From May 10-11, 2018, The Center for Jackson Hole, which runs SHIFT and The Emerging Leader Program, held a retreat for staff and board members to discuss the future of both initiatives as well as that of the organization overall. The retreat was held on the Navajo Reservation in Utah’s Monument Valley at the home of Jonah Yellowman, spiritual advisor of Utah Diné Bikéyah, the Native American organization that spearheaded the creation of Bears Ears National Monument.
The retreat, which was facilitated by the Meridian Institute’s Robyn Paulekas, included board members Alfonso Orozco, Frederick Reimers, Len Necefer and José Gonzalez, and staff Grace Anderson, Francesca Weikert, Gerben Scherpbier and Christian Beckwith.
A summary of the retreat’s outcomes may be found here.
Objectives of the retreat were as follows:
The decision to hold the retreat at Mr. Yellowman’s resulted from his participation at last year’s SHIFT, where he was a keynote speaker.
Following the event, The Center’s Executive Director, Christian Beckwith, traveled to Yellowman’s home, where he joined him in a sweat with military veterans. A week later, Yellowman invited Beckwith and his family to a Veterans’ Day celebration for Navajo veterans, and a friendship between the two men sprung up.
In early winter 2018, The Center began bringing Emerging Leaders Program alumni onto its staff and board, including Len Necefer, a 2017 participant. Necefer, the Navajo founder of Natives Outdoors, met with Beckwith at The Center’s office in Jackson and introduced him to the Navajo concept of “k’é,” an exchange documented in this essay.
The Navajo, or Diné, society is based primarily upon kinship arising from clan affiliation, as each person is a member of the tribe by reason of his or her affiliation to one of the numerous Clans. K’é extends to the surrounding world as well, and fosters respect for all natural things, animate and inanimate, as part of the Navajos’ extended family.
When the retreat was being planned, Beckwith reached out to Yellowman to inquire whether it could be held at his home. The hope was that retreat, and thus The Center’s work, might be imbued with the spirit of k’é.
During the retreat, participants developed a road map for the organization in an octagon used for Navajo ceremonial purposes on Yellowman’s property. Meals were held in an adjacent shadehouse.
Yellowman participated throughout, illuminating the meaning behind k’é and offering both guidance and Navajo stories to the Center for Jackson Hole staff and board.
The proceedings of the retreat will guide the organization’s evolution through this year’s SHIFT and ELP, and inform next steps for the future of The Center for Jackson Hole.