Last September, a 29-year-old Navajo climber named Len Necefer posted a photo of a young woman named Monserrat A Matehuala standing on the summit of Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s best known 14ers. What was significant was not that she summited—hundreds do each year. It was the location in the geotag that accompanied the post: Neníisótoyóú’u, the mountain’s Arapaho name.
Big congrats to Monserrat on her first alpine climb: Fifth Class North Face of Neníisótoyóú’u (Longs Peak). 13 hours round trip. —— Photo of Monserrat A Matehuala @in_lak_ech (Guachichil/Mexica) —— NativeOutdoors sharing the media and stories of indigenous people in the outdoors and outdoor recreation. Use #NativesOutdoors or DM to be featured on this feed. —— #NativesOutdoors
The post was just one salvo in a quiet campaign waged by Necefer, a member of the Navajo Nation who now lives in Colorado. He earned his PhD in engineering from Carnegie Mellon, and then began working for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. In March 2017, Necefer also founded Natives Outdoors. While it began as a social media effort to advocate for public lands and diversify the outdoor industry, it soon became something much larger. Today, Natives Outdoors makes gear (trucker hats, shirts) and works with athletes, brands, and organizations to spread its message.
“The creation of the first national parks, like Yellowstone and Glacier, was predicated on the forced removal of indigenous populations from these areas,” says Necefer. “It created this myth that these are untouched wilderness areas.”