We were taking our very first camping trip! Ron Kauk led foster kids from Merced on a three day camping trip in Yosemite. Stanford graduate student Diego Roman joined us, and lent his camera to one of the kids. Here is what Stanford Professor of Education and Sacred Rok Board member Kenji Hakuta wrote after the trip.
Sacred Rok Board Members Reflect on Experience with Incarcerated Youth
Last week Board members Kenji Hakuta and Nancy Goodban were privileged to accompany Ron Kauk as he led five young men on a hike in Yosemite.
These young men are incarcerated at the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex in Merced, otherwise known as Juvenile Hall. They are enrolled in the Bear Creek Academy (BCA), which adds a classroom component for selected youth at Juvenile Hall. Ron visits Juvenile Hall every two weeks, bringing organic lunch fixings, and joins them to share reflections about their trips to Yosemite. The BCA youth have worked with Ron and their classroom teacher to create the BCA Mission I’mpossible program – they also set up a website at http://bcamissionimpossible.weebly.com and they shared their thoughts and feelings in our collaborative book, Voices From the Inside Out.
Kenji and Nancy walked with these young men and Ron and the Probation staff on a warm springtime day in Yosemite Valley. We first stopped at Fern Spring, the entrance to Yosemite Valley, to appreciate the fresh water coming right out of the ground, filling our water bottles and enjoying sitting in the shade. We then took a hike around Mirror Lake, past the rushing roaring waters of Tenaya Creek and up Tenaya Canyon with its spectacular views of Half Dome and other granite peaks. The young men were respectful and kind. There was a lot of talking and laughing, as well as playing in the placid waters of Mirror Lake – a sense of freedom and of appreciation for the magnificence of the springtime of newly budding trees and wildflowers, and the joy of being in nature.
A few days later, we joined them for their lunch meeting at Juvenile Hall where they looked at photos of the trip and reflected on what it meant to them to be in nature. Each young man had written down his thoughts about the trip and the impact of being in nature, and took turns reading them aloud to the rest of the class.
Articulate, poised, and well spoken, these young men have their whole lives ahead of them. We hope that their experiences with Sacred Rok in nature and the classroom will help them to see the world beyond their own neighborhood, and make positive choices in their lives when they get out. More than ever we realized the need for a place they can go to after they exit Juvenile Hall, for a day or a week, to feel again the sanctuary of time in nature and time to reflect. Our Sacred Rok Board is committed to help raise funds for a house, a vehicle, and a staff to assist Ron as we do our best to transform lives in a meaningful way, one person at a time.
- Nancy Goodban and Kenji Hakuta
Thank you to the family and friends of David John Kangas, who have donated to Sacred Rok in his memory. Dr. Kangas received his PhD from Yale University in philosophy of religion, and was an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Cal State Stanislaus. An avid mountaineer, hiker, and skier, he loved Yosemite. When he passed away in September 2016, his family asked that donations be made to Sacred Rok in his name. We are honored and grateful.
San Benito County Probation – Trips to Pinnacles
Executive Director Ron Kauk along with Board member and former Superintendent at Pinnacles Steve Shackelton have led several trips to Pinnacles National Park for incarcerated youth in San Benito County. Here are some of their reflections.
Being out in nature reminds of life before I started getting locked up. ” Peacefulness.” That peace is still there… if you have the desire to go out and find it.
When I first went I was afraid. I thought differently about life when I was at Pinnacles. I felt like I was escaping from my problems & it felt good to get a little bit of freedom.
Nature is so beautiful, Pinnacles is such a peaceful place to be at & let go of problems. It cleared my mind.
My favorite part was that I actually made it, without giving up! At first I wanted too… But I put my mind to it and did it…… So now I know if I put my mind to something…… I can make it in Life!
I felt free yesterday… I felt like we were back in time when our ancient brothers walked the earth. I realized that, in life… when you put effort in good behavior, good stuff happens to you.
Everything has a story, water, rocks, animals and humans… we all learn from one another.
The “Go Day” – The Day I went to the hiking at Pinnacles was Heaven to me. I loved it. It made me think about life. Being out there, in the mountains, climbing high in the rocks, getting a beautiful view of everything… The reason I’m calling this “Go Day” I because I never thought I was going to go hiking at Juvenile Hall and because we were stomping and stomping our way to the top… Me personally, I didn’t want to stop! I wanted to keep going and going… How much I love being out there! Hopefully, I will be gone when the next group of kids makes the trip…. Maybe they will realize what can be accomplished.
