YES! Youth Entrepreneurship Summit

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Engaging and inspiring Native American youth toward success, a one-of-a-kind Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (YES!) was held in the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom during the afternoon of Tuesday, September 5.

Designed for Native high school and college-aged students interested in business and entrepreneurship to hone their skills and learn more about what it takes to become successful in business, YES! offered Tulalip youth especially an opportunity to hear good words and success stories from Native business owners around the area.

To get the eager young minds’ creativity flowing, the summit opened up with a thought exercise. Everyone closed their eyes and pictured themselves in a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel there is a ball of light.

“That ball of light represents your success, your dreams, your ambition, and everything you are striving for in life. That’s what is at the end of your tunnel,” declared event co-M.C. Dyami Thomas (Klamath/Leech Lake Ojibway). “Now envision on both sides of your tunnel are open doors. These open doors represent your struggles, obstacles, and all the negativity in your life. These doors stay open and there are thousands of them, but as you zoom towards the ball of light and move passed each door it closes. You can look right and look left into the open doors, but never walk through them because once you walk through one you never know if can get back on your path to the ball of light.

“This tunnel, your tunnel, represents tunnel vision to the person your meant to become. Always see that light at the end of the tunnel. When you feel lost, sad or lonely then close your eyes and see yourself in that tunnel and look towards your ball of light. Some of us like to quit and give up because they aren’t making big steps, so they start making excuses and entering those open doors only to never make it back on their path. You all have to understand that no matter if it’s a big step or many small steps, each step is heading in the same direction, and it’s toward that ball of light; to your success and ambition making your dreams come true.”

Louie Gong, Nooksack, artist and owner of Eighth Generation in Seattle.

Following the exercise, audience members were amped to hear several successful Native entrepreneurs share their stories. Guest speakers included Louie Gong (Nooksack – artist and owner of Eighth Generation), Rebecca Kirk (Klamath – singer, actress, and talent manager), Jordan Skye Paul (CRIT Mohave – user experience manager at Pinterest), and Dyami Thomas (model, actor and motivational speaker).

Among the crowd of engaged youth was a family of Tulalip tribal members, mother Angela Davis and her three children Abigail, Samuel, and Samara Davis. Angela said she was excited to bring her kids to the Youth Summit after seeing a flyer online, “Entrepreneurship is something we’ve been talking about with our children for years now. We encourage them to be their own individual, to be unique, and embrace their Native American culture. Attending this event is another way for us to encourage and implement what we’ve been teaching them.”

11-year-old Samuel commented his takeaway from the Youth Summit was that you can start from scratch and make something really big out of your passions. Younger sister, 9-year-old Abigail added, “I learned you can build amazing things if you really put your mind to it. If you try really hard and focus on what you want to make out of yourself, then you can make it happen.”

With encouraging and inspiring feedback from future Tulalip entrepreneurs, YES! was effective at engaging the youth who attended and helping to plant seeds for future success.

Partners in education, building community

 “I heard three different kids say, ‘man those guys were fun’ when talking about the police officers. They didn’t come here to be scary, they came here to be community members supporting our kids and our students took notice of that.”- Chrissy Dulik Dalos, Manager, Marysville School District Indian Education Department
“I heard three different kids say, ‘man those guys were fun’ when talking about the police officers. They didn’t come here to be scary, they came here to be community members supporting our kids and our students took notice of that.”
– Chrissy Dulik Dalos, Manager, Marysville School District Indian Education Department


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

There is a saying at Totem Middle School, PRIDE in our Learning and POWER in our Actions. Normally a saying applied to only the students and faculty, it took a much larger scale on Thursday, March 17, as it was applied to a sense of community.

During the normal scheduled 6th, 7th, and 8th grade lunch times, Totem Middle School welcomed all family and community members of Native students to enjoy a complimentary lunch while visiting with the middle-schoolers. It provided a perfect opportunity to stay connected with students, faculty, and friends while building something much larger – student success and identity safety.

