Minneapolis Native Youth invited to White House


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


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 www.gofundme.com/mplsnativeyouth.

You can find NYAM’s archived show on

the KFAI Web site at www.kfai.org.