Maiya Rainer

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Senior Park Aide
California State Parks

A Yurok tribal member with Apache ancestry, Maiya educates her local community and visitors from across the US about Yurok culture and history through stories and tours.

How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities? 

A big part of my programs is telling the unfiltered and real part of the history about the Yurok people here in North Coast, California, US. An important part of my programs is describing how Yurok history affects our community today. Some adults and children think that history was thousands of years ago, but really these stories are only 50 to 100 years old. Our grandparents and parents lived these sad and unsettling stories, suffering physical and mental abuses in school and within their own villages from settlers. With the information that we are able to put out by our district, I feel more people will be exposed to more information about Native people than the stereotypes (from movies and media) they have been exposed to all their life. I believe this will create an open conversation for people to learn more about Yurok culture, and it provides a space for people to ask questions that they may have not been able to ask in the past. It’s important to educate younger generations about trauma and resilience of Indigenous people all over the world. 

Tell us about your journey to where you are today. Talking about the Yurok culture to a park visitor in the Sumeg Village.

How did I end up where I am now? Good question. Two years ago, I started my job at California State Parks as a seasonal interpreter for the Sumeg Village, located in Patrick's Point State Park. I didn't realize how many eyes were on me until I became more active on the Park's Facebook page because of the pandemic. I communicated through Facebook Lives and another program called PORTS, which is basically a virtual field trip for students in California and other states to have an opportunity to see the lifestyle and history of the Yurok people in both present time and pre-contact settlement on the West Coast. Through this program, I was able to inform community members, staff, and park visitors about the Yurok people and their traditions and culture. I currently work as an interpreter and senior park aid for the North Coast Redwoods District at Patrick's Point State Park.  

I would say I am passionate about the work I do because I live it everyday. I am from the villages of Waukell, Pecwan, Big Lagoon, and Sumeg.  I grew up being taught about my culture through stories, cultural gatherings, and traditional gathering of food and basket materials. For me, my culture is more than something you watch on a screen or learn about as a legend or myth. It's a worldview, and it’s about how my people are in a relationship with land and respect it. 

Who do you look up to as inspiration?

Someone I look up to that has inspired me is my father. 

If you were to choose one place to live for the rest of your life, where would it be?

If I had to choose one place to live for the rest of my life it would be Yurok reservation in Klamath California. 

If you could be any plant, what would you be?

If I could be any plant I would be a Coastal Redwood tree.