“Part of identity safety is looking around the school and seeing people who look like you, knowing those around you, and feeling comfortable in a familiar setting,” says Chrissy Dulik Dalos, manager of the Indian Education Department for Marysville School District. “Our Native students go from being 80 percent of the population at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary to 20 percent here at Totem Middle School. We have to be vigilant that our Native students feel they are in an identity safe environment and one way of doing that is to ensure they recognize how important they are to our school’s community.”




Fostering a sense of community while also helping to bolster identity safety was particularly achieved by way of a simple open invite to have lunch. In order to get community members who Native students are comfortable with at their school and responsive to the invite, school officials went with the lunch hour. Understanding that a lot of folks are preoccupied in the late afternoon and evening hours, and not to pry into hours that may already be reserved, the time slot of 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. was chosen.

“We chose the lunch strategy to see if we could get more people involved,” continued Chrissy. “I think it paid off. We ended up with about 65 people that joined our students for lunch. That’s pretty phenomenal.”

That’s 65 Tulalip community members made up of family, friends, staff, Board of Directors, and law enforcements officers who took time out of their busy day to connect with the students. Spanning the lunch time, community members could be seen sharing a meal with the students, playing pool and foosball with them, simply chit-chatting, and even sharing in the craze that is March Madness. Students are allowed to use their Chomebooks for entertainment during their lunch. A few of the students managed to stream March Madness games and found themselves sharing their computer screens with several very attentive adults.

“For me, as an administrator, I have a strong belief that school is the center of the community, and this school has a unique location serving unique populations from Marysville and Tulalip,” explains Tarra Patrick, Principal of Totem. “So how do we create a situation where it is reconnected to the community? There is a power in breaking bread together. If you are a student here and you see your family come in and you see the principal and teachers deferring to your family, then you realize your family can come and advocate for you. This is an opportunity for the kids to also see the bridge between the school faculty, the students and their families, that’s what makes us a community.”

It really does all add up. Whether openly acknowledged or not, the Native students of Totem saw how many of their family and community members took the opportunity to spend time with them. And isn’t that what kids need the most? To feel valued by the adults around them, to know that they are important and that they matter. It’s not the sound of our words, but the POWER in our Actions that determines this.

We are all partners in education. From the teachers, secretaries, food preparers, maintenance workers, to family and friends we all have one common goal and that’s to see our students succeed. When we work together, every child can succeed in school.

Principal Tarra upholds that we all play a vital role in the success of our children and students as she stated, “It’s going to take the entire community together to support all of our students in order to help them be successful. That’s what today was about. It was just community, in this building, and it was absolutely beautiful.”



Contact Micheal Rios:

Tulalip students are in need of Natural Leaders

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

“When the schools and families have a mutual respect for one another and depend on one another as partners in education, the result is increased achievement.” That is a key line from Dr. Steve Constantino’s 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement.  For Tulalip, getting parents and families engaged in their students’ academic well-being remains a lofty goal. Local schools and many tribal service departments have proclaimed their strategies for family engagement and getting families vested in our students’ academic success, but most fall short of their proclamations.

In order to change this, we must help to build a new cultural foundation and create relationships that motivate family involvement and ultimately create family engagement. Research has constantly shown students’ success to be highly correlated with the level of their parent engagement. When parents are involved, students achieve more, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ education level.

Hoping to spark the must needed change for the sake of our students, Tulalip tribal member Eliza Davis, who works as a Native Liaison for the Marysville School District, is creating a parent engagement project that piggybacks off the Natural Leaders initiative. It is Eliza’s mission to help all our children succeed in school by providing skill building opportunities and in-class volunteer hours for parents to help their kids succeed.

