Running Strong for American Indian Youth® 2022 Dreamstarter Mariah Plummer, 24, (Navajo), of South Jordan, Utah, Dreamstarter idea is the Utah K’é (Navajo Kinship and Relations) Project. This project is an indigenous woman led initiative that strengthens the unity of inter-tribal communities in the state of Utah, specifically the Salt Lake Valley.
“This project will utilize traditional values of health and wellness, combined with western approaches to promote healthy living for Indigenous peoples,” Mariah told us in her Dreamstarter application. “The Utah K’é’ project will partner with a local recreational center to host cultural and traditional activities, meanwhile providing a safe environment for indigenous community members to achieve physical wellness.” Mariah envisions conducting weekly traditional workshops and sports activities including volleyball, basketball and soccer, during the summer months.
“Cultural advisors will be invited to facilitate the teaching of traditional medicines, drum making, powwow dancing, healing generational trauma, healthy living and traditional food systems,” she says. Mariah explained that the Navajo term “K’é” is used to describe kinship, blood relation and balance – “which are all essential to a person’s inner peace and striving goals. Through this connection, indigenous peoples have established resiliency, compassion, generosity and empathy. “These core values are demonstrated through the Utah K’é project and connects me to my community.”
Mariah learned of the Dreamstarter grant program from 2019 Dreamstarter Jacob Crane. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health “in honor of myself, my culture, my ancestors and my community” while also actively participating in the Native Wolverine Association at Utah Valley University which welcomes all who are interested in Indigenous tribes. Its purpose is to promote a sense of community for Native American students and to increase educational opportunities and strengthen support services for Native Americans.
She told us “Achieving such an accomplishment would not have been possible without the support and guidance from the Salt Lake City Air Protectors,” which Jacob is active in. “Over the past year, I was fortunate enough to be on their volunteer team that delivered much-needed COVID-19 relief supplies to the Navajo Nation.” Mariah says that “Through the teachings of K’é, one of my purest passions is serving as a role model and advocate for the Native community. When I am not working with other organizations, I am proactively embracing cultural teachings among youthful populations and creating healthy social relationships with other indigenous peoples across Indian Country.
Her mentor organization, NavajoStrong, was created to aid the Navajo community during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Its mission statement is: “We strive to honor our ancestors and empower the Diné by working hard to help citizens who are affected by disease, poverty, and other health disparities on the Navajo Reservation. We continue our support by focusing on self-sufficient projects that promote health, culture and empowerment in long-term and meaningful ways.”