RezRIDERS Project

RezRIDERS logoDescription

With more than 45% of New Mexico’s American Indian (AI) high school students reporting alcohol use—including binge drinking—substance abuse prevention among AI youth needs urgent attention. Many existing mainstream programs come up short by failing to speak to high-risk AI youth on their own terms. Not so with RezRIDERS (Reducing Risk through Interpersonal Development, Empowerment, Resiliency and Self Determination). Tailored to high-risk AI youth, RezRIDERS fills a gap in substance abuse prevention by recapturing a key historic tradition and addressing the lived experience within AI culture. Traditionally, youth tested themselves in nature under elders’ mentorship, as elders taught them the relevant stories and cultural practices. Youth applied their new knowledge—gained in a context of extreme physical challenge—toward empowerment and community participation. RezRIDERS pairs rebel extreme-sports (ES) with an evidence-based cognitive-behavioral curriculum, community responsibility, and adult cultural mentors; the result is an indigenized year-round—and life changing—program that speaks loud and clear to high-risk AI youth.

RezRIDERS offers a sustainable program with proven youth appeal to where other tribes, beyond the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA Project#: 1R34DA030680-01A1; 2012-2015 with the Pueblo of Jemez), wish to implement the program. Recent funding through the U.S Department of Justice Tribal Justice & Safety mechanism (2013-2016 with Santa Clara Pueblo) demonstrates the practicability, adaptability and desire by tribes for this unique program.

The RezRIDERS curriculum was written by an AI professional snowboard instructor, who worked with AI youth in snowboarding programs developing the curriculum as a graduate student in public health. The author developed RezRIDERS ideas and found the combination of Extreme Sport & Experiential Education activities combined with cultural connections (Examples: Being AI, and types of tribal affiliation) promoted critical youth-driven dialogue around their lives and world-views.

Benefit: AI youth and adult mentors will benefit from a cognitive-behavioral and self-determination curriculum where participants will 1) experience Extreme Sport activities along side adult tribal mentors, 2) where peer networks can be influenced positively through diffusion of RezRIDERS participant experiences, and generates 3) direct community benefit through youth-driven action projects while working towards 4) health and education attainment goals through culturally grounded environments.

Evaluation: RezRIDERS uses mixed-methods (qualitative/quantitative) approaches, blending Western and Indigenous theory to guide psycho-social measures around youth hardiness, self-efficacies, self-determination, optimism, cultural connectedness, mental well being and ATOD use, and actions for improving community health.


  1. NCAI Policy Research Center and MSU Center for Native Health Partnerships. (2012). ‘Walk softly and listen carefully’: Building research relationships with tribal communities. Washington, DC, and Bozeman, MT: Authors.