Kelkiyana Yazzie: Champion for Grand Canyon Interpreting and Educating

Updated February 2024 Grand Canyon National Park, AZ–Kelkiyana Yazzie of the Grand Canyon National Park has been selected for the 2022 Interpretation and Resource Education (IRE) Staff Person of the Year Award. Kelkiyana was nominated by peers for her work, which amplifies indigenous narratives at Grand Canyon National Park.

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Kelkiyana’s influence has radiated outside the Grand Canyon and across the National Park Service, says a media release from park officials. A highlight of Kelkiyana’s work includes her invitation and participation in the Virtual Interpretation Leadership Training, which targets interpretation and education managers and leaders across the National Park Service.

Kelkiyana Yazzie's work at Grand Canyon National Park

smiling young woman in national pak service ranger uniform stands with back to the Grand Canyon - Kelkiyana Yazzie wears a turquoise decorated silver squash blossom necklace
Kelkiyana Yazzie at The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park | NPS photo

Kelkiyana Yazzie began working at Grand Canyon National Park in September 2021 as a transfer student employee from Navajo National Monument. At that point, she was earning a Master of Science degree through Northern Arizona University’s online Parks and Recreation Management (PRM) program within the Department of Geography, Planning, and Recreation. Before that, the Arizonan received a Bachelor’s Degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, with an Environmental Studies major.

In February 2022, she was officially named a permanent Grand Canyon National Park Ranger.

“It definitely takes a toll emotionally & mentally to push back on the traditional values/regulations that have supported the dominant Euro-centric narratives present in most national parks. Even just to have access to the resources to back us up & support us,” the park ranger discloses on her Instagram account.

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‘It’s integral that our tribal communities... are authentically and respectfully represented’

stone homes built against tall cliff in the Arizona high desert
View across Betatakin to the northwest-west at Navajo National Monument | Photo by Ralph Burrillo, Northern Arizona University Anthropology Laboratories

“But it’s integral that our tribal communities – our people, our heritage, our history are all authentically & respectfully represented in a federal agency & on native lands where our voices have been nearly nonexistent since the creation of the NPS. So I’m grateful that all of the dedication, tears, & uphill footwork are appreciated.

“I’m also thankful for all of the support along the way (especially from my colleagues/friends/relatives – we lean on each other all the time because at times that’s all there is to turn to),” continues Kelkiyana Yazzie, who grew up in Shonto, Arizona on the Navajo Nation.

“So honored to receive this award, especially since I work/worked with some of the most amazing people in the NPS. Let’s continue fighting the good fight & I hope more acknowledgment & appreciation for this type of advocation for the truth & our heritage continues everywhere,” shares Kelkiyana Yazzie on Instagram.

Recognizing Kelkiyana Yazzie’s impact on interpretation and resource education

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“Kelkiyana has served as a mentor to many employees, interns, and volunteers over the last year,” reveals the media release. “Kelkiyana also developed public and park staff programs focused on indigenous connections and traditional knowledge of the canyon.”

A common thread in the nominations for Kelkiyana Yazzie was the word “collaboration.”

Her nominations highlighted the many instances where Kelkiyana united staff to co-create and provide feedback on programming, training and interpretive products.

Elevating indigenous connections to the Grand Canyon

The media release quotes one nomination, “Kelkiyana cares deeply about her colleagues and has used her voice on several occasions to support their work in elevating indigenous connections to the canyon and promoting fair and inclusive treatment in the workplace.”

We hope that you have a chance to meet Kelkiyana Yazzie during your trip to Grand Canyon National Park.

Make sure to grab a look at Books Grand Canyon to help you plan for your park adventure.

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