Moving Forward Initiative - A Letter From our Project Director: May 9, 2018

An update and reflection on the Moving Forward Initiative from Capri St. Vil, Project Director for the Moving Forward Initiative and Director of Education and Workforce Development at The Corps Network.
 


Greetings,

Last year, The Corps Network (TCN) launched its Moving Forward Initiative, which is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  The primary purpose of this initiative is to expand career exposure and increase employment in conservation and resource management for young adults of color. To move in this direction, TCN will explore unconscious bias and structural racism within our own organization, our member Corps, and America’s land management agencies.

As a foundation for this work, we have developed a series of blogs, that can be viewed on our website. To date, these blogs have focused on what I call “facing history.” Through these blogs we hope to present historical information, giving all of us the opportunity to explore and better understand the “why” behind the lack of diversity in the conservation and environmental fields. 

The next set of blogs in this series, which will be presented later this month, will focus on critical race theory.  Critical Race Theory is a “theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law and power.”[1] For this exploration, we will be supported by several academics and experts in the field. 

When looking at the concept of race through a critical race theory lens, it is necessary to understand that race is a socially constructed concept and not one that is biologically grounded and natural.  However, even though scientists have determined that race does not exist, this does not, nor has it stopped society from using racial distinctions to define and divide us. These racial distinctions have been supported by different institutions, including the media. To better understand the social construction of race, our first guest blogger, Dr. Shantella Sherman, whose area of study is Eugenics, will focus on a statement by National Geographic in its recent issue on race (The “Race Issue,” April 2018). National Geographic began the article with this bold statement, "For Decades, Our Coverage was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.”

As someone who taught media/cultural studies for nine years at Seattle Central Community College and at Antioch University Seattle, I am aware of the role that the media plays in constructing and naturalizing our conceptions of race. I am drawn to the words of Dr. John Edwin Mason, a University of Virginia professor who studies the histories of Africa and Photography, who made the following statement when National Geographic asked him to examine their works.

“Through most of its history, National Geographic, in words and images, reproduced a racial hierarchy with brown and black people at the bottom, and white people at the top.”

There was a complete absence of urban, educated Africans in the magazine’s pages... Black people were presented as static, primitive and non-technological, often unclothed or presented as savages... And that image, which persisted until the 1970s, shaped how the magazine’s readers — largely white and middle class — perceived black people.[2]

We define the Moving Forward Initiative as a journey, and we have looked for support from various individuals and organizations on this journey, with one of them being “Equity in the Center,” who recently released their report, “Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture.” In using their words, “Equity in the Center works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase racial equity. We envision a future where nonprofit and philanthropic organizations advance race equity internally while centering it in their work externally.”

In addition to partnering with Equity in the Center, we have sought the assistance of a facilitator for the Moving Forward Initiative, Juanita C. Brown, who will lead our discussions on FLEEP (an internal social media and messaging platform), as well as assist us with conference calls, virtual meetings, and webinars. We will also continue working with The People’s Institute for Survival Beyond and offering opportunities for our Members and constituents to attend PISAB’s “Undoing Racism” workshops.

I invite you to join us on this journey.  In the coming weeks, you will hear more from me about these and other forthcoming aspects of the MFI, and I apologize to all of you for my silence to date. I will end with this statement from National Geographic in setting the stage for this continued work, “We hope you will join us in this exploration of race, beginning this month and continuing throughout the year. Sometimes these stories, like parts of our own history, are not easy to read. But as Michele Norris writes in this issue, ‘It’s hard for an individual—or a country—to evolve past discomfort if the source of the anxiety is only discussed in hushed tones.’”

Let’s begin the journey. I hope you will join us.

 

Thank you.

Capri St. Vil
Director of Education and Workforce Development
Project Director for the Moving Forward Initiative



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/13/business/media/national-geographic-race.html

 

Protecting the Monarch Through Public Education


Video by The Corps Network, featuring fun facts about monarchs collected from Outreach & Education Corpsmembers, both past and present.
 

Internship program through Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa gives young science professionals a chance to interact with the public and help the monarch butterfly

Monarch butterflies are in decline. A 2018 population report, which counts monarchs overwintering in Mexico, showed a 14.77 percent decrease from the previous year. Much of this can be attributed to habitat loss, pesticide application, and other human activities. One important way to stem this loss is through providing public education and good information. The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is designed to do just that.

Housed at the University of Minnesota, the MJV is an information clearinghouse on monarch conservation. Representing a collective of 80 partners across the United States, ranging from local nature centers to federal agencies, the MJV seeks to align conservation efforts and ensure citizen scientists and professionals alike have access to the best data and practices.

However, to supplement the outreach efforts of their eight-person staff, the MJV partnered with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI), a program that engages young adults in hands-on environmental service. With funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and support from The Corps Network, the MJV and CCMI created the year-long Outreach and Education Corpsmember position in 2015. This program gives young professionals the opportunity to immerse themselves in conservation science and make an impact on the public.

Why is monarch conservation important? We asked Cora Lund Preston, the first Outreach and Education Corpsmember.

“Monarchs are an ambassador for all other pollinators,” she said. “Their beauty, incredible migration and dramatic decline have become a rallying cry for pollinator conservation across North America. Creating habitat for monarchs also benefits honeybees, native bees, other pollinators, and even other wildlife.”

One responsibility for the Outreach and Education Corpsmember is to present about monarchs at fairs, conferences, school events, and other gatherings. Cora, who now works as the MJV Communications Specialist, remembers nervously rehearsing her lines on the hour-long drive to her first presentation. Though she had conservation experience, monarchs were a completely new topic for her. As it turned out, Cora had nothing to worry about. The group was eager to learn about the monarch lifecycle and how to plant milkweed and nectar flowers.

Having a background in insect biology is certainly not a requirement for the Corpsmember position. Aislyn Keyes, the current Corpsmember, recently received her degree in marine biology.

“It’s so important to try things that are outside of your immediate field,” said Aislyn. “Resource management can be a hard field in which to find secure positions, especially if you only look at specific jobs. Each type of job offers unique skillsets that complement each other. The more well-rounded you are, the better!”

Another responsibility for the Outreach and Education Corpsmember is to create and distribute resources. During her time with the MJV, Cora led the creation of Parks For Monarchs, a guide for land managers. Shelby Kilibarda, the Corpsmember for the 2016 – 2017 season, who now works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, developed the Monarch Highway Map, which depicts how monarchs migrate to Mexico along the I-35 corridor. Aislyn created a Monarch Conservation Efforts Map that shows conservation activities happening across the continent.

However, it’s those interactions with the public that are incredibly important.

“One particularly memorable experience for me was at the Minneapolis Monarch Festival in September,” said Aislyn. “I was taking a group of families to release a tagged monarch. I asked all the kids to form a circle and put their hands in. The parents stood around watching as I placed the monarch in their children’s hands. The monarch sat for a brief moment and everyone admired it in silence. When it took off, [everyone’s] eyes lit up in excitement. It was so special to see the impact such a small organism can have on people.”


Facts about Monarchs shared by Monarch Joint Venture Outreach and Education Corpsmembers:

Did you know?

  • Monarchs grow 2,000 times their size in the 10-15 days they spend as caterpillars. That’s like a human baby growing to the size of an elephant in two weeks.
  • The chrysalis doesn’t form around monarch caterpillars. Instead, the caterpillar’s exoskeleton splits down its back and the chrysalis is revealed underneath.
  • Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed (there are over 100 species of milkweed in the United States), but adult monarchs eat nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • In the late summer and fall, adult monarchs that live east of the Rocky Mountains will migrate up to 2,000 miles forested mountaintops in Central Mexico, where they have never been before. Monarchs that live west of the Rockies, however, migrate to groves of trees along the Pacific Coast in California.

 

African American Connections to Green Spaces in Chicago During the Great Migration: A Conversation with Dr. Brian McCammack

The Corps Network’s Moving Forward Initiative – supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation – seeks to address bias and structural racism in the conservation workforce and help increase the employment of young adults of color in public lands management and conservation-related careers.

As part of this initiative, we aim to provide information to help people develop a foundation to understand the history, policies, practices and societal dynamics that have shaped our country and the conservation field. 

Brian McCammack is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Lake Forest College in Illinois. He is the author of, among other works, Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago. We spoke to Dr. McCammack about his research into the intersection of environment and race in the Midwest during the “first wave” of the Great Migration.

 


What was the Great Migration?

The first wave of the Great Migration, which my research focuses on, is dated to roughly between 1915 and 1940; the quarter-century or so between World Wars I and II. This is a time when you have 1.5 million African Americans leaving the South for the urban North and settling in cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.

This movement is driven by racial oppression in the South, the tenant farming system, the rise of Jim Crow, disenfranchisement. There are also the labor demands of WWI in the North, the hope of making a better life, finding better jobs, and having at least more of a semblance of equality.

Chicago in particular, along with New York, are the two epicenters of the Great Migration. Chicago’s African American population grew extraordinarily during this period. Between 1910 and 1940, the African American population more than sextupled. Before the Great Migration, only 44,000 African Americans lived in Chicago; by 1940, on the eve of WWII, you have more than a quarter-of-a-million. This dramatically changes not just the demographics of the city, but the culture. You also begin to see, in really stark ways, the beginning of segregation patterns.

