Just say YES

Overview

Fighting a ‘losing’ battle against youth obesity

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie Nico Tsinnijinnie, left, Nickohlas Thompson, center, and Tom Riggenbach get ready to begin their second day of hiking to Rainbow Bridge National Monument last Wednesday.

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Nico Tsinnijinnie, left, Nickohlas Thompson, center, and Tom Riggenbach get ready to begin their second day of hiking to Rainbow Bridge National Monument last Wednesday.

NAVAJO MOUNTAIN, Utah

It’s late on Day One, and the youngest member of our group is hurting.

“How many more miles?” asks 13-year-old Molique Miller for the third time as he plops down in the shade of a stunted juniper, dwarfed by his borrowed backpack, and chugs some lukewarm, iodine-scented water from a plastic bottle.

“Are you sorry you came on this trip?” the reporter asks him.

“Kind of,” he admits.

After the two-day, 14-mile backpack trip to Rainbow Bridge, we encounter Miller slumped on a bench on the tour boat back to Page, Ariz. He has downed some ice-cold lemonade, nibbled on fresh fruit, and the oppressor backpack lies on a helpless pile with the others below deck.

“Was it worth it?” the reporter asks.

Too tired to reply, the Navajo boy nods his head yes. Navajo YES (Youth Empowerment Services) is also the name of the non-profit that has brought us together in this magnificently tortured desert: seven teenage boys, a plucky young photographer, an aging and out-of-shape journalist and the group’s founder and executive director, Tom Riggenbach.

The stated purpose of this trip is to flag the trail from Navajo Mountain to Rainbow Bridge for a proposed marathon, part of YES’s Navajo Parks Race Series. But the truth is, Riggenbach and his two stalwart minions, Bob DeJolie and Myron Bryant, could have done that in less than a day by themselves. The real purpose is the mission of Navajo YES and Riggenbach’s whole adult life: to get more Navajo kids into their astonishing backyard.

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About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi Bureau reporter and currently interim editor. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at editor@navajotimes.com.