Ellie Brew (SHP ’22) set out this fall to create a website
about Bay Area hiking trails paired with the history of the land, letting users learn about the original Native American inhabitants. To launch the project, Brew underwent extensive research into area tribes, and made vital connections with tribal representatives with the aim of “building the project together.” The first tribe Brew has begun working with is the Esselen tribe of Monterey County.
“They are really supportive of the project,” says Brew. “Their tribe has been doing a lot of work lately with conservation efforts and trying to build better awareness of tribes in our area. I’ve been working with one of their representatives, and she offers feedback on my project about what she thinks would be best for the tribe.”
Researching competitor websites, as an avid hiker herself, Brew realized she could find none that provided basic information on trails like location, where to park, length of trail, etc., but that also gave a history of the tribal lands, and conservation efforts. “That’s what I hope to do—I want to unify all three.”
“Something we’re looking at doing is to work collaboratively with the Peninsula Open Space Trust to help with conservation of the land, because ultimately that is what the native people want, is to protect the land,” said Brew.
Working on the project in her creative inquiry course, this semester is dedicated to building the website, forging connections with area tribes, and launching a fundraiser, the first “Turkey Trails Hike,
” set to take place over Thanksgiving break. Funds raised will go directly to the Esselen Tribe of Monterey’s non-profit organization, which will allocate the money raised to preservation efforts and educational outreach projects. Brew is enrolled in creative inquiry for next semester as well, when she plans to transform the website into an app.
Brew’s teacher in creative inquiry, Jake Moffat, commended the project and great amount of work and outreach it entails.
“I think Ellie's tagline is ‘I'll get on that.’ She comes to class ready to dig into her project, and she dives right in, whether than means learning how to make a website or calling a representative of a local tribe. She embraces the independent nature of the work, and she is undaunted by setbacks,” said Moffat.
Describing the project as a combination of her passions, Brew said her main goal is for “people to become more aware of the land.”
“I think we take it for granted—we go out on trails and think, ‘this is such beautiful scenery,’ but we ignore that it comes at a cost. We don’t actually realize [the land] belonged to other people, and they have a long history of being oppressed—being forced into missions, and exposed to diseases.”
“I want to be able to give back to the Native American tribes something of what we took from them,” Brew added. “I want to be able to help them because I know that some of my ancestors took their land. I know I can’t fix what they did, but hopefully in the future we can change our relationship with them.”