Part of what my research aims to do is push back on this notion that the kinds of environments where African Americans found themselves and were able to visit in the city were exclusively tenement houses and unhealthy environments. That really becomes too much of the story and discounts the ways African Americans found slices of the outdoors, both inside and outside the city.

 



From Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal
 

Can you talk about African American enrollment in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Chicago area?

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is created during the 1930s. An interesting thing about that for me is that during the Great Migration – and I’m painting with very broad strokes – you see African Americans leaving manual labor jobs that are directly connected to the soil, whether you’re talking about tenant farming or extraction industries in the South. They’re leaving a lifestyle of knowing the land through labor. Then, when they move north, African Americans are, by and large, getting jobs in factories. In many cases, migrants are leaving the South expressly to get away from knowing nature through labor, because tenant farming was an exploitative relationship. Industrial jobs in the North are arguably just as exploitative, but they do pay better and there is slightly more of a chance for advancement.

When the CCC forms, tens of thousands of young black men – who either themselves migrated out of the South when they were young children, or whose parents migrated out of the South to escape outdoor manual labor – are now going back to the land.

So that chapter of my book explores what it means for African Americans in the North, in the midst of the Great Migration, to go back to the land and know it through labor rather than through leisure, which, increasingly during the Great Migration, is how many African Americans come to experience and seek out nature. The CCC is an outlier – a callback to a relationship with nature that thousands of African Americans had left behind in the South.

 


Considering many of these young men or their parents had escaped exploitative labor on the land in the South, how would young African American men have perceived the CCC? Was it seen as a good opportunity?

A big draw was the dollar-a-day wages. They’re making thirty bucks a month. In the midst of the Depression, the chance to be able to support your family was huge.

In Chicago, you have up to about half the employable African American population out of work. People are literally going hungry. They’re being evicted from their homes. You have people sleeping in the parks in Chicago. There’s a PBS documentary about the CCC, and you see that many enrollees look back fondly on the Corps because you’re getting three meals a day, clothes, new shoes. All of that is beneficial.

And many enrollees liked the labor outdoors. I would imagine just as many probably didn’t like it, no different than any population doing hard manual labor outdoors in all the elements.

The wages, the food, the clothes, and you’re helping out your family and getting job training. The training white enrollees received, based on my research, is generally better. There were more opportunities for advancement in the CCC for white enrollees. But, for all enrollees, there were classes you could take after your day in the field. There were also sports the CCC, promoted to boost morale.

There definitely were some positive aspects of the CCC. However, some of my work focuses on thinking about the ramifications of how the CCC was segregated, even in the North. In this period, we have white officers who are commanding segregated CCC companies. And while several sources, including the Chicago Defender, the biggest black newspaper in the country, say the segregated African American camps near Chicago were some of the best in the country, a lot of black Chicagoans and other black Illinois residents are going to camps in downstate Illinois or elsewhere in the Midwest, where white officers are frequently, and I think rightfully, accused of racial bias and racial intimidation.

So, getting back to the Great Migration, there is this real tension between how moving to places like Chicago gave African Americans a way to assert themselves and find a greater measure of equality than they were able to find in the South. And oftentimes with the CCC, you have these white officers who are treating black enrollees as if they were sharecroppers. The tension is in the feeling that these young men, these products of the Great Migration, have taken a step backwards by enrolling in the CCC, despite all the benefits.

 



From livingnewdeal.org
 

What do you feel is the legacy of the CCC for African American enrollees? 

I think it does, at least temporarily, lead to an increased connection to nature. However, after WWII, you have an even greater wave of migrants to cities like Chicago. This second migration really dwarfs the first wave and leads to intensified segregation and a further restriction of opportunities for African Americans in urban centers to really connect to nature. So, I think there’s this window in the 30’s when African American enrollees – and there’s roughly a quarter of a million nationwide – who are connecting to nature, and I think hold that with them for the rest of their lives. But, the material reality of what comes after this period is the creation of barriers to maintaining that connection to nature.

The biggest CCC project I write about is north of Chicago – building what’s called the Skokie Lagoons – taking all this marshland and basically digging it out and trying to create lakes connected by channels so there’s flood control and you can develop the land around it. This space also becomes a leisure retreat for those who live nearby. The sad reality is that this is on the far North Side of the city, which is almost entirely white. This is the kind of segregation that I’m talking about, that pretty much restricts African Americans to the South Side of the city, far from all these places where enrollees worked. The products of their labor are actually enjoyed by middle class whites.

For enrollees, I think the story is one of personal connection to nature during that period when they’re in the CCC, but there are these broader structural forces that, once these enrollees exit the program, really prevent them from maintaining those connections. Even if they’d enjoyed their time in the CCC, even if they found it productive from the standpoint of connecting to nature, it becomes harder and harder to do that in the post-WWII era.

As far as job opportunities, you can’t discount the training in the CCC and the way it helped African American enrollees learn skills they could actually apply. However, it’s also worth noting that African Americans were likely to stay in the CCC longer. They’d stay for six months, then re-up for another six months, or even stay longer. Especially during the Depression, it was harder for them to find jobs due to racial discrimination. Last hired, first fired. Even when the economy starts picking up in the late ‘30s, the white working class is the first to benefit. The African American working class – the kinds of young men that are in the Civilian Conservation Corps – really don’t see the fruits of that until industrial production ramps up with WWII.

 


Can you talk about green spaces that African Americans sought out or created for themselves as they moved North? For those who settled in cities, what were the opportunities to get outdoors?

I think one of the biggest reasons connecting with green spaces was so important for migrants was because it was intertwined with connections to Southern folk culture. Being able to connect with the environment is a way to connect with the rural lifestyle you left behind. A lot of migrants didn’t necessarily want to leave the South; they were essentially forced to leave because of the racially oppressive and violent policies afflicted upon them.

The sad story is that they find racial oppression in the North, it’s just different. The majority of migrants in the Great Migration aren’t living in suburban environments. They are, by and large, restricted to the more cramped, rundown and unsanitary portions of the city. So, if they’re connecting to green spaces, chances are it wasn’t privately owned green spaces. Most of the working-class migrants coming to Chicago don’t have a yard, don’t have room or time to cultivate a garden. There certainly were black Chicagoans who did that, but I think that was more of an exception. So, if they’re seeking aspects of nature, they’re doing so in public spaces. They’re becoming modern urban dwellers, seeking out green spaces just like every other working class modern urban dweller seeks out nature in city parks, in the beaches, in the forest preserves around the city. And, if you have little bit more money, going on vacation at a rural resort.

A lot of black Chicagoans, especially those who were more well-off, went to resorts. The most well-known one that I write about is in Idlewild, MI. Several hours away from the city, a self-segregated African American resort colony springs up, and this is only the most notable of them. This is happening all over the country on various scales.

The predominant story, however, is that these urban dwellers would, maybe on a Sunday – the one day off they have each week – go with their family and friends to a city park and just hang out. One of the things I write about is playing music – ukuleles and things like that – on the tennis courts in Washington Park, a massive 371-acre Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park that’s built in the late 19th century, when African Americans didn’t live anywhere near it. But as the “black belt” on the south side of Chicago expands further, it ends up abutting this huge park. By the 1930s, it becomes a de-facto black park.

 


So Chicago’s parks were at least informally segregated?

Yes, I think that would be the best way to put it. “De-facto segregated.” There weren’t necessarily signs posted. However, to give you an example, look at Jackson Park Beach on the South Side of the city. African Americans began using the lakefront and continued to push south as the black belt expanded. They’re going to beaches that are closest to where they live and work. Well, the white folks who lived in Hyde Park and elsewhere and were using Jackson Park Beach – and there’s no official explanation for how this came to be – but there was a fence erected on the north end of Jackson Park Beach and it was just generally known that African Americans were only to use the north end of that beach and whites reserved the longer, sandier, better portion of the beach for themselves. If an African American ventured to the southern portion of the beach, they were risking violence. This is how the race riot started in the city in 1919. A young African American boy – 17 years old – unwittingly floats too far south into what whites were trying to protect as a whites-only beach. A stone is thrown at him and he drowns, and it touches off this race riot.

So yes, parks were not officially segregated, but, if you were to interview folks who grew up in Chicago in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they’ll say you just knew you couldn’t go to the white recreation areas. And that line keeps shifting over time. Washington Park was a white park up to the 1920s. Then there’s this decade of transition and, by the ‘30s, whites basically abandon their use of Washington Park.

 


One thing we want to examine is why the environmental movement looks how it does today. Why has it lacked diversity? From your perspective, do you see any historical context for why the conservation movement and our land management agencies are predominantly white?

That’s sort of my next project, actually. Figuring out how environmentalism stayed white is basically the argument of my second book – it’s still in its infancy.

I think there are a lot of reasons. The Civilian Conservation Corps gives you one indication. I think a lot of white enrollees look back fondly on their time in the CCC, and I think that’s true for many black enrollees, but that vastly different labor context that we talked about taints that connection to the environment.

In the period right after the Civilian Conservation Corps, you have mass suburbanization, white flight from city centers, and hundreds of thousands of additional African American migrants pouring into city centers. Opportunities to connect to nature, whether you’re talking about city parks or forest preserves, or even the wilder spaces where CCC companies worked, they become more restricted because of suburbanization and these structural barriers that are erected in the post-WWII era.

