Photo: Daniel Zolinsky

Photo: Daniel Zolinsky

Denise Chávez

Denise Chávez is a performance writer, novelist, playwright, teacher and cultural activist based in Las Cruces, NM. A true child of La Frontera, Chávez’s books include The King and Queen of Comezón and A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture. From 1994 to 2014, Chávez was the Executive Director of The Border Book Festival, a major national and regional book festival based in Las Cruces, NM. Currently, Chávez is the Director of Casa Camino Real, a Bookstore and Multicultural Art Gallery, on the Historic Camino Real near the original Las Cruces town site.

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Jeff Arterburn

Fly fishing has been that "one thing" for Jeff Arterburn starting from his childhood in Colorado and he has lived and fished throughout the southwest for over thirty years. He's been a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at New Mexico State University since 1992.  He is an active board member of the Mesilla Valley Fly Fishers and started the Gila/Rio Grande Chapter of Trout Unlimited in 2010 with a strong commitment to our native Gila and Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout


Karen Beckenbach

Karen Beckenbach enjoys sharing her knowledge of birds, butterflies, and general nature-related oddball stuff.  Karen moved to Silver City nine years ago from Vancouver, Canada.  She is the Vice President of the Grant County Community Concert Association, serves on the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning Communication Committee, and is the past president of the Sew What Women's Club in Portal, AZ.

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Allen Denoyer

Allen  has been working as a professional archaeologist in the Southwest and Rocky Mountains since the early 1990s. A skilled replicator of ancient artifacts, his replicas are used in classrooms, colleges, and universities, and his work has appeared on the television show Mythbusters.

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Brian Dolton

Brian Dolton is an Englishman transplanted to New Mexico, where he experiences more sunshine and higher altitudes than are possible in the UK. He has birded Grant County extensively since 2009, with a total tally at time of writing of 266 species. The chances of making it 267 on this trip are slender but there's always hope!


Richard Felger

Richard Felger has conducted research in deserts worldwide and has published extensively on botany, ethnobiology, and new food crops. Based on his search of the world for new aridland food crops, he is focusing collaborative new-crops work on New Mexico and Southwest food plants. Richard is a researcher with the University of Arizona Herbarium and lives in Silver City with his wife Silke Schneider and their many animals and plants.


Mike Fugagli

Mike Fugagli is an ornithologist and naturalist with extensive experience in documenting and tagging birds in the Gila Valley

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Steve Harris

Steve Harris, the owner of Far Flung Adventures, has been kayaking for over 30 years. Harris is also the Executive Director of Rio Grande Restoration, a New Mexico non-profit organization, established in 1994 to secure the river flows necessary to support restoration of the “great river”. 


Lyla June Johnston

Musician, poet, and spoken word performer Lyla June Johnston will give a presentation titled “Tending the Wild: Traditional Agro-Forestry Practices of Indigenous Peoples.” An anthropologist of Diné ancestry, Lyla June will speak to the importance of preserving indigenous plants, seeds, foods, and traditional ways of tending nature’s bounty. 

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Phillip Koszarek

Phillip Koszarek is a botanist and member of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe and will talk about culturally significant plants of the Chiricahua Apache.

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Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is renowned for her passion about traditional native foods, and has worked tirelessly to maintain their integrity. An Anishinaabe activist, LaDuke speaks eloquently about the time-honored ritual of harvesting wild rice from the White Earth Reservation’s lakes, and the campaign to prevent its genetic manipulation, as well as co-option of the term “wild rice” from cultivators in California.

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Jack Loeffler

Jack Loeffler is an "aural" historian and author who has lived in the northern Río Grande watershed for over half a century. He has published numerous books and essays, and has produced hundreds of documentary radio programs for Public Radio that address cultural diversity, environmental awareness, and watershed consciousness.  He is currently documenting and co-curating an exhibition addressing the history of counterculture in the Southwest at the New Mexico History Museum.

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Alex Mares

Alex Mares is an anthropologist of Dine and Mexican ancestry who has led several rock art field trips for previous Gila River Festivals, each time receiving rave reviews. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. He is a member of the Accession Committee for the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, and previously served for 15 years as the lead ranger for the world-renowned rock art site known as Hueco Tanks State Historic Site. He still serves there as a Certified Volunteer Guide.

Photo: Grant County Archaeological Society

Photo: Grant County Archaeological Society

Marilyn Markel

Marilyn Markel teaches archaeology at Aldo Leopold Charter School in Silver City and is the President of the Grant County Archaeological Society, the Southwest Chapter Coordinator of New Mexico SiteWatch, and the Education Coordinator at the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site.


