As a River Guide and guest of the Southern Ute Tribe Jason Hotchkiss began to develop the concept for the Four Rivers Institute in 2001. He noticed that many of the youth enjoyed adventurous activities but could not identify with the primarily Non Native leaders of the programs. He began to dream of creating a program that would train Native leaders to fill this role in their own communities. It was not until his marriage to Cassandra Yazzie in 2006 that the idea would begin to materialize. As an activist and community leader Cassandra encouraged Jason to begin to take the necessary steps to create the Four Rivers Institute. The couple seriously cut their expenses and dived into the project with their personal savings. Forming a non-profit with this kind of broad scope is a serious undertaking and in 2008 they were able to form a board directors and live a simple life according to the Four Rivers principles. Cassandra, originally from the Navajo Nation, had endured many trials in her youth and had found that through her willingness to try new things and be adventurous she had learned the skills that she needed to become a successful young leader. As a family they enjoyed many adventures that were positive for their children and extended family.
Disaster struck Nov. 16th 2009 when Cassandra was killed by a careless driver. Crushed, Jason and the family spent 2010 in mourning and dealing with the medical needs of the children ( who were in the accident as well). They have continued to use adventure therapy as a tool for the healing process. Cassandra’s amazing spirit seemed to rise up in the community as many talented people stepped in to move the Four Rivers Institute project along. It is with sad but deeply meaningful sentiments that we honor and acknowledge the contribution to this important project by the Hotchkiss-Yazzie Family.