If you look at the decade after that, when the environmental movement is coming about in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it’s mainly a middle class white movement. One thing I’ve talked about and written about before is the Black Panthers talking about environmental justice issues: pollution in the cities, inadequate garbage removal, disease, and other issues that afflict their communities in the ‘60s. They’re talking about stuff that the Clean Air Act helps resolve. However, by the time you get all that legislation on the books in the early ‘70s and the environmental movement becomes institutionalized and more of a lobbying and litigation movement rather than a grassroots movement, it begins to wholeheartedly ignore African Americans and issues that concern people of color in favor of promoting rural and wild spaces.

And that’s how you get the environmental justice movement springing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. You have people of color saying the environmental movement and conservationists are not representing our interests. And it’s only in the past decade or two that I think environmental groups have made a conscious effort to diversify their ranks, to address issues that matter to people of color, to get more people of color into the national parks. There’s still a long, long way to go.

The story I tell about the 1920s and ‘30s is the beginning of institutional barriers that prevent African Americans and other people of color from accessing nature. The barriers that come up in that post-WWII era dwarf the ones I write about in the 1920s and ‘30s. This is a story of mass suburbanization, redlining, residential segregation, disinvestment in communities of color and the lack of opportunities afforded them. All of that has an impact on the ability of African American families to maintain connections to nature. I think we’re still dealing with that legacy today.

 


Can you elaborate on what some of those barriers were that came up in post-WWII era that would’ve separated African Americans further from opportunities to enjoy green spaces?

The vast majority of African Americans who migrate to places like Chicago settle in city centers and the white tax base flees in droves. You have massive disinvestment in cities in this post-WWII era, and that has a tangible effect on places like Washington Park. Just walking into Washington Park, you can tell it doesn’t receive the kind of maintenance it needs. This is something I touch on briefly in the epilogue of my book, but all of those social problems that come along with disinvestments in communities – drugs, violence, gangs – that’s not confined just to city streets. That spills into park spaces and makes them uninviting places to go. All the issues that afflict black communities during what historians call the “urban crisis” in the ‘60s and ‘70s – that has a tangible impact on the experience of green spaces in the city. Parks became places that weren’t safe to let your kids run around.

The same sort of thing happens in a place like Idlewild, which was a retreat for middle and upper class African Americans. With the collapse of formal segregation barriers in many places in the post-WWII era, African Americans have no reason to maintain their own segregated resort any more. So you see a disinvestment in Idlewild. The resort is sort of in a remote, not exactly picturesque part of Michigan. If you could be on a nicer lake, or right on the coast of Lake Michigan, why wouldn’t you want to be there? However, this place where African Americans had traditionally connected with nature disappears. So that’s just one example of a way that African Americans’ connections with nature are severed in the post-WWII era.

 


For your consideration:

  • To this day, people of color are underrepresented among visitors to parks and other green spaces. What steps can be taken to make parks more accessible and inclusive?  
  • In your community, do you see any “de facto segregation” of parks or other outdoor spaces?
    • If yes, what are some reasons this might be happening? Is this de facto segregation problematic and, if so, what steps can be taken to integrate outdoor spaces?
    • If no, in what ways do you believe outdoor spaces in your community have been able to maintain visitation and use by diverse populations?
  • During our intervirew, Dr. McCammack discussed how there was tension among Chicagoans about the “proper” way to utilize green spaces. Some people looked down on new comers to the city who used the park for Southern folk traditions, like outdoor baptisms. In your experience, have you seen tension among different park visitors? Do you believe these tensions ever fall along racial, ethnic, or class lines? Have you ever been made to feel like you were using an outdoor space “improperly”?
  • Dr. McCammack discusses how one reason why the mainstream environmental movement has remained predominantly white is because the movement has traditionally ignored issues that are relevant to communities of color. What environmental issues concern you most? Do you feel like these issues get adequate attention? What are some reasons why these issues may or may not receive attention? 
  • For Corps: Do you make it a priority to engage in green spaces that can be enjoyed by all members of a community? Do your Corpsmembers serve in spaces that they can readily access during their free time? Would your Corpsmembers feel comfortable recreating in all the spaces where they serve? 

The CCC Indian Division: Native Americans in the Civilian Conservation Corps


Via WPAToday, YouTube: "During the New Deal era, tens of thousands of Indians enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps. This brief film clip shows some of their work. The clip is from a longer film created by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and is provided courtesy of the National Archives."
 


Blog by Ashley McNeil, Communications Assistant, The Corps Network 

Created during the Great Depression, a time when the United States faced grave economic peril, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a federal work relief program that, from 1933 until 1942, put 3 million unemployed young men to work building and restoring America’s natural resource infrastructure.

Though the CCC was intended to provide stability and a new beginning for its participants, the benefits of the program were not equally distributed among all populations; the main beneficiaries were white enrollees. As detailed in a previous blog, the CCC failed to live up to its promise to provide equitable work and training opportunities to African American Corpsmembers. Many African Americans faced hostility from white supervisors, or were forced to serve in black-only camps, where conditions were poor. For Native Americans, however the federal work relief experience was quite different.

Technically, most Native Americans did not serve in the CCC, but rather in a parallel program. In 1933, not long after the formation of the CCC, the Indian Emergency Conservation Work (IECW) program was created at the request of John Collier, Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It was Collier’s hope that work relief projects, like those performed by the CCC, could benefit reservations. Pressure to create a separate program came from Native Americans and the BIA, who objected to having the standard military-style CCC camps on tribal land.

President Franklin Roosevelt initially approved $5,875,200 in funding for the IECW, which, by executive law, was renamed the Civilian Conservation Corps Indian Division (CCC-ID) in 1937. The program was focused on “Indian work”: employing Native Americans on federally recognized reservations with a goal of preserving tribal lands and promoting sustainable ranching and farming. Projects involved road construction, erosion control, reforestation, and water resource development.

Records indicate 80,000 – 85,000 men served in the CCC-ID during the years of the Depression. Outside of work on reservations, the CCC-ID built dams, roads, trails, and fences on land near reservations. Native Americans received training in gardening, animal husbandry, safety practices, and academic subjects. As stated by political columnist Albert Bender in the article “History shows that joblessness among Native Americans can be lowered,” “The Indian Division produced awesome results. To cite only a few, reservation forests had 9,739 miles of truck trails laid out; 1,351,870 acres put under pest control; and countless fire lookout towers constructed. Indian grazing and farm lands had 263,129 acres subject to poisonous weed eradication, and 1,792 large dams and reservoirs were constructed.” Some of these accomplishments are still visible to this day.

While day-to-day operations at CCC camps were largely managed by the military, the BIA and tribal governments, or “agencies,” oversaw the CCC-ID. For example, branches of the CCC-ID were overseen by the Crow Agency of Montana, the Northern Cheyenne Agency of Montana, the Flathead Agency of Montana, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa of North Dakota, and the Sioux of South Dakota.

The CCC-ID was one part of what would be the called the “Indian New Deal.” In 1934, John Collier encouraged President Roosevelt to sign into law the Wheeler-Howard Act, otherwise known as the Indian Reorganization Act. This legislation reversed harsh restrictions enacted through the Dawes Act of 1887, which had authorized the federal government to assimilate and strip Native Americans of their culture and claim 90 million acres of tribal land.

Under Wheeler-Howard, Native Americans could purchase new land. Additionally, the government recognized tribal institutions and repealed prohibitions on Native language and customs. In conjunction with this legislation, the CCC-ID was the first measure to bring material aid to reservations, encouraged self-administration by Native Americans, conserved tribal land resources, and employed thousands of Native men.

As Collier said, the CCC-ID was, “the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge confronting the Indian Service and the Indian tribes.” In simple terms, this was the first time the federal government allowed Native Americans to, at least to some extent, hold the reigns. Collier went on to state, “No previous undertaking in Indian Service, has so largely been the Indians’ own undertaking.”

Once the CCC-ID received funding, the program grew quickly. Within six months of its inception, 72 camps were present on 33 reservations in 28 states. The CCC-ID received more applicants than anticipated. To accommodate this, officials staggered employment of enrollees and allowed them to work on neighboring reservations only if it was approved by tribal council.

With assistance from the BIA, tribal councils oversaw CCC-ID camp enrollment, structure, and projects. Because of this, records of enrollees were processed differently, with some tribal governments collecting more data than others. Many tribes created narrative reports detailing work completed by enrollees. Some tribes opted to publish information about their work in their own newsletters, such as the Shoshone Tattler and the Blackfeet Tom Tom Echoes. These publications featured anecdotal history, as well as jokes, stories, and drawings from corpsmen.

One notable source that discussed Native contributions was, Indians at Work. This monthly publication, produced by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), contained articles, photographs and drawings of Native Americans, reservation life, and western scenes that helped promote the accomplishments of Native corpsmen.

Besides its management structure, the CCC-ID program differed from the CCC in many ways, including such elements as age restriction, living arrangements and wages. The CCC only enrolled men between the ages of 18 and 25. The average age of Native American corpsmen was 34; 172 enrollees were over the age of 35, and three were over the age of 75.

While CCC camps employed 200 men for six-month terms, only 40 to 50 Native Americans worked in units together. Also, as opposed to the traditional camp-setting, Native corpsmen lived in one of three types of domiciles: the permanent boarding camp for single men; the home camp for those wishing to live at home; and the family camp for projects of short duration where the entire household could reside temporarily in tents (another difference about the CCC-ID was that married men could serve). African American and white corpsmen did not have these housing options.