Sacred Rok is happy to announce that the North Face Explore Fund has awarded our Youth in Yosemite program 2016 grant. This grant will be extremely influential in helping us to fulfill our mission of supporting youth in nature, helping youth to learn to respect nature and through that, to respect themselves.
Please click here for more information on the Explore Fund:
We are also excited to share wth you a story release on National Parks Traveler website featuring Sacred Rok:
We thank you all for your continued help and support.
COO – Sacred Rok
Happy New Year!
We have continued to work closely with Merced County’s Probation Department, Merced Boys & Girls Club, and other youth-serving organizations in the Central Valley and Northern California.We completed a short video, Unifying Spirit – Honoring Indigenous, with the American Indian tribes of Yosemite, funded by an America’s Best Ideas grant from the National Parks Foundation.
All pictures are excerpts from our book, “Voices From the Inside”
We have especially focused on our relationship with the Merced County Probation Department. Almost every week Ron goes to the Merced County juvenile justice complex, Iris Garrett, for lunch with the youth. He brings healthy organic food and they share lunch and talk about their experiences in Yosemite. Ron and his work with Probation was also featured in The Search for Freedom by filmmaker Jon Long.
Our new book, Voices From Inside Out, was developed jointly by Sacred Rok and the Probation Department youth whom are incarcerated. This inspirational book tells the stories of 22 young people who have come to Yosemite with Sacred Rok, and what it has meant to them.
With the support of our donors, last year Ron led twenty-six day trips and five camping trips with Merced County Probation, Boys & Girls Club of Merced, EMQ FamiliesFirst, Yosemite area Native American Tribes and Symple Equazion. These trips provide the opportunity for these young people to experience nature and to build ongoing relationships.
Ron has also made presentations to groups throughout the Bay Area, as well as showing his movie Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey at the Yosemite Visitor Center on weekend nights during the spring and summer.
We are grateful to our many supporters and donors, who share our values and commitment to our future as an inclusive society connected to nature and its wonders.These projects have been supported by Clif Bar Family Foundation, The North Face, Patagonia, Yosemite Conservancy, Merced County United Way, and the National Parks Foundation. All of our trips are at no cost to the participants. We are 100% funded by donations (monetary and in-kind), grants, and contracts. We are especially grateful for the donation of a camper vehicle from Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford of Clif Bar, providing amenities such as refrigeration and hot water for our camping trips.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the healing experience of nature with the young people we serve as well as with the larger community.
And please let us know if you would like a copy of Voices From the Inside Out – you will love it! We ask a $20 donation if possible, thanks!
Nancy Goodban, Board Chair
Click here for Voices from our Youth
Donate to Sacred Rok for #GivingTuesday
Please join us in celebrating #GivingTuesday – a day where giving back takes center stage over the shopping and spending of the holiday season. Sacred Rok reflects the importance of slowing down, paying attention to our surroundings, honoring the present, and respecting nature.
If you donate to Sacred Rok through PayPal’s Giving Fund today, they will add 1%.
Thank you for your support!!
The Search For Freedom
As we continue our relationship with Bear Creek Academy Juvenile Hall we’re happy to share our part in a feature length film called The Search for Freedom; which has played in 80 theaters across the US and winner of numerous awards.
Here is the short:
In our commitment of being with the youth at Juvenile Hall we keep building our story through camping trips, day trips, and lunch outings, which your donations help us to do.
We humbly thank you for your generous donations because it is with your support that we can continue to follow our mission.
We also would like to remind you that we offer a series of prints, t-shirts, and books in exchange for your contribution. Please check our website for more details: http://sacredrok.org/donate-now/
We are excited to share our newest T-Shirt with you. The Yosemite Bear was done by renown Yosemite Artist, Penny Otwell and we are very honored to be able to feature her work on our shirts.
The inspiration for this shirt came from this video: Unifying Spirit – Honoring Indigenous
Sacred Rok continues to be committed to understand what it means to be a human being in the 21st century. In the collaboration with the indigenous reality of the First Nations people of Yosemite we are sharing this message together. Yosemite is recognized as a World Heritage Site and has always been the responsibility of the American Indian People to be caretakers.
In this video the voices of those who understand this responsibility can be heard.
