Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Film Inspires Students to Connect With U.S. Parks

August 31, 2009, 7:03 am

BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT, N.M. —  With heavy packs and tired feet, Lucas Suina and Ramon Baros hiked miles through the backcountry's scrub and ponderosa pine. They started to wonder if they'd ever reach their destination.

Then, rounding a corner, Painted Cave came into view.

High on the sandstone cliff was a gallery of red, black and white pictographs and handprints put there hundreds of years ago by the ancestors of the two American Indian teenagers, who spent the summer as interns at Bandelier National Monument.

"It's pretty wild," the 18-year-old Suina said. "If you went up there and touched them, you'd be touching the same spot your ancestor was touching. It's definitely spiritual."

Suina and Baros were among a handful of teenagers from nearby pueblos who spent weeks exploring Bandelier's backcountry and educating visitors about the northern New Mexico monument as part of a new program funded by the National Park Foundation and its partners.

Nearly three dozen National Park Service sites used foundation grants to develop stronger bonds with surrounding communities.

The grants were inspired by filmmaker Ken Burns' new documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." The film centers on people from all walks of life who helped create and protect the parks.