The basic wage for CCC-ID members was $30.00 for twenty workdays a month, or $1.50 per day, plus a 60 cent-per-day subsidy for those living at home. Enrollees also received from $1.00 to $2.00 per day for use of their own teams of horses. For those who lived at home, their pay was $2.10 per day for not more than twenty days in any one month, a possible total of $42.00 per month. In comparison, white and African American corpsmen earned a flat $30.00 per month, $25 of which had to be sent home to their families.

While the CCC-ID had what could be considered advantages over the CCC, there were some downsides. For instance, some living conditions were unsanitary. In all, however, the CCC-ID was more flexible than the CCC. It had less militarily structure and focused primarily on the goals of the Wheeler-Howard Act and improving Native American self-sufficiency.

The CCC and CCC-ID came to an end in 1942 when, as the U.S. joined WWII, Congress rejected funds to continue programming. For Native Americans, the CCC-ID was progressive in many ways. Native peoples reclaimed aspects of their culture, gained new educational and agricultural skills, and saw employment opportunities. The end of the CCC was arguably a setback; the program was important to Native Americans because one of their most valuable resources – their land – was cultivated, and small parts were returned to them. Collier stated, “The ending of CCC...is a heavy, heavy blow to Indian Service, to the Indians, and to social policy in the United States. It is just that: a heavy and undeserved blow.”


For your consideration 

As you read this blog, here are some questions for you to consider: 

  • The CCC and CCC-ID were disbanded in the early 1940s as the country turned its attention to WWII. John Collier described the end of the CCC-ID as a “heavy and undeserved blow.” Do you agree with his statement? If the CCC-ID program had continued (or possibly still functioned to this day), how do you think it would have influenced Native communities culturally? Economically? Socially?
     
  • The Smithsonian Libraries website offers the opportunity to read old copies of Indians at Work, the Bureau of Indian Affairs publication from the ‘30s and ‘40s. What do you learn from these publications? What do you not learn?
     
  • After decades of stripping Native peoples of their land and culture, the federal government gave tribal leadership a degree of agency over the CCC-ID program. How do you think tribal governments felt about this?
     
  • It has been over 80 years since passage of the Wheeler-Howard Act, or “Indian New Deal.” However, as stated by the National Congress of American Indians, “Tribal communities are among the poorest in the country and unemployment rates in Indian Country often stand above 50 percent.” What do you believe the federal government should do to address these ongoing issues?   
     
  • What can land management agencies do to better share the history and accomplishments of Native Americans on lands that are now national parks, national forests and other public spaces?
     
  • For Corps: Do you engage Native American youth in your programs or offer programming specifically for Native youth? If so, how is programming for Native youth different? How might any specialized education and activities offered in Native American programs also benefit non-Native Corpsmembers?
    • If your Corps does not actively engage Native American youth, what steps can you take to better engage Native populations in your region?

Resources

These resources, and much more, can be found in the Moving Forward Initiative resource library.

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Indian Reorganization Act.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 10 October 2016. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Indian-Reorganization-Act


Bender, Albert. “History shows that joblessness among Native Americans can be lowered. People’s World. 22 September 2014. http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/history-shows-that-joblessness-among-native-americans-can-be-lowered/


“Native Americans.” Digital History, 2016. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3449


White, Cody. “The CCC Indian Division.” Prologue Magazine. Vol.48, No.2. 2016. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2016/summer/ccc-id.html

 

Gower, Calvin W. “The CCC Indian Division: Aid for depressed Americans, 1933-1942.” Minnesota Historical Society. http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/43/v43i01p003-013.pdf
 

Bromert, Roger. “The Sioux and the Indian-CCC.” South Dakota State Historical Society. 1978. http://www.sdhspress.com/journal/south-dakota-history-8-4/the-sioux-and-the-indian-ccc/vol-08-no-4-the-sioux-and-the-indian-ccc.pdf
 

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Dawes General AllotmentAct.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 12 December 2016. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Dawes-General-Allotment-Act
 

https://www.bia.gov/
 

McLerran, Jennifer. “A New Deal for Native Art: Indian Arts and Federal Policy 1933-1943.” The University of Arizona Press 2012. https://bit.ly/2pT07jI 
 

Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Indians at Work.” 1933 Bureau of Indian Affairs. https://library.si.edu/digital-library/book/indians-work
 

WPAToday. “The CCC on Indian Reservations.” YouTube, 27 June 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbKIPSdjlh0.
 

Native Americans: Everywhere and Nowhere


From the Americans exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
 


Blog by Cassandra Ceballos, Programs Assistant, The Corps Network

On Sunday, February 18, I found myself striding purposefully into the Museum of the American Indian.

Although I’ve lived in D.C. for the past six months, this was my first trip to the museum. Despite my mestizo heritage, I never felt a connection to the curvilinear, limestone building. I'm not alone in this sentiment; fourteen years old, the museum has, as stated in The Washington Post, “struggled to find an audience, and settle on a consistent approach to how it tells stories and presents information.”

Once inside, I ascended the steps of the grand staircase, two at a time, barely able to contain my excitement. The reason for my visit was simple: the Americans exhibit. Unveiled on January 18, 2018, the exhibit will run until January 2022.

The Washington Post calls Americans "an exhibition that examines how images of native people have been fundamental to American culture, commerce, and government."

Dichotomy exists between how this country uses Native American culture and our discourse on Native Americans. It is increasingly acknowledged that the United States government and institutions took steps to eradicate indigenous people. So why do we idolize imagery and names associated with Native Americans? We are surrounded by Native American influences and examples of the appropriation of Native cultures, yet, according to a 2015 study, Manifesting Destiny: Re/Presentations of Indigenous Peoples in K–12 U.S. History Standards, nearly 90 percent of curriculums in the United States do not refer to the existence of Native Americans after 1900.

I understand intimately the erasure of indigenous people from society's view. Read below to learn about my experience at the museum.
 


Native Americans: Everywhere & Nowhere
The sign below welcomes visitors as they enter the exhibit. I was immediately struck by the economic perspective invoked in the first sentence: "nearly all that can be named or sold has at some point been named or sold with an Indian word or image." Commerce lies at the center of the United States' national identity, and thus does the Indian. If you doubt the truth of this statement, uncertainty vanishes when you walk into the main gallery.
 

 

Hundreds of meticulously numbered images and items covered the walls of the oblong gallery. In the middle of the gallery, two touch tables allowed visitors to learn more about an item using its number. Cigarettes, motorcycles, sports teams and merchandise, motor oil, magazine covers, cornmeal, city insignias, whiskey, soda, butter, candy, movies, toys, military fighter jets and torpedoes… a motorcycle?

I spent over an hour walking back and forth from different images to the touch tables, reading more about the Tootise Pop wrapper, American Spirits’ packaging, a giant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, and the RCA Indian-Head Television Test pattern from 1939, just to name a few.

 

 

More than half of the other people milling about the exhibit were white, about evenly split between older people and young families. It being a Sunday afternoon, this made sense, I suppose. While the gallery was filled with the sounds of chatter and movement, this melody melted in the side rooms.

Five side rooms extend off the gallery, three on the left and two on the right. The first two rooms on either side contained “stories”: The Invention of Thanksgiving, Queen of America, The Removal Act, and The Indians Win. Each one briefly examines the history of how and why Native American images and names are so prolific.

Walking through each room, the spaces were very quiet, and the mood reverent. I took care to read all the information and noticed that everyone around me was doing the same.

In the Indian Removal Act room I was greeted with the words, "Even today the Indian Removal Act remains one of the boldest and most breathtaking laws in American history." Which is a bit disappointing, when you think more deeply about the choice of wording. Boldest and breathtaking? Why not call it what it was: atrocious, unhuman, devastating.

After making my way through the “story rooms,” I entered the final, fifth room. The sign outside read “Americans Explained.” In stark contrast to the first four rooms, this space contained very little color or imagery. The entire room was white and brightly lit. On the wall to the left of the entrance were four large blocks containing text, the last of which I placed at the start of this blog, cut into two pieces.

 


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Videos of individuals, diverse in age and background, played on the wall opposite of the text blocks. Each short film featured one person talking into the camera, describing their reaction to the exhibit, what they learned and felt along the way, what Native American imagery and narrative meant to them.

Dozens of postcards filled the wall space to the right of the film strip. These were messages left from previous visitors. Blank postcards sat in the center of the room, and persons were invited to write their own notes and deposit them into bins for a chance to be displayed.

 


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Prior to exploring the fifth room, I was a bit underwhelmed by the exhibit. While the hundreds of images in the main gallery elicited provocative feelings, and the stories in the side rooms offered a nuanced perspective, the overall effect left me wondering about the curator’s overall goal. However, upon entering the fifth room, I finally understood. Everything encountered thus far, all the images, the first four “story rooms,” and the entire layout of the exhibit, suddenly made sense.

Representations of Native Americans from the nonindigenous point of view are stuck in a Machiavellian time-warp. Native Americans images and names are in our pantry, on our televisions, our bodies, our street corners, our money, in our mouths. It’s awe-inspiring, really. And overwhelming.

For where are they, the Native Americans? How is it that they appear everywhere, and exist nowhere?

“Americans” does not attempt to answer that question. Rather, it attempts to get you questioning.

