the Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico, his little brother attended the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s Summer Camp. It was the first time Tre’ heard about the nonprofit organization, and while he was impressed with its work, he didn’t become a camper himself.

In fact, ZYEP didn’t become part of his life until after high school graduation. During summer 2017, as he was in the midst of earning his associate’s degree from Gillette College in Wyoming, Tre’ found himself searching for something more.

“I received a track and field scholarship to Gillette College, but I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Tre’ recalls. “I knew I wanted to do something for my community. I took an elective class called Foundations of Education, and it gave me this idea that I could work with kids.”



Art has always been part of Cassandra Tsalate’s life. As a child, while her brothers pursued their own interests, she decided to try her hand at drawing. Then she started painting. This affinity for art, she says, was in her blood.

“I grew up in Zuni, inspired by my family of jewelry-makers,” said Cassandra, now 20. “My great-grandma made pottery. I actually wanted to go to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe after graduating from high school, but Covid came. So, instead, I took online classes in studio arts — painting and illustration. Eventually, I want to get into jewelry-making and ceramics.”

This summer proved to be a pivotal one for Cassandra, in more ways than one. She secured an internship at the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center in Zuni so she could pursue her interest in museum studies. She also is a Zuni Agricultural Grantee of the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project, and she discovered ZYEP’s Emerging Artist Apprenticeship Program.



As a child growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, Tara Wolfe had myriad interests, but with a few twists and turns, those interests eventually would converge in the nearby Pueblo of Zuni.

The child of a Zuni mother and Cherokee father, Tara grew up in what she describes as a fairly strict household. While her mother encouraged her to join activities that interested her, she stressed the importance of commitment, giving her best, and family.

“Whether it was basketball, bowling or dance, she never let me quit,” Tara remembers. “It always felt really good to finish what I started, though. That was a lifelong lesson and a core value in my family. This continues to resonate in my own ethics because of my mother’s teaching.”


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Invested into the Zuni community since 2009, with a focus on helping Zuni youth lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


Youth served annually, across 10 distinct ZYEP programs. 80% of ZYEP youth participate in more than one ZYEP program per year.


Of our youth report improved health as a result of participating in our programs.


Of our youth participant’s parents report that participation improved their child’s overall health.