Stories of stewardship: Volunteering with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band


A large group of volunteers poses outside on a sunny day

By Jonathan Howell 
San Francisco Park Stewardship Intern

Accomplishing our daily tasks can be mundane, and we often lose sight of the intent we place behind accomplishing these tasks. After spending some time volunteering in Año Nuevo State Park and working with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, I had a realization that I had been lacking to be mindful of placing intent behind my actions. This posed a question that I asked myself: “How do my actions affect those around me? Or, more specifically, how do my efforts as an Ecological Restoration and Volunteer Management Intern with the Golden Gate National Parks affect the environment and the people I work with?”

This question, much like the Douglas fir trees we were to be cutting, was found in a most unexpected place: on the golden hillside of tribal land, surrounded by coyote and blackberry bushes, overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever had an opportunity to lay my eyes upon. As I was using sacred tobacco to bless the first Douglas fir sapling I was to cut, I realized my mind had wandered. My thoughts spread about like the fine shreds of tobacco I had sprinkled onto the earth and into the wind. As my thoughts settled and the tobacco found its final resting place on the land, I found myself feeling more grounded in the present. By placing conscious intent behind my actions (blessing a tree before removing it), I created space to think about the reasoning behind my actions, how they can affect the future, and how these small, infinitesimal actions can lead to the growth of a beautiful new perspective. This new perspective changed the way I see the conservation and restoration work we do in our parks and how this work not only changes our environment but ourselves.

Having intent in my life has led me to have a much broader perspective, and each time I place intent behind my actions I learn a little more about myself. Sometimes I even come face-to-face with questions I had not thought to ask before.

I am very thankful to the Amah Mutsun people for hosting this volunteer event and I hope that, by being more mindful of the intent behind my actions, I can spread more stories of park stewardship. I hope I can inspire you to adventure and share your own stories of stewardship, because without you we couldn’t have our parks!

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