All in all, my first visit to the exhibit reinforced what I already knew, as well as taught me much more. This last room, “Americans Explained,” hastily visited in the final minutes before the museum closed for the day, was by far my favorite part. Reading others’ responses on the cards and hearing their thoughts through the videos allowed me to better understand the exhibit’s purpose and approach.

 


A Time to Discuss

Following my first exploration, I read several reviews and news articles about the exhibit, all of which are cited at the bottom of this blog. The new information lead me to visit the museum once more in the month of February. My curiosity immediately paid off; previously unnoticed, a clear bin mounted to the wall immediately to my right enticed me closer.

The bin contained about nine large, spiral books: a "Gallery Discussion Guide." How had I missed this vital piece to the puzzle?

I flipped through the pages of the book and found it to be utterly remarkable.

The book began with an exploration of the gallery area. The first pages asked visitors to look around the room and identify familiar objects, as well as objects connected to the government, such as city seals and military aircraft.



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The remainder of the book accompanied the stories featured in each of the four side rooms. Individuals are encouraged to make their way through each room, noticing symbolism and learning about the history and origin of how these stories came to be told, rather than another version.

Additionally, readers are challenged with thinking critically about the implications of these stories, both for the founding of the United States and the lives of Native Americans. 

 


Americans Online

An interactive website allows visitors to explore some of the images and objects on display at the museum. Users click and drag the webpage to search through, selecting artifacts or “stories” individually to learn more. 

Unfortunately, you’re unable to search for an item on the website using the ID numbers in the museum. Perhaps this feature could be added, so visitors could go back to items that were of particular interest, even after they’ve left the exhibit.

The stories from the exhibit - The Invention of Thanksgiving, Queen of America, The Removal Act, and The Indians Win - are also on the website in a modified version. I encourage you to use the links above to explore the stories, especially if you’re unable to visit the exhibit in D.C.

Below you will find several links to reviews and news articles about “Americans,” so that you may learn more about the curators’ intent.

 


For your consideration

As you read this blog, here are some questions for you to consider: 

  • Native Americans comprise less than one percent of the U.S. population, yet Native American imagery and names seem to be everywhere in our culture. Why do you think this is the case? How is that Native Americans can be so present and so absent in American life?
  • The history of the United States is checkered with the mistreatment of Native Americans. Through legislation and policy, the U.S. government once made efforts to destroy native cultures and assimilate Native Americans into mainstream society. So why, especially in the past 100 years, do you think Native American imagery has been seen as a marketing tool? 
  • The names of half the states in the U.S. are derived from Native American terms. In your own community or region, are there towns, streets or geographic features with Native American names? What do you know about the people or cultures behind these names? 
  • In what ways is the use of Native American imagery and names problematic? In what instances might it be considered "appropriate" or respectful? 
  • In what ways do imagery, language or cultural traditions associated with other minority groups appear in mainstream U.S. culture? In what ways might the assimilation of these cultural artifacts be okay, and in what instances might it become exploitative or offensive? 
  • Why do you think that certain stories are told and others not?  In one section of the Americans exhibit entitled, “Queen of America,” which is about Pocahontas (you can learn more here), a frieze is presented, which depicts the story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.  In this frieze, Pocahontas is “defying her father and saving Captain John Smith.”  It is acknowledged, however, that it is an incident that historians doubt happened at all.  Why do you think this particular story was told?
  • Do you know of any Native American “hidden history” figures?

 


Resources
These resources, and much more, can be found in the Moving Forward Initiative resource library.

Dingfelder, Sadie. “Why there’s Redskins merch at the National Museum of the American Indian.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Jan. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2018/01/25/why-theres-redskins-merch-at-the-national-museum-of-the-american-indian/?utm_term=.7d332b03f152.

Fonseca, Felicia. “New exhibit examines Native American imagery in U.S. culture.” The Columbian, Associated Press, 25 Feb. 2018, www.columbian.com/news/2018/feb/25/new-exhibit-examines-native-american-imagery-in-u-s-culture/.

Kennicott, Philip. “Review | The American Indian museum comes of age by tackling this country's lies.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Jan. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/the-american-indian-museum-comes-of-age-by-tackling-this-countrys-lies/2018/01/18/441a4f74-fb9e-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html?utm_term=.2750458f181a.

“Looking at Indians, white Americans see themselves.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 10 Feb. 2018, www.economist.com/news/united-states/21736555-thinking-about-natives-era-nativism-looking-indians-white-americans-see.

Loria, Michael. “Americans at the National Museum of the American Indian.” On Tap Magazine, 27 Feb. 2018, https://ontaponline.com/2018/02/02/americans-at-the-national-museum-of-the-american-indian/

Miranda, Carolina A. “Its not just Chief Wahoo. Why American Indian images became potent, cartoonish advertising symbols.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 29 Jan. 2018, www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-americans-nmai-indians-in-pop-culture-20180122-htmlstory.html.

Rothstein, Edward. "'Americans' Review: Detailed Portrait of a People." Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal, 17 Jan 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-review-detailed-portrait-of-a-people-1516229238

Schjeldahl, Peter. “America as Indian Country.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 22 Jan. 2018, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/29/america-as-indian-country.

Shear, Sarah B., et al. “Manifesting Destiny: Re/Presentations of Indigenous Peoples in K–12 U.S. History Standards.” Theory & Research in Social Education, vol. 43, no. 1, Feb. 2015, pp. 68–101., doi:10.1080/00933104.2014.999849.

Smith, David. “Trump doesnt understand history: Native Americans tell their story in DC.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 11 Feb. 2018, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/11/native-americans-indians-smithsonian-trump.

 

Service and Conservation Corps Celebrate AmeriCorps Week 2018

Every year, Service and Conservation Corps across the country engage thousands of AmeriCorps members. This year alone, The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and Opportunity Youth Service Initiative will enroll more than 3,000 young adults and veterans in service to our communities and public lands. To celebrate AmeriCorps Week (March 11 – 17, 2018), we’re highlighting some of the many ways AmeriCorps members at Service and Conservation Corps #GetThingsDone for our country.

 



Member of The Corps Network's AmeriCorps Opportunity Youth Service Initiative with Texas Conservation Corps helps reduce the threat of wildfires:

  • Where is this Corpsmembers serving? 
    Austin, TX

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is removing vegetation, or “fuel,” through installing a fuel break at Travis County Balcones Canyonlands Preserve

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This member is learning about proper chainsaw operation and safety, as well as plant identification skills.


     


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member helps put goats to work in the fight against invasive species:

  • Where did this Corpsmember serve? 
    Addie Bona is a Youth Outdoors Crew Member based out of Minneapolis, MN

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Addie manages invasive species by working with goat contractors to prepare sites, set up fences, put signs up in order for goats to eat buckthorn and other invasive species.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Invasive species management

     


 


 

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member helps monitor wildlife:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving?
    Tamara Beal was a Wildlife Studies Crew Member based out of Ames, IA

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Tamara conducted two research projects. 1- She studied migratory patterns and behaviors of the Northern Long Eared Bat. 2- She learned how to remove and test lymph node samples from deer to study the presence of Chronic Waste Disease.

     
  • What skills did she learn/use? 
    Field work, including: how to set up thermal & infrared cameras; how to use an Echo Meter app to identify batt calls; and how to remove & prepare lymph node samples from deer.



 


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member monitors river levels to help support outdoor recreation:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Ryan Schilling was an Individual Placement member with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (based out of St. Paul, MN).

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ryan managed a River Level Reporting project, which resulted in a much more detailed and useable product for paddlers to make well-informed decisions before visiting a water trail.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Cartography


     

Montana Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members help communities hit hard by winter storms:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Montana [Browning, Heart Butte, East Glacier, Babb, and St. Mary]

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone?
    Severe winter weather in North Central Montana and along the Rocky Mountain Front has caused the Blackfeet Nation and the State of Montana to declare a state of emergency. The communities of Browning, Heart Butte, East Glacier, Babb, and St. Mary have been especially hard hit. Heavy snowfall accompanied by winds as high as 65 miles per hour – blizzard conditions - has caused drifts as high as six feet in some areas, shutting down roads and trapping people in their homes. On the Blackfeet Reservation, schools have been closed and residents are running out of food.

    MCC Northern Rockies Office sent a relief crew whose members shoveled snow, delivered firewood, and helped out in whatever way they could. In a nice confluence of events, MCC Crew Leaders were able to add the load of wood they cut and split at the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge to the firewood donated by UMCOR – United Methodist Committee on Relief – to the load they delivered to the Blackfeet.

     


 



 


Green City Force AmeriCorps Members supported by The Corps Network's Opportunity Youth Service Initiative grow organic produce in communities with limited access to healthy food: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    Pictured are Daniel Silvia and Nordesia Walters-Bowman. They are inspecting the produce on Farm Stand day at the Howard Houses Farm, located at a New York City Housing Authority Development.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Urban Farm Corps Members learn to build and operate urban farms and develop important skills through interacting with the public. They distributed nearly 20,000 lbs. of organic produce in 2017 at weekly Farm Stands across four Farms on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties.

     


 


AmeriCorps Member with Rocky Mountaim Youth Corps - New Mexico takes a break from trail work to reflect on their experience:

  • Where is this Corpsmembers serving? 
    Cibola National Forest, Albuquerque, NM

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is journaling during a break on the Crest Trail as part of their Individual Development Plan (IDP), a tool used with all RMYC members to help them build S.M.A.R.T. goals and build on their experience at the Corps to help them launch a career.

