Grant Helps Provide Environmental Education to Native Youth

The Píkyav Field Institute, a Native Youth Community Project, is designed to provide a culturally relevant, yet academically challenging, and traditionally holistic environmental education program to all students.

A $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help the Karuk Tribe launch the Píkyav Field Institute, which will support environmental education for Native American youth.

The institute is named after the Karuk word píkyav, which means “fix it,” and refers to the tribe’s efforts to restore balance to the earth and its creatures. “We’re heartened by the government’s recognition that this program can affect needed opportunities for our underserved youth,” Bill Tripp, deputy director of the Karuk Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources, which established the institute, said in a press release. “Not only does it hold great promise in the revitalization of our traditional ecological knowledge, practice, and belief systems, we are convinced that it will help improve our youth’s academic performance and college and career-readiness by reconnecting—or enhancing—their connection to tribal heritage.”

According to the press release, the tribe has been working with academic institutions and researchers to integrate traditional ecological knowledge and Western science into contemporary management practices for the last decade. Current project objectives include curriculum and cultural sensitivity trainings, further development of culturally-relevant California Common Core Standards-based curriculum, support for students interested in pursuing careers in the environmental sciences, and continued implementation of experiential learning activities grounded in traditional ecological knowledge.

The Píkyav Field Institute, funded through the Office of Indian Education, is a Native Youth Community Project designed to support a culturally relevant, academically challenging, and traditionally holistic environmental education program that benefits all students in the Karuk Tribal Service Area.

“The Indian Boarding School era was one of many factors leading to the inter-generational trauma Native peoples experience today. By incorporating Native American traditional ecological knowledge into the lessons taught in local schools, we hope to mitigate some of the wrongs done to our people in the past,” said Leaf Hillman, Karuk Tribe’s director of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, in the release. “This effort represents a valuable contribution to tribal sovereignty.”