Unifying Spirit – Honoring Indigenous – please click the links for the 13 minute video
A behind the scenes glimpse at the production of Unifying Spirit with our native elders.
This video was funded through the generous support of the National Parks Foundation, through its Americas Best Ideas grant. It was made possible through the generous support of Subaru, The Ahmanson Foundation, Chapman Hanson Foundation, and Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation.
A minimum of a $50 contribution will send a youth to Yosemite for a day with Ron; an event that can be life changing. In return we will send you this Indigenous inspired, Sacred Yosemite Bear tee (Adult sizes S, M, L, XL).
Half Dome T-shirt
Half Dome T-shirt, art work by Jeremy Collins.
A minimum of a $50 contribution will send a youth to Yosemite for a day with Ron; an event that can be life changing. In return we will send you this Half Dome inspired Sacred Rok tee (Adult sizes S, M, L, XL).
America’s Best Idea Grant – August 2014
Yosemite National Park just issued a press release about the America’s Best Ideas grant received from the National Parks Foundation. Yosemite is partnering with Sacred Rok and the local tribal community to connect American Indian youth to Yosemite National Park.
please check it out: ABI Yosemite News Release
Coversations from the Sacred Kitchen
Everything we put in us has an impact but the body is also very powerful and resilient and has the capacity to endure a lot. But, we must nurture the body with food, water, thoughts and environment. We should do so with the the cleanest food, water and energy we can.
Clean food, real food, organic food and whole food will keep the body in a healthy way and we will perform better, function better, have better sleep, clearer minds and healthier bodies. We have moved very far in a very short amount time away from whole and real food. Dietary choices combined with lifestyle factors play a huge role in obesity, and it has been found that the prevalence of obesity increases significantly for those who consume fast food 3 or more times per week. People are simply overbooked and overtaxed and are overlooking health in exchange for convenience and cheapness. Refined foods and processed foods are chosen because they are simple to obtain and taste good enough. However, these foods are detrimental to our health and well-being. We have become addicted to these convenience foods and these foods are keeping us weak and sick in our bodies and our minds.
We have given up what we as humans innately know about what we need to eat and have placed that power in the hands of government and corporation. In turn we have received GMO’s, “conventionally” grown food laden with pesticides and herbicides, rancid vegetable oils, and higher obesity rates, heart disease, and more diabetes than ever before.
Just as the plants need water, we need water. We need to hydrate ourselves to keep our cells healthy and full, our body loose and limber. Water is cleansing and life giving – absolutely nothing can live without it yet we mistreat water so globally and with such abandon. Many people would argue that one cannot waste water, but I disagree. Our mistreatment of water by putting additives in it, by using it in Fracking to carry slurry, using it to carry human waste, water parks, soda factories, watering pesticide laden plants is a waste of precious and limited clean water. We are abusing our life source. And unfortunately this has become the norm and this needs to change.
We buy bottled water because we desire the life source and the tap water in our homes doesn’t always taste so good, but this is a vicious cycle. The plastic is terrible for our environment. In the US alone 35 billion plastic water bottles are tossed in the trash – plastics constitute approximately 90% of all trash floating in the oceans – and this plastic will take 500 to 1000 years to degrade, turning into smaller and smaller pieces. In 2013 93% of Americans age 6 and older tested positive for the plastic chemical BPA. We are ingesting plastic whether we know it or not and it is making us sick. We should stop buying bottled water and instead invest in water filters for our homes and offices.
Something to consider is that all wild animals, still living in nature, know what to eat and how to get it. They do not need Burger Kings or supermarkets – everything they need is provided by nature – they have not lost their way. This is a good example for us to follow.
In this highly modernized world which has conquered almost every square inch of the globe it is a tall and difficult order to go back to the wild and reacquaint ourselves with what we left behind. However, we can use nature as guidance and inspiration on how to get back to what we once knew about living healthy and being whole.
The choices we make in what we eat make a difference in our health and the health of our families. Leaving behind the fast food and the convenience food and going for the whole food and the real food is better for the environment, better for you and keeps more money in your pockets.
Sacred Rok’s camp kitchen has been an advocate of this way of eating and nurturing the body from the beginning. Each year we strive to bring the groups we work with the best food we can obtain and prepare. Our menus consist of organic grains, free-range and local meats and eggs, organic and locally procured fruits and vegetables, raw and local dairy as well as items picked wild in the Sierra. Part of our job in the kitchen is to not only provide this food and prepare this food but it is also to share an understanding about nutrition and what it is we are getting from the things we eat. We also share the process of preparing and help our groups realize that they too can eat this way at home. We look forward to continuing this journey in 2015 and helping our Sacred Rok community grow in health and harmony with nature.
