Written By Emma Brice
Filmed by Steep Motion
As we honor Indigenous People’s Day, we want to highlight a remarkable program working to reconnect Indigenous youth with their ancestral lands. The Muckleshoot Tribal School’s Mountain to Sound Program at Crystal Mountain has been transforming the lives of students since its inception in 2020. This visionary program is an essential step in bridging the gap between education and the outdoors for the Muckleshoot Tribal youth.
“Exploring in nature inspires wonder and opens the doors to vibrant learning and healing opportunities. Guiding students through their growth zone in this academic and recreational environment catapults their confidence and lifelong learning to new heights in all facets of life,” said Claire Laurenz, Muckleshoot Tribal School Outdoor Learning Coordinator and Curriculum Developer.
In 2020, the Muckleshoot Tribe established a full-time classroom at Crystal, making it the first and only permanent classroom on federal land in the entire country. This symbolic commitment to education and the preservation of Indigenous culture has helped empower the next generation of youth on the slopes, building strength, resilience, and reconnection with the land that the tribe has been displaced from for hundreds of years.
Devin Whiteaker, Muckleshoot Tribal School Substance Use Prevention/Intervention Specialist says “With tribal school youth, they are reconnecting with the land to begin with. The land that they have been displaced from for hundreds of years now. And that’s what it’s about – connecting with this land, connecting with their ancestors, connecting with the snow, connecting with the mountains. Giving them the wherewithal to stand up for that and create the identity of being keepers of the land once again.”
Initially designed for high school students ages 14-18, the program has expanded its reach to include 8th graders (ages 14-15), 5th graders (ages 10-11), and new this year, 3rd graders (ages 8-9). This holistic approach ensures that students of all ages get the opportunity to interact with and learn from the mountain each school year. With a total of 235 students having participated so far, the program continues to grow and thrive. This winter, we’re excited to welcome an additional 180 students to embark on this culturally centered and educational journey. All students participating in the program this season will be new to the program. Next year, however, the students who started as 5th graders in the program in 2020 will return as 8th graders, demonstrating the long-term impact this program has on its participants.
Crystal Mountain’s partnership with Share Winter Foundation and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe played a pivotal role in empowering the next generation of youth on the slopes. We are excited to continue growing together in the years to come.