“It is my dream that we will see a group of families and community members emerge and begin taking on leadership roles within the school.  We want to help build the families capacity to be partners in their student’s education. That is the piece we are missing here at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, the family and community representation in our work,” explains Eliza. “We are striving to integrate families in all levels of the work we are doing through the Natural Leaders initiative. We need to get input on our school improvement plan. We want to get parent involvement in building our leadership team. Really, we are just seeking parents to be in the building as volunteers, to help us bring more community events throughout the year, and eventually to bring some fundraising to events for our school.”

The Tulalip Natural Leader project challenges parents to take on a leadership role. They will build relationships with families in the community, identify what helps these families be successful with education and then implement these ideas. A driving focus is collaborative community organizing where parents are equal partners sharing a common goal of children achieving success in education.

“We are starting this work at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, but really I am thinking how we could be building this type of work up with our families in all our schools; the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, Totem Middle School, and the three high schools our kids are attending (Heritage, Marysville Pilchuck and Marysville Getchell),” continues Eliza. “We believe that family and community engagement work will bring great success for our Tulalip students. The research proves that these strategies are effective in bridging the opportunity gap in schools. We hope to be working side by side with more families and community members through this initiative very soon.”

According to the Washington Alliance for Better Schools, Natural Leaders are warm, caring social persons who serve as multicultural bridges between students, teachers, communities and schools. In our community we hear so much about education, the need for a cultural presence in our school, and advocating for our youth, especially around General Council season. Here is the perfect opportunity to show your support for our youth, our educators and our community by becoming a part of the Natural Leaders initiative.

Lack of parental supervision or a plain absence of parental engagement in their children’s day to day life is the most harmful demographic trend of this Native generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to substance abuse to perpetuating the impoverish mindset that clutches so many like a mental vice grip.

It is very powerful when adults engage in education themselves because actions speak louder than words. Children view adults as role models and aspire to be like them. Parents and Tulalip community members who answer the call to become Natural Leaders will experience personal growth that comes with giving of oneself for the better of our younger generation. Personal growth and transformation is an important outcome that leads to stronger communities and academic success for children.

“Parent and community engagement is an integral part of a successful school. In order to achieve academic success, parents and staff members need a strong partnership,” states Cory Taylor, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary Principal. “Thankfully the Natural Leaders program is designed to accomplish this objective. One particular way the Natural Leaders program has benefited our school is through the volunteer program. Parents have assisted in the following areas: after school events, classroom projects, perfect attendance awards, maintaining the school calendar, and individual academic student support.

“We are looking forward to building on the Natural Leaders program in the upcoming months and years. As we strengthen staff and parent relationships through this program we will be creating a brighter future for our students and children.”

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or concerned community member, please consider becoming a part of Tulalip’s Natural Leader initiative. The next Natural Leaders group meeting will be Wednesday, March 23, at noon in room 162 of the Tulalip Administration building.

Share what the mission of the Natural Leaders group is and help our community to recruit able and willing employees, community members, parents and guardians. Become a part of the movement, be the ripple effect and support our youth.





Ball Is Life: Empowering and creating lasting impact through basketball

Gary Payton with Native  youth during basketball camp.Photo/Micheal Rios
Gary Payton with Native youth during basketball camp.
Photo/Micheal Rios


by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On Saturday, September 19, the Tulalip Youth Center hosted Gary Payton’s youth basketball camp. Targeting basketball players in the 5-12 and 13-18 age range, the camp offered skill development under the supervision of the Seattle SuperSonics Hall of Famer and legend, “The Glove”. Presented in partnership with RISE ABOVE, Elite Youth Camps and the Tulalip Tribes, the basketball camp marked the launch of a new movement to empower and create resilience in future leaders in Indian Country using sports as a modality.

RISE ABOVE was founded by Jaci McCormack, an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, to empower Native youth to live a healthy lifestyle and provide awareness, prevention and character enrichment using the sport of basketball as a platform. The purpose is to connect with the urban Native youth on a level that they can relate to and understand in order to create a lasting impact on their lives.

