Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

We believe:

  • Everyone benefits when people have equitable access to natural places and spaces for education, recreation and renewal
  • Shared experiences in nature strengthen community
  • Outdoor education, combined with critical thinking and civic engagement, promotes environmental stewardship and conservation

Because our programs take place on the ancestral homelands — including the Upper Skagit, Sauk-Suiattle, Swinomish, Nooksack, Lummi, Stó:lō, Nlaka’pamux, Colville, Samish, and Syilx/Okanagan peoples — we believe it is our responsibility as educators to teach about the human history of the North Cascades, including the ongoing legacies of stewardship, indigenous sovereignty, and resilience. 

We also believe that experiences in nature are inherently cultural, and we aim to expand the definition of what it looks like to appreciate time spent outdoors.

We believe it is our responsibility as educators to actively welcome and create space for diverse voices and perspectives about ways of enjoying time spent outdoors. This includes cultural values—the stories and experiences different groups hold collectively about nature; personal learning styles—the many ways that people fall in love with nature; and societal debts—including the disproportionate effects of climate and environmental change on communities of color and lower income.

Support from our Board of Directors

As the North Cascades Institute Board, we share a deep love of nature and an enduring belief that everyone has a fundamental right to recreation, exploration, connection, celebration, and healing through direct relationship with nature. As a learning institute we support and commit to cultivating a community of belonging that is welcoming and accessible to everyone.

It is our work and responsibility to actively and collaboratively shift the patterns in ourselves, in our organization, and in our society that undermine equitable, welcoming and safe access for all. As a Board, we commit to strengthening our capacity to make the Institute more open to those who may not have felt welcomed or accepted. We hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of learning, listening, welcoming, and inclusion in relation to our staff, participants, partners, and communities.

"Do the best you can until you know better, and when you know better, do better." — Maya Angelou

Accomplishments So Far

  • Formed a board-led Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee that meets regularly throughout the year (2013)
  • Increased scholarship opportunities for all programs (2017)
  • Changed our recruitment and participant prioritization policies for Mountain School to serve full districts with sliding-scale tuition brackets based on the percentage of each school’s students enrolled in the Federal Free & Reduced lunch program (2018)
  • Conducted a staff culture and climate audit to collect information from staff and board members on the Institute’s level of commitment to and implementation of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion strategic goals (2018)
  • Worked with HR department to update hiring qualifications from "required" to "preferred" (2018)

Read our 2020-2024 Strategic Plan

Staff and Board Trainings

We offer regular trainings and workshops for all staff to increase awareness of institutionalized racism and other intersecting inequities; address inequitable behaviors and patterns, including those of white supremacy, which persist within North Cascades Institute; and practice listening to and working with different ways of knowing. Specific training topics included:

What we plan to accomplish next:

  • Conduct a baseline assessment of current staff and board composition
  • Establish benchmarks to increase diversity among staff and board
  • Hire a Director of Inclusion and Partnerships to serve on the Leadership Team and lead EDI initiatives at the Institute
  • Reconfigure Learning Center bathrooms to add more all-gender options

We know that the nature of this work is never finished. We have begun this journey and are committed to the path ahead.