|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
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
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
To make a donation for the youth trip
to the White House, visit www.gofundme.com/mplsnativeyouth.
You can find NYAM's archived show on
the KFAI Web site at www.kfai.org.