“I have worked with some extremely talented and passionate people who helped develop the Native youth initiative: RISE ABOVE,” explains McCormack. “Although the vehicle to attract youth is basketball, we are dedicated to empower youth through education and prevention. RISE ABOVE basketball, RISE ABOVE your circumstance to live your best life each day. Along with our message, we are excited to bring the star sizzle to tribal communities, while creating more local heroes for our youth.”


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


Elite Youth Camps organizes camps, clinics, tournaments and non-profit community events for professional athletes and their respective teams. In our case the professional athlete was Hall of Famer Gary Payton and his team of 100+ Tulalip youth who were registered for basketball camp.  With the assistance of Payton, Elite Youth Camps taught our youth the importance of hard work, teamwork, discipline and self-respect. Their focus was to provide the young Tulalip athletes of all skill levels with the instructions and training that have made some of the NBA’s brightest stars elite on and off the court.

“This organization was developed from its love for education, athletics, and philanthropy,” says David Hudson, affectionately known as Coach Dave by his campers, and owner of Elite Youth Camps. “We emphasize that sports are similar to life; what you put in, you get in return.”

Coach Dave uses his immense background in basketball, as well as his relationships with professional athletes to plan and execute the best camps around. He graduated from Rainier Beach High School in Seattle before playing college ball at the University of Washington. When his playing career concluded he decided to combine his love for basketball and his passion for helping the youth and made Elite Youth Camps a reality.

As an urban youth just wanting to play basketball, Coach Dave remembers attending Gary Payton’s youth basketball camp as a child and the lasting effect Payton’s camp left with him.

“He was my favorite player growing up. I do what I do because of my experiences at his camp.” says Coach Dave. “I try to do for kids what camp did for me: spark an interest and just teach work ethics, discipline and all the skills you’ve got to have in life no matter what you want to do. Even if you are a doctor or a librarian, you have to know when to be quiet, know to project yourself when you speak, and work hard at whatever you do. We want to teach life lessons that are bigger than basketball.”


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


Though Coach Dave primarily leads the basketball drills with help from his assistance coaches, “The Glove” is ever-present with campers who get plenty of opportunities for autographs and pictures with the nine-time NBA All-Star.

The camp started at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning and continued until 4:00 p.m. The camp was broken up into two 3-hour sessions. The early session was all about basic basketball fundamentals and technique on the individual level, while the afternoon session focused on group drills emphasizing sportsmanship and teamwork.

In between sessions the 100 or so Tulalip campers had a 1-hour break to enjoy their catered lunch provided by Youth Services. During the lunch hour, camp coaches and volunteers were able to explain and pass-out a wellness survey to the kids. The survey, consisting of questions regarding drugs, alcohol, bullying and self-awareness, will be used as a barometer to get a general feel for the wellness of the Tulalip youth. Results of the surveys will be compiled and processed by RISE ABOVE before being passed on to our own Youth Services department.

Also, during the lunch break it came to the attention of the syəcəb that there was a handful of Native youth who made quite a journey to Tulalip to participate in the camp and meet Gary Payton. A family with three eager young basketball players came from the Confederated Tribe of the Colville Reservation, while another family, the Vanderburgs, journeyed all the way from the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of the Flathead Reservation, located in northwest Montana. The Vanderburgs held a frybread and chili dog fundraiser at their local community center in order to pay for their kids’ entry fees and travel expenses for the Tulalip basketball camp.


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios



Proud mother Chelsi Vanderbug said, “It was a lot of work to get my son and daughter here, but I knew it would pay off. All the staff and coaches of this camp are people who really care about the youth. They had very good speeches about their journeys in life and provided lots of motivation on the importance of education and making good choices. Gary Payton was all about getting the right message to the youth about how they are our future. I was very impressed. My kids truly enjoyed this camp and opportunity to attend.”

Concluding the camp, each coach shared heart felt words with the kids and thanked them all for allowing the coaches the opportunity to work with them. The last to speak was the icon Mr. Gary Payton.

