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ZUNI, NM (Feb. 27, 2023) — Next month, eight youth participants will join the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project on a backpacking trip in Grand Canyon National Park. Scheduled for Mar. 13-16, the trip will accommodate young people ages 16-24 and involve three nights of camping.

ZYEP Youth Development Coordinator Kiara “Kiki” Zunie and Physical Activity Coordinator Josh Kudrna, who has medical training and expertise in outdoor recreation programming, will lead the trip. A cultural advisor also will be on hand to share traditional wisdom and guidance regarding how to engage with this important place appropriately, and give offerings during the visit on behalf of the Zuni community.

“This visit is becoming a staple program for us because of the significance it holds on various levels,” said Tahlia Natachu, ZYEP’s executive director. “Our entire community helped plan this program to ensure that it is culturally appropriate and identify our intentions. We love how this opportunity increases the accessibility and equity in outdoor recreation, shows our young people where our resilient ancestors came from, and emphasizes the importance of Zuni people still having the right to access these spaces.”

“There is a specialness in coming to the ancestors and gaining understanding in their perspective of place and the paths they took that brought the Zuni people to where they are today,” Kudrna said. “We also take time to introduce our youth participants to the systems that manage these places, and how to access them comfortably, so they can return and connect with ancestral spaces on their own terms.”

On Monday, Mar. 13, the group will drive from Zuni to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and set up their first camp at the top of the South Rim. Kudrna says he expects they will have time to do some sightseeing before making dinner and delving into the evening’s discussions.

On Mar. 14, they will hike the steep, 7-mile South Kaibab Trail to the bottom of the canyon. The park’s tribal liaison will join them and share information about the ways the park collaborates with the tribe, the significant spots that are being protected, and other insights ranging from history to access.

The group will set up camp at the Bright Angel Campground on the Colorado River. While they’re at camp, Kudrna said they hope to connect with the backcountry rangers who are stationed in the bottom of the canyon.

On Mar. 15, campers will have a little time to relax and embrace their connections to this sacred space before beginning a 5-mile ascent up the Bright Angel Trail to the Havasupai Gardens Campground. The next morning, the group will finish the last 5 miles on the trail and return to Zuni by the end of the day on Mar. 16.

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.