Minneapolis Native Youth invited to White House
Monday, June 08 2015
Written by Deanna StandingCloud,
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A group of four Twin Cities Native American youth were invited to the White House for the first Tribal Youth Gathering, marking an achievement for students and an organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting research and understanding among Native youth.

The Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota is a non-profit established in 2014. Following the 2008 Minnesota Summit on Afterschool Learning Opportunities, the Native American community took note of the disparity that research and data does not reflect Native youth.

This realization began groundbreaking work that began with a conversation to develop an Indigenous Youth Research and Development Center in 2009. Native leaders throughout the state of Minnesota really came forth with the idea that this work has never been done before.

LeMoine LaPointe, NYAM board member investigated the issue, “I was told that Native American people are statistically insignificant.” He felt that proved there was much to be done in Indian Country.

NYAM convened community conversations with various tribal communities throughout the state to collect stories directly from Native people about how they envision the Indigenous Youth Research and Development Center transforming their communities. Native leaders and youth came together on May 29 in Saint Paul, Minn. to delve deep into what research means traditionally for Native communities.

Many ideas emerged from the conversation and it is just the beginning of the work. Sierra Villebrun (White Earth), Abel Martinez (Ho-Chunk) and Lupe Thornhill (Red Lake) participated in the discussion. Villebrun is a junior at South High All Nations and has been involved with Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota as a part of the Art of Indigenous Resistance community mural project along with Martinez, a sophomore also at South High All Nations; Thornhill is from St. Paul and facilitated the conversation.

Each of the youth, including Breanna Green (Red Lake), sophomore at South High All Nations, were invited to The White House for a first-of-it’s-kind Tribal Youth Gathering. Over 1,700 Native youth from all across the country submitted an application to participate in Washington D.C. on July 9 and 800 were invited to attend.

Youth were asked to take the Generation Indigenous (Gen I) Challenge as a part of their obligation to being able to participate in the White House Tribal Youth Summit. As a part of their Gen I Challenge, they committed to helping to facilitate the process of collecting stories from over a hundred youth in the East Phillips community.

They asked the Twin Cities youth what their relationship is to traditional tobacco. What they gathered was reflected on an enormous mural over 100 feet tall on the side of the Minneapolis American Indian Center that was unveiled at the start of May's American Indian Month.

This collaborative project involved community organizer Charlie Thayer (White Earth), ClearWay Minnesota’s CoCo Villaluz (Hidatsa), Lannesse Baker (Turtle Mountain) of Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota and Native artists Gregg Deal and Votan who crafted the mural.

Villebrun shared her insight about her experience with the process of mural installation, “I’m proud to be a part of something that really belongs to the community for generations.”
The Twin Cities Youth Leaders of Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota also were featured on KFAI’s Turtle Island Voices Rising: 24 hours of Indigenous Programming for American Indian Month in Minnesota on May 27. The youth shared a deeper look into their work, their experiences and their future plans as they complete another year of high school.

Native Youth who are invited to participate in the White House Tribal Youth Gathering are asked to be responsible for their own travel, lodging, meals and ground transportation while they are visiting Washington, D.C. They are asking the community to support their work by making a donation to their group through a Go Fund Me campaign.

There are many pressing issues that Indian Country are facing today; issues that will be inherited by Native youth. Green explained why the organization's work is important and why she takes part, “I want to be able to help protect my culture and our Earth so that my children can live healthy lives someday."


To make a donation for the youth trip to the White House, visit

You can find NYAM's archived show on the KFAI Web site at


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