“It’s been a pleasure for me to be here today. This gave me the experience to go back home and be able to say that I worked with a group of kids who love the game of basketball, but who love themselves even more. I love and admire each and every one of you. I hope that when I come back, all of you who are here today will be able to tell me your goals in life and plans to achieve them. Everything will not always go your way. There will be both losses and wins, like with basketball, but if you give everything your best shot and learn the lessons along the way, you will come out a winner.”


Photo/Micheal Rios

Tulalip Basketball Camp, more than just hoops



by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

During the week of July 27-31, the sports-centric youth of Tulalip took part in a week long basketball camp to learn, practice, and perfect their basketball skills at the Don Hatch Youth Center. With the on-court assistance of Deyamonta Diaz and Shawn Sanchey, who are both Youth Services Activity Specialists, basketball camp participants were split into two groups; one earlier session for elementary and middle school aged boys and one later session for high school aged boys.

Fred Brown, Jr. who played college basketball at the University of Iowa and presently works for Seattle Basketball Services, Washington State’s premier NCAA compliant scouting service led the early session of youngsters. According to his work profile, Brown specializes in events coordinating, recruiting, scouting, tutoring and player development work for youth, high school, college and professional athletes. He is dedicated to helping student athletes learn the importance of having an exceptional work ethic, good grades and a positive attitude to be successful in today’s society.




Brown believes, “Opportunities do not go away, they go to someone else.” Following with this mantra, Brown emphasized hard work and the highest quality of competition during each day of camp. Tulalip youth responded in kind by giving their fullest effort during each and every basketball drill. The few instances when the kids would not respect the rules of his sessions, Brown was sure to get their attention by blowing his whistle and having them run lines. This means of discipline not only got the kids attention, but also helped to condition them and build up their stamina.

The later session, made up of high school participants, was led by Sanjey Noriega and Tisen Fryberg. Noriega was a college basketball player at University of Alaska-Fairbanks and went on to play professional basketball in Europe and Latin America. Fryberg, a Tulalip tribal member, currently plays college basketball.




During both sessions, the young ballers with hoop dreams were able to win prizes, such as shooting sleeves or Strideline basketball socks, in various skill building drills. There was a fair share of solo drills, but for the most part the sessions were composed of team exercises that showcased the fact that basketball is indeed a team sport.

Everyone who participated in the basketball camp came away a better basketball player and a better teammate to their brothers of the hardwood. They grew and learned about more than just basketball, as each session instructor would share their personal stories overcoming obstacles to make it to the next level. While they practiced ball handling, dribbling, and shooting, they also learned about self-esteem, teamwork, and the value of hard work.


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WNBA all-star Shoni Schimmel returns to sellout crowd

Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On Saturday, July 18, Seattle’s KeyArena was home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm second annual ‘Native American Heritage Night’, as the Storm hosted the Atlanta Dream and their Native all-star guard Shoni Schimmel. For the second straight year, KeyArena reported a sellout crowd of 9,686 fans against the Atlanta Dream thanks in large part to the growing popularity of Schimmel to urban tribal youth. The sellout crowd was made up primarily of Native American tribes from all over the Pacific Northwest who journeyed to Seattle to root for Schimmel. In fact, every time Shoni “Sho-Time” Schimmel came into the game or had her name announced, the crowd went wild with excitement and joy.

Schimmel, a 5-foot-9 guard, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and was raised on the reservation just outside Pendleton, Oregon. Many fans in the building wore her image on t-shirts and waved homemade signs celebrating Schimmel. The fan base even helped vote her to next week’s All-Star Game as a starter, but Schimmel is far from the player who last year became the first rookie to win the game’s MVP honor.

Schimmel’s popularity among Native Americans has made her one of the more recognizable names in the WNBA, and nowhere is her popularity on greater display than in her annual trip to Seattle. Fans from as far away as the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana made the journey to Seattle just to watch her play.