At the end of the year we like to reflect on what we have learned, where we have been, and where we are going.
As the modern world unfolds with its technological advances, climate change, and wars and conflict, it continues to challenge us to our commitment of why we say “education nature’s way,” and what it means to be a human being.
With my good friend and Sacred Rok Board member Kenji Hakuta, who is a professor of education at Stanford University, we have inspired in each other the broader consideration of what it means to be educated nature’s way. More than once we have acknowledged the idea of “indigenous” in our conversations. That always motivates us to continue to work on the language and story that we have been building for the last five years.
Being with our kids in Yosemite points to the reality of how simple it can really be when we get back to the basics. It’s all about relationships based on respect, communication, and trust, which always seems to lead back to the reality of our indigenous connection to the earth.
We all came from a tribe at one time, a community that based itself on survival by respecting the environment. The distraction from this has created side effects that are affecting our youth and ourselves, some examples of which are called “attention deficit disorder” and even further, “nature deficit disorder.”
In my own personal experience and commitment to take the time to be in the sacred presence of the natural world, the profound beauty of Yosemite has a way of opening my senses to receive the medicine and healing that has a way of evoking my spirit — or just say energy — into a communing and communication that develops a relationship of profound connection.
Putting it simply, you can realize that this truly is a mother earth. When taking the time to consider that we are made up of the earth as human beings, and are 65% water, is for me personally what the potential of outdoor education can bring to our youth.
Another example is in my summer camp in Tuolumne Meadows. I get up before the sunrise, light the campfire, and have some coffee. As the sun begins to show, I walk down to the river barefoot, and sit on a rock that faces east, positioned with the river in front of me. As the sun comes over the mountain and begins to light up everything, there is a beam of light coming down the river over the water to where my feet are.
Holding my palms open and toward the sun, in my own way I imagine and feel all that is happening. The earth made a complete turn to bring a new day. The sun is hitting me, warming me, and I use my imagination to consider how it is providing life and light throughout the northern hemisphere and at the same time just for me.
After weeks of enjoying this personal ceremony, it dawned on me that I had a deeper understanding of the word “love”. I realized that these life-givers such as the sun, the moon, the air, the water, and the earth represent the idea of love in the most giving way that would be humanly possible to comprehend.
This is what I feel Kenji and I are getting at about what it means to be educated and what it means to be a human being. To find the deepest respect and appreciation for life and every living thing.
So sharing this beauty and healing that can evoke the human spirit into being human seems to me at this particular time in our history to be not only a responsibility, but an obligation we take seriously, to nurture our children and inspire their authentic self.
We bring this into the context of learning and building relationships to the sacredness of nature and the reality that we all belong to an extended family that goes beyond humans to every living thing. This creates an inner strength so we can see clearly the value of who we are as unique individuals.
Kids are the future. This is our commitment to education in the 21st century, which can help us all to reconsider our priorities and values that have everything to do with our responsibilities to the past, the present, and the future.
This may sound serious, but so is climbing El Capitan. In my own teenage years, I had a place to go and find something to literally and figuratively hang on to. Climbing the 3,000 foot rock face of El Capitan presented the kind of challenge that could test a youth in a positive, respectful, and humble way in the environment of the vertical world. Learning how to get back to the basics – food, water, shelter, and survival skills – necessary to make such a journey.
Forty years later, I continue to seek the wisdom from these profound challenges. Considering the world we live in, we at Sacred Rok are having serious fun looking for ways to be responsible to future generations.
Thank you for reading these thoughts. We are working on our story, following the tracks laid out before us in Yosemite and illuminated through the narrative of sharing with our youths.
As we shared with you earlier, we have a new t-shirt on the website. Let us know if you want one. And check out our annual reports.
Also, please consider making a year-end contribution to support our work! You can pay by PayPal on our website, or mail a check to Sacred Rok at PO Box 148, Yosemite, CA 95389.
As one of our guys from juvenile hall said, “It is all for one and one for all” – that is how we feel about being together. Basically, we are just setting out on the trail together.
Thank you again for all your support.
– Ron Kauk