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Here, GOCO Fellow Emily Spahn describes a full-day event she attended along with others from her fellowship host organization Montezuma Land Conservancy, the Telluride Institute, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The groups came together on October 28, 2021 to develop a shared vision for their connection to the land and to each other. This event aimed to promote critical roundtable discussions and foster connection between key tribal and non-tribal community members through story-sharing. It gave everyone in attendance the opportunity to tell the stories that tie each person to the land we live on, to conservation as a whole, and, ultimately, to one another.

As I write this, I glance every so often at a picture perched at the bottom right side of my computer screen. It blocks a couple of the things at the bottom bar, the time, the battery percentage, the outside temperature, the messages waiting for me to read them. Instead, it shows a group of people, around 20 or so, all smiling at the camera. Four elderly folks sit on a wooden log; the rest fan out around them, standing on a large field of grass, the barbed wire fence peeking out behind their backs. In the background, you see the flat top of a bold mesa and the proud peaks of a mountain range. My eyes are drawn towards their snowy tops, crowning the heads of the people in the back row. I am in the back row, the last person on the left, a step away from the man next to me and you can tell I didn’t know what to do with my arms.

Attendees pose together on a field of grass in front of a bold mesa. Photo by Sarah Schwab

This photo was taken at what we lovingly refer to as “Regina’s Event,” but in outreach materials we called it a longer name: “Connecting Land and Community Through Our Shared Stories.” I think either title does the event justice. The people in the photo are a mix of characters. Some I work with, others I had met only over Zoom, and some complete strangers. Whether or not I ever see them again, I feel connected to each and every person.

We gathered with the goal of, “sharing stories in order to develop a common vision for our connection to the land and to each other.” The day was special, it was emotional, it was about people, and it didn’t have the traditional deliverables that one would expect from a professional meeting. However, every single person I spoke with in the two months since we gathered had a unique experience that impacted both their personal and professional lives. Those outcomes are hard to create and even harder to quantify.

Read more here…

An account written for Great Outdoors Colorado
December 2021

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