Like most of us, I have a lot to learn about diversity and inclusion. The very nature of this important work is fraught with more than a few opportunities mistep and tragically contribute to the very circumstances we are striving to overcome. As I am literally packing my bags for the next leg of my current mission I must pause to express my sincere regret and to apologize for a profound error in judgement.
I recently announced the launch of reporting project to explore the merits of efforts to make the management of our public lands more diverse and inclusive. The Next 100 Coalition is a group of environal justice activists that aims to encourage the Obama Administration and members of Congress to create programs and policies to make the outdoors more welcoming and accessible to all American citizens, in particular people of color. After my last post to The Joy Trip Project web site that introduced this new mission it was pointed out to me however by a member of the coaltion that its name is in direct violation of the very principles the group hopes to encourage others to follow.
The term Vision Quest is a historically recognized tradition of Native American people. It is a practice of sacred significance that must be honored and protected with the same respect and reverence as the natural resources that we all hope to preserve. As was made clear to me in a recent email the name of my project puts that effort in jeopardy. “One of the reasons we initially engaged with the Initiative is to raise aware(ness) on issues around tribal lands and misappropriation of native resources and culture,” the message read. “Calling your project the Vision Quest is an example of what we are fighting against.”
Though I may claim ignorance of this fact that is no excuse. I humbly apologize to The National Congress of American Indians and I sincerely ask for their forgiveness. This error was made with no ill-intent and I am astonished by how easily we can inadvertently offend the very people we aim to support and encourage. For that I am truly sorry. But I hope that we can all learn a lesson from this experience of how important it is to consider the thoughts and beliefs every member of our community. Despite our best efforts, we still may contribute to the same problems we aim to solve.
The Centennial Initiative Vision Mission as I am now calling it (hopefully with no objections) will continue. I leave this afternoon for Alaska to visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There I’ll be in the company of Next 1oo Coalition member José Gonzalez of Latino Outdoors and a representative from Outdoor Afro. It is my hope that through our journey together we might illustrate and share a positive vision of the outdoors that is respectful of the many different communities we serve.
With all sincerity,
James Edward Mills
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