Victor Masayesva

Victor Masayesva is a Hopi independent filmmaker who has been at the forefront of experimental filmmaking in the Native American media community. A member of the Hopi Tribe from Hoatvela Village, he has been a life long advocate for the implementation of the indigenous aesthetic in multimedia productions. 

Photo: The Volunteer Center

Photo: The Volunteer Center

The Mesquitos

The Mesquitos are native food enthusiasts based in Silver City engaged in exploring the economic viability and sustainability of a local mesquite harvest.



Stephanie Muise

Stephanie Muise is a member of the Mik' maq' Nation of Eastern Canada/Maine and was recently selected as Miss Native American NMSU 2017-2018, serving as an ambassador for the American Indian Program at New Mexico State University. She is actively involved with the Native American student organizations UNAO, NABSA, and AISES. As a Master's candidate in Wildlife Science and Fisheries, her research focus is on the decline of the Atlantic Eel with which her people have a centuries old relationship. Stephanie will introduce our keynote speaker, Winona LaDuke.


Diana Molina

Artist and photographer Diana Molina is a scholar for the New Mexico Humanities Council Speakers’ Bureau and serves as Artistic Director of the JUNTOS Art Association.  Her work is in private and public collections that include the UT Austin and UTEP Special Collection Library Archives.


Alejandro (Alex) G. Muñoz, Jr.

Alex has hunted spring turkey, mule deer, Coues deer, black bear, and mountain lion in the Gila Wilderness, and has bow hunted elk for almost 40 years. He contributed an essay, “The Gila Wapiti and Me,” to photographer Michael Berman’s book Radical Visions/The Enduring Silence. He is the past publisher, editor, writer, and owner of Campfire Legacy Hunting Magazine and Facepaint, a hunting periodical.


Ron Parry

Ron Parry is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Rice University. Since retirement, he has pursued his interests in classical music, environmental literature, botany, butterflies and moths, and hiking.

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Monica Rude

Monica Rude has been studying & growing plants in the Gila River Valley for 27 years. Using weeds as a resource has become a way of life as her business, Desert Woman Botanicals, includes several products which feature locally grown or wildcrafted plants. Her advice: Forget the lettuce; eat the weeds.


Joe Saenz

Joe Saenz, the owner of WolfHorse Outfitters, is of Tci-he-nde and Huichol descent.  He and others are working on getting federal recognition for the Chiricahua Apache Nation. He serves on the Red Paint Tribal Council and has organized the Red Paint Powwow in Silver City.


Miguel Santistevan

Miguel Santistevan is an agricultural ecologist and farmer from Taos, NM. He is a parciante (irrigator) on the Acequia Madre del Sur and has served one term  as Mayordomo and two terms as President.  He has also served on the Board of the Taos Valley Acequia Association.  He is certified in Permaculture and ZERI Design and is actively involved in agricultural implementation and environmental education for schools and land restoration efforts.

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Karen Schollmeyer

Dr. Schollmeyer’s archaeological research includes studying long-term human-environment interactions, and food security. She is also interested in how archaeologists’ long-term insights can be applied to contemporary issues in conservation and development.



Doug Simons

At 11 years old, Doug Simons began learning about the native plants of Colorado from his mother. His awareness, knowledge and connection to the plant world has only grown stronger through his life and travels, as he learned from the Tarahumara, Tohono O’Odham, Navajo, and others. Doug also gained a vast amount of firsthand knowledge about edible and medicinal plants through his experiences living primitively in the Sonoran Desert and Gila Wilderness.


John Slattery

John Slattery is a bioregional herbalist, forager and author. helping people develop relationship with wild plants. Seeking out local traditional knowledge and fostering relationships with traditional healers John works towards keeping traditional knowledge alive while embuing it with new perspective gleaned through deep relationship with plants. He founded Desert Tortoise Botanicals, a bioregional herbal product company, in Tucson, AZ in 2005 in order to bring his wild-harvested plant medicines to the people of the Southwest. 


Roxanne Swentzell

Roxanne Swentzell is from Santa Clara Pueblo in Northern NM.  She is the Director of Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute which has been researching and teaching sustainable practices since 1989.  Focusing on the Pueblo traditional cultures, Roxanne hopes to help the communities relearn, preserve, and continue life-ways that are healthy for generations to come.  


Patricia Taber

Patricia Taber is a licensed bird-bander who enjoys birding both locally and in Central and South America. She is a transplant from Vermont and a resident of Silver City for 17 years.  Patricia is a graphic designer, Plein air artist, and is editor of the Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society newsletter.