     

 


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico ASL program open up trails and expand their conservation vocabulary: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    These members are partnering with the City of Albuquerque in the Piedra Lisa recreation area.

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    These members are participants in our ASL Program and are working to open up the trail corridor and clear branches and debris from the trail.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    In addition to learning about trails and trail maintenance techniques, member are learning through American Sign Language and broadening their vocabulary in the conservation field.


 


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico build sustainable trails: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Gila National Forest, Silver City, NM

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is part of a two-year project to restore trails and build retaining structures to prevent further trail damage. In this picture, the member is looking for hazard trees that could pose a danger to the crew while they work in the burned area.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    During a typical spike, members spend 10 hours a day working on trails and engaging in professional development trainings related to trail design, maintenance and construction.  During the evening, members work together on meal preparation and life skills trainings such as leadership, conflict resolution or thinking about next steps after the Corps.




 


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico help establish a new wildlife refuge:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    This motley crew of kick@ss females are serving at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, NM

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This crew was tasked with building two miles of wildlife-friendly fence as one of the first components to a major restoration project as the brand new refuge takes shape in Albuquerque's South Valley.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This crew is not only learning about power tools and the safety protocols associated with working on federal land, but are also engaged in RMYC's Urban Conservation Corps. This program focuses on getting urban young adults exposed to and interested in federal jobs working with federal land management agencies.  A critical component of this program in 'Mentor Mixer' day: think of speed-dating with mentors! Members are paired with federal employees that work with different agencies in a variety of fields - from HR, to accounting, to law enforcement and park rangers. This program allows Corpsmembers to see the vast array of employment options with the Corps' agency partners.

     



 


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico help preserve cultural and historic treasures: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Mountainair, NM

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This summer crew was involved in historic preservation in the park. They helped restore some of the ruins the park is tasked with protecting.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This crew was trained by park staff in the methods unique to working with a variety of natural materials and ancient techniques that were used thousands of years ago to build the missions.

     



 


AmeriCorps Members with Southwest Conservation Corps spend days in the backcountry, working on the Continental Divide Trail: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Along the Continental Divide Trail (Rincon La Vaca Trail) in the Weminuche Wilderness on the San Juan National Forest.

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    For the last two years, SCC crews have spent a combined 130 Days in the backcountry building a more sustainable trail through rocky slopes and wet marshy areas. This is to accommodate heavy use from through hikers, hunters, and backcountry horse men/women. On a side note this is the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and the 40th Anniversary of the CDT. It’s important to highlight this, as well as the Corps’ efforts working on the CDT over the years.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using?
    Backcountry travel, leadership, geology, alpine ecology, technical trails (rock work and sustainable trail construction), teamwork, communication, and a plethora of other things you learn when you are in the backcountry for 15 days at a time.

     

 

 

 


AmeriCorps Member with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative helps restore ecosystems: 

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Gila River Valley near Safford, Arizona

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Chavez Ventura (crew 113) from the Tohono O’odham Nation is felling an invasive species of tree (tamarisk) in the Gila River Valley.  Helping to restore an ecosystem.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    AZCC Gila crews are all proficient Class A Sawyers! 

     



 


AmeriCorps Member with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative helps maintain trails and public lands: 

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Bar-V Ranch of Pima County Parks and Recreation, near Tucson, Arizona

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ashley Childs (crew 110) is using her McLeod tool to clear brush for a fencing project.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Knowledge about trail maintenance and how to use trail tools are required.  She is also learning how to erect wire t-post fences.

     

 


AmeriCorps members with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative/Education Awards Program put their McLeods to use to maintain public lands: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Bar-V Ranch of Pima County Parks and Recreation, near Tucson, Arizona

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The crew members (crew 110) are using their McLeod tools to clear brush for a fencing project.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Knowledge about trail maintenance and how to use trail tools are required.  They are also learning how to erect wire t-post fences.


 


AmeriCorps Member with Stewards Individual Placement Program and The Corps Network Education Awards Program helps engage the public at Gulf Islands National Seashore:  

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Gulf Islands National Seashore

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    As the Outreach Coordinator for the Turtle T.H.i.S. Program, Natalia often plans and hosts events like the Hispanic Festival booth. Held at Fort Walton Beach, this event allowed Natalia to interact with many families and local youth who shared their excitement about park programs. Seventeen attendees signed up to volunteer with the park in the future. Participation in events like this provide education and engagement to the local community and help bring support and awareness to the historical, environmental, and ecological elements of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Natalia has gained experience in public speaking, community engagement, volunteer recruitment and management, youth education, and a variety of ecological and zoological data collection and protection activities.

     

 


AmeriCorps Member with Stewards Individual Placement Program and The Corps Network Education Awards Program assists the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Pittsburgh, PA

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps Member #GetThingsDone? 
    OSMRE AmeriCorps Member Cassandra Forte serves out of the OSMRE Appalachian Regional Office in Pittsburgh, PA. Cassandra focuses much of her effort on water quality testing and outreach initiatives for the office. Cassandra and fellow OSMRE employees have also researched streams at a state park to determine which would be an adequate location for a spring hydrology course. She worked closely with a hydrogeologist to teach approximately 100 7th-grade-students about acid mine drainage. She also spoke to a freshman biology class about OSMRE, AmeriCorps and what she does in her role.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    A recent site visit to a partner organization allowed Cassandra to assist OSMRE staff in providing requested technical assistance for water quality issues the organization is having in some of their ponds. Cassandra assisted while simultaneously learning about their pollinator program, which she will use in her own project as she works to create a pollinator initiative for abandoned and active mine lands. 


 


AmeriCorps Members with American Conservation Experience help maintain and improve a community farm:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Flagstaff Family Farm

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The Flagstaff Family Farm was started in December 2015 to bring the community local produce and eggs. Over 100 ACE members have cycled through since 2016. Corpsmembers have helped build and shape 2,800 linear feet of garden bed and walkway. Additionally, over the course of three months, more than 30 Corpsmembers helped complete three Hoop-Houses. ACE also planted a dozen apple trees and created earthworks to reduce erosion.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Construction, Planting, Irrigation, Mulching

     

 


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help build a rain garden to improve stormwater infrastructure:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Everett, Washington

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are building a rain garden

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    EarthCorps crew members #GetThingsDone by building green stormwater infrastructure. Rain gardens like this one can hold a lot of water, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in heavy storms. They also help filter toxic runoff, which is critical in protecting wildlife. To build the garden, Corpsmembers dug out the garden basin and added layers of special soils and native plants that will absorb and clean runoff water.


 


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help control invasive plants and maintain healthy marshes:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Port Susan Bay, Washington

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are engaged in invasive plant control as part of salt marsh restoration.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    EarthCorps crews worked to control invasive plants, such as spartina, as part of a larger effort to restore salt marsh area in the Stillaguamish River Delta. They learned about invasive plant control, dike removal, native plants, bird habitats, and working in tidal areas.

 


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help bring awareness to local water quality and water management issues:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving?
    Brightwater Education Center, Snohomish County, Washington

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Corpsmembers building a demonstration rain garden at the Brightwater Education Center in Snohomish County, Washington. By constructing a rain garden, Corpsmembers gained experience building green stormwater infrastructure, and helped raise awareness and address water quality issues in the surrounding areas.

     

 


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help control invasive plants in North Cascades National Park:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Stehekin, North Cascades National Park, Washington

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    EarthCorps crews work hard to manually control invasive and exotic plants and restore our National Parks.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Manual exotic plant control, native seed collection, apple orchard removal, opportunity to learn about National Park Service.

     

 


Members of the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps help conduct prescribed burns and maintain healthy habitats in Mississippi:

  • Where are the members serving?
    De Soto National Forest in Mississippi

     
  • How do they #GetThingsDone? 
    These are members of the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps Crew 936. The SECC VFC members are working in the Gulf Coast of MS to assist with Pitcher Plant Bog restoration, fire fuel reduction and prescribed burns to contribute to a healthy forest and mitigate uncontrolled wildfires.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    The SECC Veterans Fire Corps program (in partnership with The Corps Network and The Nature Conservancy) provides training and on-the-job experience for post-911 era veterans interested in entering careers and gaining experience in natural resource management. The program engages participants in a cohort environment in which eight members work together to train and complete natural resource management projects, specifically related to fuels reduction and fire fuels management. Participants also gain experience in trail work, invasive species removal, GIS, and other appropriate conservation stewardship work.

     

 


AmeriCorps members with Washington Conservation Corps help with cleanup and recovery on U.S. Virgin Islands following 2017 hurricanes:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    U.S. Virgin Islands

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are assisting communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the regions in Fall 2017.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    When serving on a disaster response assignment, WCC AmeriCorps members utilize their chainsaw skills to remove hazard trees from homeowners’ yards and local structures. They also take on tough tasks like debris removal and installing roof tarps. They also help manage the outpouring of volunteers and donations in local regions.




     

 


AmeriCorps members with Washington Conservation Corps help organize volunteer projects:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Skagit County, Washington

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    Individual Placement AmeriCorps members Erin and Keelin recently led a volunteer planting party for their service placement, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. The group of volunteers installed over 300 trees at the site!

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Leading volunteer events means Erin and Keelin recruit volunteers, arrange tools and logistics, and provide on-site guidance to make sure everyone has a safe, fun and productive time! Planting native trees will help  convert the site from a field into a forested area.

