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ZUNI, NM (Aug. 15, 2023) — This month, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project will be taking three of its art apprentice students to Grand Canyon National Park to participate in the Grand Canyon Cultural Demonstration Program. They are LaShea Harris, 24; Chasady Simplicio, 19; and Cassandra Tsalate, 21.

All three young people participated in ZYEP’s Emerging Artist Apprenticeship program, and Harris and Tsalate also completed the Advanced Artist Apprenticeship program. While Harris focuses on Zuni Pueblo embroidery, Simplicio creates Zuni Pueblo weaving, and Tsalate produces Zuni Pueblo pottery.

“This is an exciting opportunity for them, because this program is usually for established artists,” said Elroy Natachu Jr., ZYEP’s art coordinator. “Our operations manager, Josh Kudrna, built connections there during a cultural hiking visit this past spring, and then they reached out to us.”

“They want to support youth artists,” explained Kandis Quam, ZYEP’s assistant art coordinator. “It’s really special that they asked for youth participants.”

Both Natachu and Quam have participated in the program in the past, as independent artists. With a laugh, Quam noted, “I think we were the youngest at that time!”

The three artists will be participating in the Grand Canyon Demonstration Program on Aug. 22-24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Demonstrations are free and open to the public, and they take place at various locations at and around Desert View Watchtower, the easternmost developed area along the park’s South Rim.

“(We are) excited and honored to host LaShea Harris, Chasady Simplicio and Cassandra Tsalate, first-time artists from Zuni, as part of the Grand Canyon Demonstration Program,” said Dan Pawlak, cultural demonstrator program manager. “While at the canyon, they will be interacting with the public to share their stories, experiences and culture in their own words.

“Also, they will be participating in a Grand Canyon Speaks evening program, which will be an interview with a ranger on the rim of the Grand Canyon just before sunset,” he continued. “On behalf of Grand Canyon, we are ecstatic to have LaShea, Chasady and Cassandra here — to sharpen their skills working with the public and to feel comfortable (as they) confidently share their talents as graduates from the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project.”

Grand Canyon has been home to 11 tribes for generations, which means it is more than a national park, a World Heritage Site and a natural wonder of the world. It’s also a sacred space for entire peoples: Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Yavapai-Apache, Kaibab band of Southern Paiute, Las Vegas band of Southern Paiute, Moapa band of Southern Paiute, Paiute Indian Tribes of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, and Zuni.

The purpose of the Cultural Demonstration Program is to give members of those 11 traditionally associated tribes a voice at Grand Canyon by supporting interactions with the public through demonstrations of traditional Native practices and crafts. Made possible by grants from the Grand Canyon Conservancy, the program began in 2014 and continues to grow.

“LaShea, Chasady and Cassandra will be meeting people from all walks of life, and from all over the world, as they showcase and sell their work,” Quam observed. “They were surprised and honored when they found out about this, and I’m excited for them. They’re ready for this opportunity. I feel like a proud auntie.”

“They’re already trained to go to this next step,” Natachu agreed. “They’re ready to learn more and to add more layers, from the demonstration itself to customer service and talking about the cultural aspects.”

While the group will have opportunities to visit a few of the tourist sites along the South Rim during their visit, their main focus will be their artwork and strengthening connections to their Zuni roots in this sacred place. They depart Zuni for Grand Canyon on Aug. 21 and will return home on Aug. 25.

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.

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