The Wyoming Outdoor Council recently welcomed Yufna Soldier Wolf to the staff. Yufna grew up on the Wind River Reservation, has degrees from the University of Wyoming and Montana State University, and is the former director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office. She got involved with the Outdoor Council last summer as part of the FIELD Training conservation leadership program, and now she’s making an impact as our Wind River Organizer.
Tell us a little about yourself
I was born and raised on the Wind River Reservation. Early on in my life we were taught to dance at pow wows. I learned to dance fancy shawl and we traveled the pow wow trail every summer. While traveling we would stop in areas that were once sacred and, as my dad would say, “important to our old people.” As we traveled the states he would tell us traditional stories of various locations, why those areas are important to us, and that we should never forget. Knowing these stories of the land is important in the modern day. I went as far as high school on the reservation and attended college away from the reservation. My cultural identity helped me gain a perspective on education. I have gone to school nearly as long as I’ve worked, and that is nearly my entire life. Now, I have been accepted to two graduate school programs and am deciding which one I will attend.
What do you love about Wyoming’s outdoors?
I love Wyoming’s outdoors because in all the vastness and beauty you feel free. Where I live I see deer, moose, owls, sage-grouse — just about every critter Wyoming is known for lives in my backyard. I’ve been to big cities and they are overrated. I like Wyoming because I can fish, hunt, and gather where my ancestors once did. I can carry stories and prayers back to those places and connect in a way that many cannot. I love Wyoming because it is a magical place to see it snow, rain, and watch the seasons. It is the best place to grow strong in determination and grow strong in cultural identity and community. They say this is God’s country, but to carry a big stick because who knows when there might be a mountain lion waiting around the corner! Kidding aside, I love Wyoming. We are isolated enough to appreciate the beauty and still enjoy the day-to-day life that Wyoming has to offer.
What types of projects have you been working on recently?
My job at the Wyoming Outdoor Council is Wind River Organizer. My main job is to bring a tribal narrative to the Red Desert and incorporate tribal involvement into our work. I recently finished a renewable energy project for a Mountain Sentinels fellowship. I researched how tribes transitioned to solar panels and how this would benefit the tribes and others who want to navigate a diverse economy in the future. My solar project was titled “Hiisiisiiceheekuuni Tei’ehiit = Solar Power – Tribal Traditions – Tribal Transitions.” The other projects I am currently working and collaborating on are mainly related to the Red Desert, including Run the Red, a tribal tour of the desert, tribal media training, and getting involved with Citizens for the Red Desert.
Do you see any opportunities for grassroots conservation groups on and off the reservation to work together?
I am currently trying to work on getting these groups to collaborate. I think it’s good to find where tribal grassroots and conservation groups can work together, because they don’t always have the resources to fund their ideas to make impacts on various social issues. I see many opportunities for grassroots groups on and off the reservation to collaborate, exist and honor each other’s boundaries. I see many of those allies who can benefit from each other and learn from one another. I also see how unified we are strong, and alone we struggle. I would love to see the future full of programs and organizations who benefit and honor each other to make a better, safer, and healthier environment for all of us.