Learning from Two Worlds

by Zintkala Eiring

Through my SCA/AmeriCorps service as a Junior Native American Liaison with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I have traveled to Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and West Virginia in less than 10 months. 
 
I have met presidents, chairmen, and chairwomen of Federally Recognized Tribes through Bureau of Indian Affairs Listening Sessions and Multi-Agency Meetings about conservation interests of Tribes. I have formed partnerships with natural resource coordinators which have enabled me to share unique Native perspectives on stream connectivity, species recovery, traditional foods, and stream bank restoration, which were funded in part by the Tribal Wildlife Grant administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 
 
I’ve engaged with indigenous youth through the Native Youth Climate Adaption Leadership Congress and the Preserving Our Homelands Summer Science Camp. I have published these and other stories on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s blog site, and completed the Public Land Corps authority by serving my time on the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and creating a Native American Storybook, which was posted along the Fort River Division Trail in Hadley, MA. 
 
Having connected with the National Native American Program, other Tribal Liaisons, and External Affairs, I feel deeply that we all share a mission to preserve public lands, recover and protect species, and involve the personal, human stories that are woven in every aspect of conservation. 
 
Native Americans have possessed the true care and stewardship of the Earth for thousands of years and it is genuinely fascinating to be a part of the bridge between indigenous peoples and the federal government. I, myself, have the ability to see both worlds because I am an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Nation (Tribe) (located in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota) and a citizen of the United States of America. I have ancestral knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, I have received formal education from the public school system and universities. 
 
Throughout both of these forms of knowledge, I have carried with me my culture always. I believe my Lakota heritage has influenced me in more ways than one. And I am thankful to have learned from both worlds to connect the two entities: Federal agencies, which have a fiduciary duty to uphold the federal trust responsibility, and Federally Recognized Tribes, which have the sovereign right to govern themselves and their land. I aspire to serve them both the best way I can in the capacity of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SCA and AmeriCorps.