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Discovering Self on the Deschutes:

Voices and Writings from the Soul River Youth 2021 Scout Deployment

Broadening Access through Experience and Education

“Mother Nature provides the raw beauty, we provide the opportunity of a life-time. Youth and Veterans build authentic relationships with the time and place to heal from battle wounds of both the streets and war zones.”

With a goal of educating and empowering two major underserved demographics, Soul River provides rich learning experiences for disadvantaged inner city youth and military veterans. These two groups are merged together on epic, outdoor educational “deployments” with a focus of fly fishing on wild rivers and exploring public lands that are accessible to all. 

An Expedition of Culture

Soul River embarks on numerous Deployments throughout the summer months. Eager to learn about indigenous communities, share tools for leadership, and inspire advocacy, Soul River knew they wanted this opportunity available for as many individuals as possible. 

Specifically, Soul River Youth 2021 Scout Deployment was located in Deschutes River on the Warm Springs Reservation. Land of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute people. While staying there for a few days, the youth and veterans were able to partner up with Little Leaf, a Native fly fishing outfitter, and learn about their history and culture. As well as spending time discussing climate change through their lens. All of this wrapped up in the pursuit of fly fishing, aiding in increased advocacy awareness. 

Here’s what the 2021 Scout Deployment Youth had to say...

On welcoming change:

“Any deployment with Soul River is a wonderful experience but every once in a while the mixture of amazing people, beautiful land, good food and fly fishing truly changes your life for the better. My experience going to Warm Springs on the Deschutes River was one of those life-altering experiences. “ - Soriah Johnson

On connecting to land and ancestry:

“The Scout Deployment was memorable in so many ways. This had been the furthest I traveled in Oregon, it was my first time fishing, and this was my first in person deployment with Soul River. I was so honored to have been taught fly fishing by Elk and Alycia of the LittleLeaf Guide Service. Gaining knowledge about the land and the indigeounous people who live/lived along the Deschutes River, has greatly empowered me to learn more about my ancestry and if I have a connection to the land.” Liz Coll 

On building true community:

“Another thing that keeps me coming back to Soul River is the sense of community. On every deployment everyone can feel safe knowing that when you're with Soul River there is no judgment, just love. Especially on this deployment I felt that.” Soriah Johnson

On feeling home in a new place:

“The desert is hot but it was so worth it to put on my waders, boots, and walk into the river. The feeling of cool water, walking through the river making sure I didn't fall. Looking at my surroundings I knew I was aligned at the right place, I felt at home with everyone around me. I will never forget my excitement along with everyone else when we got hooked, felt a bite, or caught a fish. Even when we didn't catch anything, we just enjoyed every single second and moment with a deep breath and a huge smile.” Yanett Garcia 

On acquiring a new skill:

“Elk, Alysia, and their son Buck also taught me how to correctly fish using a fly rod. Alyisa taught me how to roll cast and sling cast and the correct way to mend the line on a fast ruff riffle. I saw Redband trout eating insects on the top of the water, they made the sound of small stones being gently tossed into the river. After fishing the same fly pattern for too long with no success Elke stopped me and tied on a new fly pattern to my line. On my second cast with this new fly a Redband trout popped out of the water and ate my fly.

Instantly, I pulled my line tight and set the hook into the fish's mouth. My rod bent like a green tree limb as I eagerly stripped in the line. The fish dove up and down stream in the crystal clear water’s shining its vibrant colors of red and silver. After a good fight, I managed to pull the trout in and hold it in my river tanned hands. The trout was slimy like an oily bar of soap, that slowly wiggled backwards, trying to slip out of my grasp.

I quickly laid my eyes on the beautifully black spotted red trout before returning it to the beautiful river of which it came.” Moses Milliman

On finding yourself:

“At Soul River you are able to find yourself, advance and grow your advocacy and leadership skills. You also get to see yourself transform into this leader that gets out of their comfort zone, takes risks, and strives to make positive change everyday.
Like I say, let's learn, grow, blossom together and unite!” Yanett Garcia Chavez

About Soul River Inc.

SRI is a nonprofit 501 c3 focused on uplifting and strengthening communities by connecting inner city youth and veterans to the outdoors. Through challenging yet rewarding “deployments” at zero cost to themselves, youth and veterans can become a part of something bigger than themselves. SRI teaches what cannot be learned in a traditional classroom setting. With a focus on education, accessibility, & equipping strong leaders, SRI believes living and learning by our rivers in untouched places will teach students responsibility and will bring purpose and healing to veterans. .

About Chad Brown
Chad Brown is a US Navy veteran, who pursues adventures in the backcountry as an outdoorsman, bow hunter, conservationist, adventure photographer and leader of Soul River. Through his expierences, Mother Nature has played a significant role in his healing from war traumas he experienced. Which Ultimately led him to launching Soul River Inc. Recently, Brown has launched a new nonprofit Love is King that he leads with the mission to dismantle the hate, bigotry, ignorance and racism in the outdoors for BIPOC and all marginalized groups to have the opportunity to roam further and bolder in the outdoors and create wonderful memories for themselves without having to face any aggression.


October 22, 2023

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Chad Brown

Sawyer Ambassador

Chad Brown is the founder and president of Soul River Inc., a nonprofit organization that focuses on connecting veterans and introducing diverse urban youth of color to the outdoors, nature conservation and growing young leaders into advocacy for our public lands, wildlife and freshwater. Recently, Brown has launched a new nonprofit Love is King that he leads with the mission to dismantle the hate, bigotry, ignorance and racism in the outdoors for BIPOC and all marginalized groups to have the opportunity to roam further and bolder in the outdoors and create wonderful memories for themselves without having to face any aggression. The focus of Love is King is increasing the access and safety in the outdoors.

Brown is also a Navy veteran, accomplished documentary style portrait photographer, creative director operating Chado Communication Design and Soul River Studios. Chad often pursues adventures in back country as an outdoorsman, bow hunter, conservationist and leading outdoor leadership teams into the Arctic Circle. He is especially passionate about working closely with indigenous nations, as well as working for environmental justice on public lands, raising awareness through education, providing access, inclusivity, and safety for everyone but especially for people of color in the outdoors. Brown is a Board member of the Alaska Wilderness League and has been featured on BBC, CBS, as well as in national publications such as Outside Magazine and The Drake, and in various Pacific Northwest publications. Additionally, Brown was the first recipient of the Breaking Barriers Award presented by Orvis, as well as the Bending Toward Justice Award from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

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