How Bioneers Shaped a Youth Scholar: An Interview

“Attending Bioneers is like receiving learning bundles and going home with them. Bioneers is always ahead of the curve…it’s always at the epi-center of the nature movement…full of people centered around nature, indigenous elders and innovators…it syncs my learning calendar for the whole year.”

Henry Jake Foreman embodies what it means to be a bioneer. He is brave, bold and helping youth find their passion. He first came to Bioneers five years ago at the invitation of Cara Romero, our Indigenous Knowledge Director, as part of the Youth Scholarship program.

Read Cara’s interview with Henry Jake below to learn about how Bioneers helped bring him to where he is today.

When did you attend the Bioneers Conference?  What or who brought you?

I first attended Bioneers Annual Conference in 2010 and haven’t missed a year since.   I was working with Arturo Sandoval (past presenter) in New Mexico and was aware of the Dreaming New Mexico Bioneers Initiative and radio programs.  Then one day, I met Indigenous Knowledge Director Cara Romero at an Indigenous Sustainability Conference in Santa Fe, she offered me a scholarship and I brought my whole family (mom, sister, brother) up to San Rafael.

Describe your first conference experience.

It was just really amazing as a Native youth from New Mexico to travel all the way to the Bay Area/California and attend Bioneers for the first time.  I couldn’t believe the synergy between the Southwest and the Bay Area.  I found myself networking with amazing and wonderful like-minded people and it opened my eyes and my mind to all of the progress people are making with their environmental solutions and movements.  I wanted to take them all back to my community.

Can you pinpoint the most impactful experience that you had at the conference?

I know you probably get this a lot, but it was first hearing Paul Stamets speak.  The work he does just really spoke to me as I was studying micro-biology at the time.  What he’s doing in terms of mycology…it was so much deeper than anything I was learning.  But I didn’t just hear him talk, I bought his book and got to meet him and he signed my book– I instantly knew that I wanted to take that body of work back to New Mexico and look at our desert soil…that talk and introduction to Paul took me on a whole journey around soil for many years.

Did you make any connections at the conference that you still have that are important to you?

I can think of two right away.  Ras K’Dee (Dry Creek Pomo) and Chief Oren Lyons (Onondaga).  With Ras, it was about meeting someone my own age that was already doing something totally inspiring and like what I wanted to do in my community with native media.  He changed my life.  And then there was the man — the legend — the honored elder Chief Oren Lyons. It’s a dream come true for any young Native youth activist to meet Oren in person.  I was able to honor him.  I was able to gift him.  I was able to tell him that his work and his messages are coming full circle and that I am continuing his work as a young person.  It was a pure moment of spiritual reciprocity.

In general, what do you feel is the value of attending Bioneers?  How has it affected your life?
Attending Bioneers is like receiving learning bundles and going home with them.  Bioneers is always ahead of the curve…it’s always at the epi-center of the nature movement…full of people centered around nature, indigenous elders and innovators…it syncs my learning calendar for the whole year.

Did your Bioneers experience as a Native Youth Scholar shape what you’re doing now? What do you do now?

Yes, it profoundly influenced my life and direction.  I came back to New Mexico and got my teaching certificate, so I could inspire kids with what Bioneers seeded in me.  I’m now a high school teacher at the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I use Bioneers media in my classroom.  Indigenous Director, Cara Romero and I are going to work together to bring a group of kids from NACA this year.

Additionally, I came away with the inspiration and network to support creating a campaign called Cycles of Life. Cycles of Life creates a space that supports, encourages, and strengthens youth to realize their innate potential as compassionate leaders for the 21st century through bicycling, gardening, and art. The goal of the program is provide the background of the complex and interconnected nature of elements that determine our health that is interconnected to the health of our planet. The aim for providing this foundation is to encourage students to take action to create positive changes that support healthier people, communities and bioregions.

Is there anything else you want to say about your experience at Bioneers?

I love that Bioneers explicitly values the contribution and scholarship of Indigenous peoples and other underrepresented groups. The hegemony of Western philosophy does not reflect the changing demographics nor adequately addresses the complex and interconnected issues that we collectively face.

The Bioneers Indigenous Forum offers a leading edge in re-visioning education that can reframe our perception of who we are and how we relate to the World around us.

Henry Jake credits his experience at Bioneers as shaping who he is today. We are offering you the opportunity to help us support more youth scholars — you can help today with a tax-deductible donation to the youth scholarship fund.

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