Steven LeashRaised on the Cahuilla reservation in southern California, Steven dreamt of traveling and exploring beyond his comfort zone. He desired unfamiliar experiences that would challenge his perceptions of life. This began when he took a one-way flight to South America - the inception of Native Adventures began here. He founded this idea in the foggy treetops of Machu Picchu, paddling in the piranha waters of the Amazon, rock climbing in the mountains of Banos de Santa Agua, exploring in the city haze and humidity of the City of God, Rio de Janeiro, diving in the turquoise waters of the great Pacific and exploring ancient ruins throughout this great continent illuminated an unforgettable, mystical experience, a feeling of absolute truth. During this time, he wanted to share these experiences with other Natives, to inspire and create a positive environment for change and possibility through adventure. To manifest this idea into a reality, Steven majored in Adventure Education from Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado. He was also fortunate to work with one of the most reputable college outdoor programs in the United States, Outdoor Pursuits, on campus for two years. He has obtained the following certifications: Single Pitch Instructor, Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace, Whitewater Technician, and Avalanche Level 1.
Currently, Steven is pursuing his Masters in Public Administration with executive leadership development emphasis at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He is also pursuing Rock Instructor Certification courses through the American Mountain Guide Association and Master Educator Course through Leave No Trace to help facilitate courses for this company. “Native Adventures could not be possible without the collaboration of all who supported us along the way. Through synergy and innovation, together we make this happen.”
Kristen ParkerContent Creator
Kristen ParkerRaised on the expansive prairies near the pristine mountain ranges of Montana, Kristen’s memories of the quiet beauty of winter snowfall, the rumbling springtime thunderstorms and brilliant Autumn sunsets instilled in her a deep connection to nature. From early childhood, she was surrounded by her mother’s Navajo language, traditions and beliefs, sculpting her identity while planting a spiritual connection to her ancestral roots. After moving to southwestern Colorado, while majoring in English Literature from Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado, she traveled to South America and Cuba. Kristen’s creative talents in writing, art, and filmography embody the adventurous spirit that Native Adventures emulates; it reflects her passion for creativity, exploration, and appreciation for the beauty of our natural world.
Kristen loves recreating in the outdoors, from shooting epic nature images to dashing down a black diamond, or hitting razorbacks with her mountain bike she is always excited for a new challenge. “When I led my first lead climb, a 5.10 in Cojitambo, Ecuador, I felt a sensation of confidence, strength, and certainty. I knew that I could do it, and I did. This is what I want others to experience.”
Anthony SmithCultural Director
Anthony SmithAn enrolled member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, Anthony is also a descendent of the Pala Band of Cupeno Indians and Cahuilla Band of Indians. Growing up on multiple different reservations surrounded Anthony with an appreciation for tribal customs, traditions, and the natural world, giving him a greater appreciation for his culture and the outdoors. From climbing the rocks in the hills to building forts with his cousins, his love for nature and adventure spirit will always reside in him. Anthony currently lives on the Pala reservation with his fiancé Taimia Leona Allen and their seven children. He fully understands the value of community and unconditional love. He worked as a drug and alcohol counselor for two years and is honored to say he has been walking the Red Road for five years now, the spiritual path of his ancestors.
Immersed in the Native American culture, Anthony embraces his heritage by being actively involved in Native American customs and traditions and eagerly wants to see those traditions carried on to younger generations. Anthony is enthusiastic to apply his experiences from life to Native Adventure’s community. “It would be an honor to bring my knowledge, leadership, and Native traditional ways to help provide alternative pathways for our youth.”
Rebecca TortesMadi Lewis is from Eagle River, Alaska although her tribe, Choctaw, resides in Durant, Oklahoma. Currently, she is studying for a degree in Geosciences through Fort Lewis College, and would be more than ecstatic to talk your ear off about earth’s history. She can often be found stopping and looking at rocks much to your dismay. Besides the full-time position of student, she also works as a Student Outdoor Leader for Outdoor Pursuits taking fellow college students out on exciting outdoor trips and often teaching them the tricks of the trade.