 


AmeriCorps Members with Great Basin Institute-Nevada Conservation Corps help support the comeback of the endangered Condor:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The interns, Kylie Smith and Nathan Pinckard, as well the project partner Joseph Brandt, are in this image. Joseph Brandt is teaching Kylie Smith how to draw blood from the leg of the Condor while Nathan Pinckard is holding the Condor. The blood sample is used to check for lead levels of the condors.

    In the second photo, Nathan is releasing a juvenile Condor into the wild.



 


AmeriCorps member with Great Basin Institute-Nevada Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Education Awards Program helps collect data and conduct research to assist with habitat restoration:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Henderson, NV (Common Gardens project located in the Mojave Desert)

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The United States Geological Survey, is looking at what methods work to bring back native perennials but also looking at herbicide application as a way to control the spread of Bromus sp. and Schismus sp. Interns mainly assist with collecting data, assessing the landscape before and after restoration has been implemented and aiding in research for various extensions of the project.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Sarah assists the USGS in the Common Gardens project located in the Mojave Desert in hopes to restore the area that was impacted by the fire while learning novel ways to conduct research. 

 


AmeriCorps Members with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative help improve Vermont’s park infrastructure:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving?
    Corpsmembers Maddi Shropshire (left) and Tori Best (right) from our 2017 Americorps 2 Crew show some crewmate love in front of a woodshed they constructed on Mt. Mansfield.

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone?
    In one week, this crew replaced 60 feet of box steps that access a stone hut; helped build this woodshed (with Vermont Forest Parks and Recreation staff and contractors), and built a raised roof for the shed with a weather shield.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using?
    Through this project, Corpsmembers developed their construction skills, learned important lessons about working with partner organizations, and worked on their communication skills as they coordinated their efforts.


     

 


An AmeriCorps member with Kupu helps restore the most threatened ecosystem in Hawai‘i:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Ethan Souza is serving at Hawaiʻi Forest Industry Association -Kaʻūpūlehu Dryland Forest

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ethan is working to restore the native dryland forest, which is the most threatened ecosystem in Hawaiʻi. Over 90% of it has been lost due to development, invasive species, and fire.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Identifying native and invasive plant species, collecting plant propagation materials, raising native plants, removing invasive plants, hosting and educating school groups, and collecting and analyzing data


     

 


AmeriCorps members with Civicorps help keep the Bay Area shoreline healthy for marine creatures:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Alameda Shoreline, California

     
  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    These members are participating in shoreline beautification. Crewmembers collect litter and debris in low tide, helping wildlife avoid toxic items like cigarette butts and plastic. 

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    They are learning about the Bay Area’s ecosystems, drainage, and the impact of storm runoff. Additionally, they are learning about team work, communication, and the various steps of project planning.

 


AmeriCorps member with Northwest Youth Corps engages in resource management and community outreach in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Northwest Youth Corps selected Mathew Zhun to serve with the Army Corps of Engineers for a 675-hour term in October of 2017. Mathew was providing natural resource management and community outreach assistance with the Recreation Operations section of the Willamette Valley Project for the Army Corps of Engineers. WVP is a large water resource project responsible for operating 13 dams and managing natural resources and recreation in the lakes and surrounding lands at nearly 30,000 acres in the Willamette, McKenzie, and Santiam watersheds.

     
  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Mathew served with the Cottage Grove, Oregon Recreation Operations Section providing education, outreach, and public safety programming specifically in schools. Additionally, Mathew spent half of his time monitoring and improving trails and mitigating exotic vegetation. This included direction of volunteer crews and navigating to monuments for boundary surveys.

     
  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    While Mathew stepped into the internship with extensive field based skills he expanded his knowledge and confidence public speaking and educating  various audiences.  The curriculum he was conveying focused on water safety, field ecology, and Leave No Trace principals. The Army Corps of Engineers is a partner of the “Every Kid in the Park” Program which was created for fourth graders and their families to discover wildlife, resources, and history for free. 


     


Moving Forward Initiative Guest Series: Interview with Dr. Dorceta Taylor on Diversity and Equity Initiatives within Environmental Organizations

Dr. Dorceta Taylor is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dr. Taylor is the author of The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies (a publication prepared for Green 2.0: 2014) and The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection (Duke University Press: 2015). Both publications fundamentally seek to examine the state of gender, racial, and class diversity within environmentalism.

As part of The Corps Network's Moving Forward Initiative, we spoke with Dr. Taylor about her inspiration for environmental work, her education and career path, as well as the efficacy of diversity and equity initiatives within environmental organizations.

Click here for Moving Forward Initiative Homepage


- By Cassandra Ceballos, Programs Assistant, The Corps Network
 

Growing up in 1960s rural Jamaica, Dr. Dorceta Taylor found herself instinctively drawn to the natural environment.

"I really think I was one of those people who was just genetically hard-wired from the womb to come out caring and wanting to know about plants and animals," she said.

As a young girl, one of Dr. Taylor's many chores was to take care of a rose garden near her home. The garden fascinated Dr. Taylor; the various colors and kinds of roses, the bees pollinating the different flowers. She thought it was "the coolest job ever," and credits this early exposure with cementing her "respect, understanding, and curiosity" in biology.

Unable to attend school until the age of seven due to family responsibilities, Dr. Taylor taught herself how to read and write. In her studies, she came across a book that talked about the prestigious Yale University and decided then, at age seven, that she would one-day attend. "Ignorance is bliss," she shares, "because, at the time I said that, Yale did not admit black students and it did not admit women. But since there was nobody to tell me otherwise, I put it as one of my dreams and decided to pursue it."

In her first years of college in Jamaica, Dr. Taylor continued to pursue her interests in the biological sciences, specializing heavily in zoology and botany. Upon immigrating to the United States at age 20 she chose to continue along a Biology track at Northeastern Illinois University but was unable to register for an upper level Botany class in her first semester due to limited enrollment. Dr. Taylor instead enrolled in an environmental class at the suggestion of a professor. Her experiences in that first environmental class fundamentally shaped her life's trajectory.

Though medicine is a common career trajectory for biology students, Dr. Taylor never wanted to be a doctor; she hates the sight of human blood. She felt stifled in the sterile setting of labs and much preferred to work outdoors. The environmental course offered Dr. Taylor an "opportunity to see how you can connect people to the environment and focus on human interactions with the environment," rather than following more traditional STEM career paths. Yet, there was another side to this revelation. The lack of diversity in the environmental class both startled and disturbed Dr. Taylor.

"We were learning all this cool stuff about the environment, and pesticides, and I thought to myself ‘where are all the other black kids?’"

For the first time, Dr. Taylor found herself sitting in a science classroom as the only person of color. Surrounded by about fifty white students and a white male professor, she remembers thinking, "I know I left Jamaica, the Caribbean, but did I go that far out of space that I'm in a place where black and brown students are not taking these courses?"

Never one to be deterred, Dr. Taylor posed this question to the professor, who responded in front of the class that blacks are simply not interested in the environment. "I was stunned," she said. This comment lead Dr. Taylor to the library, determined to debunk his statement. She left disappointed, "I pulled out every book I could on behavior and the environment and every single research article said exactly what he said: blacks are not interested in the environment."

Those findings directly contradicted Dr. Taylor's lifelong knowledge of environmentalism. She grew up amongst black and brown people who cared about the environment, studied the environment, worked in the environment, all with excellence. Dr. Taylor realized the problem was not with participation, but with perception, "this perception that somehow an entire race of people does not care about the environment. How, how is that possible? And what does that mean if you have that kind of racialized understanding of caring about the environment?" Fostering stereotypes about the parts of society that do or do not involve themselves in environmental work establishes a logic about who to hire or engage in those capacities.

Dr. Taylor graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and Biology. She enrolled in the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment later that year. Concurrently, the environmental movement was in full swing on national and international stages. Intrigued by the interaction of society and nature, Dr. Taylor found herself particularly drawn to the burgeoning environmental justice movement. This interest influenced her decision to pursue an interdisciplinary field of study. Not only did Dr. Taylor fulfill her childhood goal of attending Yale University, she did it with pizzazz. Dr. Taylor holds a Master of Forensic Science in Social Ecology, both a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy in Sociology/Forestry, and dual doctoral degrees in Environmental Sociology from the Department of Sociology and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Even now, Dr. Taylor vividly remembers her experience in that first environmental class, her shock at the professor's racist remarks.  Unfortunately, this kind of racist understanding is not unique to the conservation movement. Such beliefs spring from historical rhetoric that erases the active participation and extraordinary contributions of persons of color in many aspects of our society. Growing up in a rural area of a developing country, however, she knew intimately the extensive body of environmental knowledge necessary to survive in such communities. Much of Dr. Taylor’s research works to rewrite, or “re-right,” the traditional narrative of environmentalism. She wishes to disprove, "the idea that black people are somehow so different from everyone else in the world that we don't care, we have no knowledge."
 

Documenting Black Contributions to Environmentalism

Authored by Dr. Taylor in 2016, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection comprehensively details the roles of race, class, and gender in shaping the environmental movement from the mid-1850s to the early 1900s.

"I thought that if I looked at slavery, I bet you we will find people of color doing amazing things either for the environment or to survive in the environment. We just haven't documented it,” said Dr. Taylor. “…If you look at slave plantations, what slaves did. The fact that they had incredible knowledge of the plants, the animals, it's just not written about. These were environmental activities. These were sustainable activities."

