“You Don’t Always Have To Go Abroad To Learn About a Different Culture”: Experience the Communities of the Navajo and Tohono O’odham Nations this Summer!

March 27, 2024

What are your plans for this Summer? The University of Arizona’s Cultural & Inclusive Experiential Learning Opportunities (CIELO) is inviting you to join them on a unique experience of intercultural immersion, learning and engagement in Native American communities on the Navajo Nation and the Tohono O’odham from May 26th to June 1st. Participants will explore and engage with the Navajo and Tohono O'odham people, history, and culture through cooking classes, meeting with tribal leadership, college visits, and structured opportunities for reflection on the broader social, economic, and political contexts of the indigenous communities in Arizona.

“Arizona has many diverse cultures, people, history, and places that many do not know about or interact with. This program offers an opportunity to get a glimpse of these cultures and people through meaningful programming and interactions. It shows that you do not have to go far from home to know a different world, ”shared Martel Serwenda, Senior Coordinator for the program.

CIELO program participants helping Dr. Johnson build a stone passive solar green house; photo by Nina Sajovec, Haury Program

CIELO program participants helping Dr. Johnson build a stone passive solar green house

Photo by Nina Sajovec, Haury Program

CIELO provides travel, multicultural education, and service learning to develop students’ knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting both domestically and internationally. Students experience intercultural engagement through service-learning projects that address social justice, environmental justice, and cultural exploration within local and international communities. The CIELO programs are inclusive of all UArizona students, but have a focus on historically marginalized students.

CIELO’s Tribal Nations program was first launched in in June of 2023 in collaboration with the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice (the Haury Program) and other UArizona campus partners and community partners, particularly Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes) and Native American Advancement & Tribal Enagement (NAATE), to offer a CIELO experience within the Navajo, Hopi, Pasqua Yaqui, & Tohono O’odham Nations. The 2023 program focused on interdisciplinary themes of environmental health, health equity, cultural immersion, service learning, and civic engagement. Participants were immersed in transformational and authentic service learning experiences, including 3 days at Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson’s house and farm, that provided structured opportunities for reflection on the broader social, economic, and political contexts of health (click here for a story). A total of 25 students and 6 UArizona staff attended the program, and all of them reported gaining skills that will help them meaningfully engage with tribes in their careers. The students engaged in daily reflection, and the program produced video showing the impact of the program. This program was also featured at the 2023 Town Hall Event.

How did the 2023 AZ Tribal Nations student participants experience the program? Here are some of their comments:

“I especially loved learning the creation story of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and how cultural beliefs of the tribe can play a role when creating a care plan for a patient.”

“I learned that there are a lot of tribes and that they are intertwined. A lot of the medical practices they have now are interwoven with their own cultural elements, such as medicine men and women. These medicine men and women give the patients an alternative experience to make life easier. I also learned that there is some tension between tribes and the Indian Health System because these systems don't take into account some practices that the tribes want to implement. Also, some of them maybe seeking or have even moved away from the IHS.”

“I want to work for my tribe in my future career so I will always take into consideration what I learned when the time comes to work there.”

“The journey at the farm. I think those are the most vivid examples that I have because I actively lived the Hopi way. I found out how to live off of the land, with few resources, and waking up early.”

For more information and to register visit the CIELO website or reach out to Martel Serwenda, CIELO Senior Coordinator.