By Esther Villareal, class of 2021
In early October, 2022, a contact through the DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) team invited NTMN to participate at the Urban Inter-Tribal Center’s 50th anniversary party in Grauwyler Park. Grauwyler Park is located southwest of Love Field near Frasier Dam, a popular kayaking location amongst the Master Naturalist community. This event was a celebration recognizing 50 years of Native Americans receiving medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare, job training, and much more. The Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas (UITCT) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing culturally-sensitive, community-based services to meet the diverse needs of over 76,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The center itself is near 35 & Inwood and includes a health clinic. “UITCT is honored to serve Native Nations throughout Texas and beyond,” their website reads.
It was a hot and sunny day, the parking lot at the nearby rec center was full, cars were lined up on all sides surrounding the large park. The NTMN table was next to our friends from Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC). While working at our table, we made a friend, a board member of UITCT, who was volunteering at the event. This gentleman had lots of questions for us. His concerns were for the conservation of resources for future generations. Ginger Greatens and I ended up inviting him to apply for the upcoming class!
Many folks interacted with us, the paper wasp nest and giant shelf fungi drew a lot of attention. We made a new contact with the Council Secretary of the Indigenous Institute of the Americas, Annette Anderson. We hope to foster a collaborative relationship with her non-profit, which provides educational programs, cultural consultation and topic development based on the needs of the community. She saw TRAC’s turtle shell as part of their display and shared the story of Turtle Island with us, an Indigenous creation story. A woman walked up to our table. We began talking and she shared her experience and wonder in the field of ethnobiology, turns out she had just applied to join our next new class! We met several young women in a Scout troop looking for a project. We hope to connect them at TRAC – Maybe building a few benches for that long walk in from the road and bus stop!
It was wonderful to be out in the community, sharing about the good things NTMN is doing, in a park I’d never been to before, being welcomed into a culture different from my own. As the event drew to a close, the emcee announced a community dance open to all for the closing ceremony. Ginger and I watched as the participants moved around us in a giant circle and beat drums, some of them dressed in their competition pow wow dress. If I could encourage anyone reading this as you contemplate what volunteer opportunities to sign up for in this next year…consider something new! Why not try a different part of town, or sign up for an Outreach project for the first time working with kids. NTMN committees are working hard to make contacts and build relationships all over our city to spread the vision of conservation and preservation of Master Naturalists to every corner of Dallas!