In The Rise of the American Conservation Movement, Dr. Taylor analyzes the environmental characteristics of prominent figures like Harriet Tubman and Phyllis Wheatley, providing nuanced perspective on their lives. She writes about the environmental knowledge used by Harriet Tubman in operating the Underground Railroad, "she was a human minesweeper before we knew about minesweepers. She understood the water, could read the water so very well. It's really quite a hard thing to navigate along water in a forest, much less at night."

Dr. Taylor further argues that Phillis Wheatley, enslaved in the late 1700s, "was writing about the environment in a very positive way. Telling us to care about it for almost a century before Ralph Waldo Emerson, yet he gets credit for it." Traditional narrative surrounding these women and their accomplishments does not include these environmental elements. 

The 1960s saw an explosion of social movements in the United States, including the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the anti-war movement, the women's movement, and the environmental movement. 

The rhetoric of the civil rights and environmental movements established a false dichotomy between the two. The environmentalists at the time framed the environment as everything except for urban areas and everyone except people of color. It was mostly focused on middle and upper-class white people and the places where they lived and recreated.

"Through the 1960s and 1970s the environment is framed as the forests, the trees, the beautiful birds, the perfect oceans and lakes. It didn’t include the issues that related to urban areas or to poor people. Certainly not to persons of color,” said Dr. Taylor. “Part of the pushback of communities of color was a sense that, we’re not going to come out and march to save the bald eagle when we don’t have food in the house to feed our children. We have to take care of that first."

As a result, documentation of the civil rights movement fails to account for the environmental activism of its participants. "We talk about the fact that blacks were carpooling and we talk about it in the context of we couldn't get on the bus therefore, we had carpools. And guess what? Everybody now knows carpooling is environmentally friendly. But we don't frame our activism in those terms."  Dr. Taylor points out that, "there were more blacks carpooling in the South than environmental activists carpooling in the North. But white environmentalists get the credit for carpooling."

Dr. Taylor stresses the importance of telling these stories, "I’m hoping a whole new generation of people of color go back into their literature, go back into their stories that their parents and their grandparents and great-grandparents tell them about the way they lived. About activities. And, rather than seeing it as backwards, understand not only how it plays into who we are as a people, but how we can use it to understand our contribution to the environment and that we were always extremely connected to the environment. If we weren’t, we absolutely would not have survived."
 

The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations

In her 1997 journal article, American Environmentalism: The Role of Race, Class, and Gender in Shaping Activism, 1820-1995, Dr. Taylor writes that "the [environmental] movement faces enormous challenges in the future. Among the most urgent is the need to develop a more inclusive, culturally-sensitive, broad-based environmental agenda that will appeal to many people and unite many sectors of the movement.” In the 20 years since making that statement, Dr. Taylor has good news and bad news.

 The good news is there has been some increase in diversity.

A 1990 survey found that less than two percent of the staff at the largest environmental organizations were people of color. Most of the employees of color worked in the mailroom, on the janitorial staff, or strictly in entry-level positions. In Dr. Taylor's 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies, she studied several hundred mainstream environmental organizations and found that people of color made up about 16 percent of the workforce, an increase of about 14 percent in 24 years. Meanwhile, white women have made incredible strides, making up 60 percent of the staffing at environmental organizations, up from 14 percent in the 1980s.

Dr. Taylor says her report acted as, "a jolt to organizations. Because I put so much data out there, it's become very difficult for them to sit around and simply say people of color are not interested in the environment, that they don't want these jobs or apply to these jobs... And all the data we have says exactly the opposite. Young people of color, old people of color, they will take these jobs, want these jobs, and are qualified for these jobs."

The bad news is that we aren't where we need to be.

Currently, people of color make up 38 percent of the population, a number expected to increase to over 50 percent in the coming decades. "We are a growing segment... 16 percent in environmental organizations is well below our representation in the general population. We are underrepresented, by a significant amount."

Additionally, people of color working at environmental organizations continue to be concentrated in entry-level positions. "When you get to senior staff, Presidents and Vice Presidents, it's rare to see [people of color]. We need to look at diversity as we look up the hierarchy. The mentoring piece is missing. People are being hired but they’re also leaving because they feel alienated, isolated, and the conversations that are taking place in these organizations are sometimes very hard for the young people of color to deal with, especially when there are very few of them. So, the institutional culture has to change."
 

Moving Forward with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dr. Taylor offers suggestions on how organizations might better approach diversity. Her first recommendation involves improved wages. "I find most [organizations] underprice the labor of young people of color," she said, "they don’t put a market value on it. So that's one of the first things."

When many foundations talk about funding diversity they talk about it in terms of how many bodies are in the room. But when Dr. Taylor approaches it, she thinks in terms of wages and salary scale. "Your wages today determine your wages tomorrow, and next week, and way down the road. That part of the diversity piece is so critical in building job negotiation skills.”

Dr. Taylor's undergraduate and graduate summer internship programs provide generous financial compensation to participants.

Spanning two summers, the undergraduate program consists of two cohorts of twenty students each. With over 400 applications a year, competition is high. The program focuses on very high achieving STEM students, with GPAs above 3.4. The grant includes money for travel expenses, including a car service from the airport. Meals and housing are also covered. Students make $4,200 for eight weeks. Dr. Taylor does this, "with the idea being that, when they leave here, they can go home and take their entire stipend back with them to help with college in the fall"

The graduate students start at $10,000 for 12 weeks in the summer, so that when they leave, multiplying the weeks over the summer, their biggest salary history is about $55,000/year. They can negotiate a different base salary than if they were paid $2,000 for the summer.

"It’s not just getting good students academically. It's about getting the ones that participate to be really excited and proud of what they’re doing. And they can say ‘wow, look at what I earn.’ People tend to say ‘oh bring me some students of color’ but then don’t want to pay these kids. That’s the dirty underside to this diversity piece, is that nobody wants to pay for it."

Dr. Taylor stressed the need to prepare young adults of color to be leaders in environmental conservation, rather than just entry-level employees. In her program, the undergraduates spend their first summer in a lab and their second summer in various environmental organizations.

"We have to think about where are we placing the students. If we’re not placing them in the labs and in the professional setting, we won’t diversify upwards through the pipeline. Otherwise all we have done is for them to say to us: find us these students and train them, when in reality we’ve only trained them for entry-level. So, chances are they’re only going to be in the organizations a very short time because they’re frustrated and don’t see the upward mobility. The hardest thing within diversity is for folks to realize that we are not just talking about back office. We’re talking about the front office. The presidential suite. Every part of the organization. And for these young people to have access to those [positions], to know that they can have access to these spaces, becomes really critical."

Dr. Taylor hopes to prove there are students of color interested in conservation work. "We’re not the only program that is seeing that incredible demand from students of color," Dr. Taylor said. "High-performing students of color, that want to do environmental justice, want to do conservation, forestry, those kinds of things. Those students are absolutely out there."

Finally, Dr. Taylor advocates developing a strong cohort and network amongst young adults of color participating in environmental programs, guided by the spirit of mentorship.

"The few of us who run these programs can't fix everything. In communities of color that kind of networking, especially in the environmental field, is not common. It’s important for students of color to understand how networks work. Some of these students are actually really good peer mentors and so we’ve actually appointed some of the very mature ones to help with the mentoring of their counterparts. It’s amazing how they can start helping each other."


For Your Consideration: 

1. Read this summary of Dr. Taylor's 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations. What surprises or stands out to you the most? Given the changing demographics of the United States population, what are the implications of the current state of diversity in environmental organizations?

2. Many stereotypes exist about what communities or types of individuals care about the environment. In your own career or education, have you been stereotyped or witnessed the stereotyping of others? If so, how have you reacted or responded? What are the effects of these stereotypes? Ask yourself, “what can I do to change the narrative?”

3. Dr. Taylor mentions carpooling as a sustainable activity most often credited to white environmentalists, despite the earlier use of carpooling by people of color during the civil rights movement. Consider other sustainable activities generally attributed to the mainstream environmental movement. Thinking critically, might there be other stories behind these activities?

4. In The Rise of the American Conservation Movement, Dr. Taylor documents the environmental consciousness of Harriet Tubman and Phillis Wheatley. Why do we not view the work of these women through an environmental lens? What are the effects of omitting such individuals from the collective of historic environmental figures? Pick a figure from this list of civil rights activists. Can you find information on the individual’s environmental contributions? If not, think creatively. In what ways might this individual have been an environmentalist?

5. Skim through Dr. Taylor's latest research publication, Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Reporting and Transparency. What are the major findings from the report? Why do you think transparent reporting of diversity data is important?

6. For Corps: Dr. Taylor credits her early experiences tending a rose garden in Jamaica for sparking her interest in the natural world. Do you have a similar story or memory? Think back. When do you remember first gaining interest in conservation and preservation? Is there a standout influence?

7. For Corps: In this blog, we identify equal representation, mentorship, and fair wages as important elements of "diversity, equity, and inclusion". What do these terms mean to you? How can you contribute to making the environmental workforce more diverse, inclusive, and equitable?

8. For Corps: What do you do (or can you do) to promote “professionalism” in your program? What do you do to help Corpsmembers explore career and educational pathways that build on their Corps experience?

 

 

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