WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior announced nearly $3.5 million in 2023 Indian Youth Service Corps (IYSC) grants to eight projects involving more than 20 tribes and tribal organizations. These are the first awards for the IYSC, established by Secretary Deb Haaland as a partner-based program designed to provide Indigenous youth with meaningful, tribally led public service opportunities to support the conservation and protection of natural and cultural resources through construction, restoration, or rehabilitation of natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational or scenic resources. Participants will receive a mix of work experience, basic and life skills, education, training and mentoring.
“Growing up in New Mexico, I helped my grandfather tend to our family’s cornfield. My experiences taught me invaluable lessons about how deep our connection to the earth really is,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I launched the Indian Youth Service Corps to help empower the next generation of Native leaders as they engage in the co-stewardship of public lands and the application of Indigenous knowledge. The Corps will help these young people strengthen their connection to the lands and waters that their ancestors have cared for since time immemorial.”
“This program provides vocational skills training and career development opportunities for Native youth while also making a real impact in our efforts to protect and conserve our natural and cultural resources,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “Providing access to nature early and often will help foster the next generation of Indigenous land stewards.”
The IYSC is implemented by the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce and follows guidelines that were established in consultation with Indian tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other stakeholders.
The first grant awards announced are designed to help develop tribal capacity in conservation, natural resource management, and climate resilience. They also provide tribes and tribal organizations with financial resources that enable them to invest in, train and recruit a new generation of skilled Indigenous workers.
The 2023 Indian Youth Service Corps grants were awarded to:
- Wood for Life (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado) – $1 million awarded to expand the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps’ Wood for Life Program, engaging Native youth from the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of Zuni, and Pueblo of Isleta in reforestation efforts, wildland fire mitigation, and forestry, while also supporting local tribal fuel and firewood needs. Additional program coordination support will be provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
- Ahtna Cultural Heritage Youth Program (Alaska) – $560,000 awarded to the Ahtna Cultural Center, located within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, to promote federal-tribal co-stewardship and expand job opportunities for Ahtna Incorporated’s Native youth. Additional program coordination support will be provided by the U.S. National Park Service.
- Wabanaki Youth in Science Program (Maine) – $528,119 to fund a corps comprised of Native youth from the Wabanaki Nations (Mi’kmaq Nation, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Penobscot Nation) to promote the transfer of Indigenous knowledge, expose Native youth to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and careers, and bolster federal-tribal co-stewardship efforts.
- Traditional Farm Corps (New Mexico) – $480,223 to fund new Native youth corps in collaboration with the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of Isleta, and Pueblo of Zuni. Youth will work to restore local Indigenous food systems through agriculture, seed saving, and intergenerational knowledge sharing. The project will revitalize traditional food sovereignty and promote access to fresh, locally sourced foods for the communities served.
- Hopi Youth Service Corps Program (Arizona) – $300,000 to fund a Native Youth corps comprised of Hopi youth in collaboration with the Hopi Tribe and Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps to restore, protect and preserve the cultural landscape on the Hopi reservation.
- 7Gen Service Corps (South Dakota) – $300,000 awarded to Siċaŋġu Co. to provide interdisciplinary and experiential learning internships for youth of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Opportunities will center on Indigenous land and natural resource management, bison restoration, regenerative agriculture, cultural resource management, language revitalization, Indigenous knowledge, and community and workforce development.
- Connecting System Impacted Native Youth to Careers in Natural Resources (New Mexico) – $250,000 awarded to the Urban Native Barrio Corps (Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps and La Plazita Institute) to engage Native youth and young adults from the greater Albuquerque area to provide restorative justice programming and technical training in environmental conservation and natural resource management. Additional program coordination support will be provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Intergenerational Natural Resources Summer Youth Camp at Coronado National Forest (Arizona) – $48,400 to benefit Native youth from tribal communities surrounding Coronado National Forest, including 12 federally recognized tribes with ancestral ties to the forest (Ak-Chin Indian Community, Fort Sill Apache, Gila River Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, Salt River Maricopa Indian Community, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Tohono O’odham Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Yavapai Apache Tribe). Additional program coordination support will be provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
Program activities can include research projects, oral histories, habitat surveys, climate mitigation, trail restoration, invasive species removal, fire fuels reduction, watershed restoration, recreational expansion and the development of educational, informational or communication materials for the public.
IYSC projects will promote self-determination and economic development and can take place on tribal lands or on federal lands where tribes have ancestral connections. All projects on tribal lands will be designed and managed in a collaborative fashion, including nation-to-nation consultation prior to the start of any project.