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Udall Legacy Tour highlights Native projects 7-07

by Terri C. Hansen
Environment, Science and Health Reporter

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NFIC)- He championed the rights of Native Americans.

He was a fierce advocate for tribal sovereignty.

He sponsored the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Former Congressman Morris K. Udall, better known as Mo, saw 184 bills affecting Native American interests enacted into law throughout his 14 years as chairman of the House Interior Committee. His congressional career was distinguished by his efforts to preserve and protect America’s natural heritage.

Mo Udall served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1991, when Parkinson’s disease precipitated a fall causing him irreversible brain damage and loss of speech. In his honor, the following year Congress established the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Protection Foundation.


Since then more than 900 Morris K. Udall scholarships, internships and fellowships totaling some $4.6 million have been awarded to college juniors and seniors pursuing careers related to the environment or who are Native Americans engaged in health care or tribal policy studies.

Young recipients of Udall Foundation scholarships will be drawing attention to the programs laudable accomplishments—over 50 public service projects nationwide have been created and carried out by Udall scholars, interns and fellows—as part of the Udall Legacy Bus Tour, the final event in a year long “Celebration of Public Service,” marking the 10th anniversary of the Udall Foundation’s education programs.

Thirteen Udall scholars embarked from Washington, D.C. June 12 on a journey that’s taking them to 26 cities, six Native American communities and six national parks, traveling 8,600 miles in a whirlwind 54 days.

“This bus tour is about honoring Mo Udall's legacy by bringing attention to young people nationwide who are finding solutions to pressing environmental and Native American issues,” said Udall Scholar Bob Filbin, who is also the tour photographer. “At a time when we are faced with so many problems, we felt that this bus tour could tell a different story – a positive story about young public servants leading the country in new directions.”

The tour will highlight six projects related to Native American issues that will include hurricane recovery efforts with the United Houma Nation in Houma, Louisiana; a Native American Healthcare Symposium in Oklahoma City; an irrigation and tree planting project with Salish and Kootenai College students on the Flathead Reservation in Montana; and building recreational campgrounds with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde in Oregon, among others.

These projects were made possible by alumni of the Udall Foundation scholarship and internship programs. Udall intern Brian Mercier coordinated the Grand Ronde venture. The Salish and Kootenai College project involved connections made by Udall Scholar Lauren Caldwell. Tribal coordinator Martina Gast, First Nation Red Rock Band of the Ojibwe and a 2006 and 2007 Udall Scholar said she really wanted to be involved in the Native American aspects of the tour. “I hope to bring more Native people who are doing awesome work into the public eye since so often they are not.”

Gast plans to network with people throughout the tour to gain more knowledge and insight into their tribal nations. Future plans are law school to further her career in tribal public policy.

Tribal coordinator Jennifer Vazquez joined the tour while in Japan, avoiding school loans while working at traditional farms, community centers and eco-villages. “I was so amazed at the network of people and ideas that I became part of, then the opportunity came up to do the same thing in the U.S.” Her work with tribal communities in Wisconsin was some of her most rewarding experiences, so the tour “presented me a way to continue working within Native communities, only now, all over the country.” She says she’s continually humbled by those she meets, and finds the work that people in Indian country and the U.S. are doing an inspiration. “I'm looking to start my post-college career and I hope to gain a little more insight into what I might actually want that to be."

The Legacy Bus they’ll be traveling in is “not your average bus.” It is the first to qualify for the University of Vermont’s “Green Coach Certification” program. It runs on B-20 biodiesel and ultra low-sulfur diesel, and is equipped with real time emissions-monitoring hardware. Their goal is a carbon-neutral tour—carbon dioxide being the pollutant that is contributing to global warming—by purchasing carbon offsets from Native Energy, a corporation largely owned by Native Americans.

The Udall Foundation programs have provided hundreds of awards and opportunities to Native American student leaders. Any Native American student interested in learning more about the scholarship or internship programs can find that information along with applications on the Udall Foundation web site:

To follow along with the Legacy Tour, check out their latest newsletters at . Click the “Celebration of Public Service” tab.