Madi always was a quiet person. She usually had her nose in a book, was picking up rocks, or avoiding loud groups of children who, frankly, scared her a little bit. The outdoors were her solace, and she loved being able to feel the ground beneath her and see all the world that existed in that time. Alaska was a beautiful place to foster this passion. Being outside taught her to appreciate who she was, and to be grateful for life and all that she was so lucky to experience. Madi Lewis wants to be able to share those beautiful feelings with others and maybe help others accept themselves for who they are as well. She also wants to stand as an example that these outdoor skills are learned and to bring a warm, inviting environment for all to come and enjoy being outside.
Who doesn’t love s’mores by the campfire with laughter and good people?
Nicole LovatoInstructor & Guide
Nicole LovatoNicole Lovato is from Kewa (Santo Domingo Pueblo), New Mexico. She graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado with a degree in Native American and Indigenous Studies. She currently works as the Program Manager for Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute located in Santa Clara Pueblo and as an instructor for RESOLVE, a nonprofit which focuses on self-defense and violence prevention in New Mexico. Her love for nature has kept her in the outdoor education field for over ten years, serving as a guide leading backpacking trips into the Grand Canyon for the United World College and Outdoor Pursuits for Fort Lewis College. Nicole has also led summer leadership programs for the Institute of American Indian Arts and the World Leadership School.
Nicole currently lives with her partner and his three children in Santa Clara Pueblo. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in the future. “I seek out opportunities that allow me to participate in the decolonizing process, promoting Indigenous knowledge and values through sustainable and culturally relevant philosophies.”
Edward ChaconEdward Chacon, a proud tribal member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, is married to Melissa Powless-Chacon from Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin; both are proud parents of their three beautiful children Aiyana, Jesse, and Elijah. Edward earned his Associate's degree at Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence Kansas and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University in California. Participating in team sports as an athlete and a coach has heavily influenced his life experiences. He witnessed individuals with a variety of diverse backgrounds collaborating with others who shared different values and beliefs for a common goal.
He currently works with the Cahuilla tribe as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, applying his academic knowledge to several tribal committees, organizations, and boards. Now, Edward sees an opportunity with Native Adventures to carry the legacy of comrade to Native people. “For me, sports were not just competitive, they were life life lessons on how to work together and understand cultural differences.”
Eugene Salgado ||Aspiring Guide
Eugene Salgado Jr.Eugene Salgado II, raised on the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indian reservation, keeps his Native roots tied in both the Pechanga and Cahuilla community. As an adventure and travel enthusiast, he braved facing the unknown and ventured overseas to South America at a young age with a reputable organization known as Where There Be Dragons. This experience gave him a profound appreciation for travel and the natural world. Having visited Japan, South America, and Western Europe, he realized how impactful an experience like this can be for youth. His eagerness to share those experiences with other Natives parallels with Native Adventures' founding values and goals. Eugene is excited and moved to be on the ground with Native Adventures, engaging others to push themselves out of their comfort zone, as he once did.
Today, he enjoys hiking, hunting, traveling, and stays actively engaged with his health by his continuous involvement with CrossFit.“Native Adventures seemed like a great program for me to get involved in because of the love I have for the outdoors and adventure and the desire I have to share that love.”
Bekah SmithBekah Smith is part of the Cahuilla Band of Indians tribe where her community and culture encourage her to practice and uphold many values such as tradition, community and family. It has always been her goal to invite others to learn more about Native American heritage and to widen her knowledge of other cultures as well. Her experience traveling to various countries on mission trips, studying abroad and seeing the beauty of the world helped her embrace different cultures, environments, and communities. She believes perspective and awareness of other cultures is important to fully understand others and the wonderful world we live in.
She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in media production with a minor in web design at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. Once she completes her higher education she wants to return to Southern California. “My hope with Native Adventures is to ignite passion and a hunger for culture and adventure in the lives of any individual we cross along our journey.”