Wilderness Workshop will host its fifth annual Wild Feast fundraising benefit on Aug. 10 at the St. Regis in Aspen, where the nonprofit will celebrate conservation, climate action and the protection of public lands. The occasion raises funds and awareness to further the group’s efforts to protect western Colorado’s lands and water, and build an equitable environmental movement.
According to Grant Stevens, communications director at Wilderness Workshop, their work requires a combination of proactive and defensive measures to protect Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands. Proactive work entails fighting for new land and water protections; for instance, supporting legislation like the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act or local endeavors such as wild and scenic designation for the Crystal River. Defensive action may include preventing new oil and gas development or reservoir proposals.
The Wild Feast is “a wonderful chance to bring together our supporters, celebrate our accomplishments of this past year and look ahead at the horizon,” shared Stevens. “We’re excited that there is going to be an incredible keynote speaker.”
The guest speaker, Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, is an environmental activist who works with the Montezuma Land Conservancy as a cross-cultural programs manager. There, she is charged with engaging the tribal community and its leaders in the conversation around conservation.
Lopez-Whiteskunk has a background in information technology, having worked in that capacity for Chief Dull Knife College, the Southern Ute Indian and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribes. She served as the co-chair of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition and as education director for the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose. Recently, she was appointed to serve on the Bears Ears National Monument Management Advisory Committee by U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
She continues her work to protect and preserve through education, by creating a better understanding of our country’s resources, cultures and ways of thinking. In conversation with The Sopris Sun, Lopez-Whiteskunk focused on the importance of including and uplifting indigenous communities within climate action.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to make connections and conversations more readily available past just one person coming to speak,” she stated, “To create that space for tribal communities to be able to be engaged and create that opportunity.”
“I really want to impress upon my audience how the landscape is strongly tied to the Ute identity. We’ve been far removed for many, many years and many generations. These are landscapes that we’ve always looked at; the mountains and the rivers are all a part of our family. So, for us to be reunited, it’s such an invigorating sense of being reconnected,” she said.
Lopez-Whiteskunk spoke to the importance of acknowledging the history not only of the people living here, but of the land itself. She wants to share the “great deal of knowledge” Mother Earth has granted us.
“I want to open my speech up with a huge sign of gratitude, not only to the organizers, but to the surroundings of the mountain, the plants and the animals… to make that connection on a very human level that has been far removed for many years,” she said. “I want my voice, I want my song and I want my words to rain through the lands to everybody. We have no other choice but to live together. It only makes sense that we confront these challenges together.”
She added that it’s important to acknowledge that the places we reside were once someone’s home. It isn’t only about acknowledging the land but what people lost.
“If you imagine a time when there were not any state, county or city lines and limits — if there was no line, my people would be in the mountains. When the seasons changed, they would be coming off the mountains, they would be moving into lower terrain and identifying where that water source would be … My people moved very fluidly with the seasons and our resources, but we don’t do that anymore because the lines have crossed us in so many different ways.”
For more information on the Wild Feast or to purchase a ticket, visit www.wildernessworkshop.org