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios

Prior to the game, Schimmel spoke on the tremendous outpouring of support she receives on the west coast.

“It’s a bunch of support out there, especially in Seattle. There’s a lot of people coming out there because it’s the closest to home I get to play. My whole family has traveled to Seattle to watch me play, it’s going to be special for me.”

The Tulalip Youth Services department seized the opportunity of ‘Native American Heritage Night’ to provide a fun and exciting activity for our tribal youth. Over one hundred tickets were purchased and given to youth who showed on Saturday afternoon at the Don Hatch Teen Center, where they were then transported via shuttle bus to Seattle’s Key Arena.

According to Shawn Sanchey, Youth Services Activity Specialist, the youth were abuzz all week about the chance to see Shoni play in person.

“The kids all know who Shoni is and the excitement was building all week leading up to the game. A lot of it has to do with her being Native and growing up on a reservation. It helps a lot for the kids to see someone with a similar background succeed on the professional level, she inspires them. They really like her and look up to her,” said Sanchey.


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


The Storm got off to a scorching start, outscoring the Dream 27-16 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Storm had torched the befuddled Dream for 48 first-half points and took a 48-33 lead to the locker room. All those Shoni fans in attendance were given a very lackluster 1st half performance, as she hadn’t even attempted a field goal.

In keeping with the Native theme of the night, the Storm provided a half-time entertainment consisting of pow-wow dancers and drummers from the Chief Seattle Club, Young Society, and Northwest Tribal Dancers.

After Seattle went ahead by 19 points to start the 4th quarter, Schimmel, who had been held scoreless to that point, finally got in rhythm and displayed why she’s called “Sho-Time”. She recorded all eight of points, two of her three rebounds, and one monstrous block that sent the crowd into a short frenzy during the final quarter. The biggest cheer was when she hit her first 3-pointer with 3:59 left in the game. Her late game efforts come up short though, as the Storm would go onto claim victory after scoring a season high 86 points.

Following the game, many of the fans who came to see Shoni remained in their seats after it was announced she would be addressing the crowd and signing autographs. In her post-game interview, Schimmel took to the mic to talk to the all-Native crowd and thanked them for their support. She was asked about the hundreds of young Native American girls in the stand who idolize her and what message she wanted to send to them.

“I never thought I would be in the WNBA, but here I am. Follow your dreams! Look at me now, this little Native girl from Oregon playing professional basketball.”

Photo/Micheal Rios


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Congress Holds Hearing On Native American Juvenile Justice

By  Laurel Morales, Fronteras

The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing July 15 on juvenile justice in Indian Country. It comes on the heels of three recent reports that conclude the system is failing Native American youth.

Native American youth suffer staggeringly high rates of substance abuse, exposure to violence and suicide. When those kids get in trouble, many tribes don’t want them locked up. The senators asked the panel for steps Congress could take to improve the juvenile justice system.

Darren Cruzan, BIA deputy director of justice services, said courts both on and off the reservation need to assess each case individually to decide what kind of help that child needs.

“We are working on an assessment tool that will better help courts, when offenders do come into the system, point them toward the services they need,” Cruzan said. “It may be anger management. It may be suicide ideations. It may be drug or alcohol treatment.”

University of Nevada Las Vegas professor Addie Rolnick said assessments are great, but more needs to be done.

“You can do all the screening in the world and you can do it well but if you have nothing to do with those kids after you screen them,” Rolnick said. “You could find out all the kids, 90 percent of the kids, were suffering from mental health issues. But if there was no where to put them it wouldn’t matter that you screened them.”

Rolnick called for funding of prevention efforts, diversion programs and other alternatives to jail. She also suggested amendments to federal juvenile justice laws that include tribes.

Arizona youth among 1,000 at first White House Tribal Youth Gathering

About half of more than a thousand youth at the White House Tribal Youth gathering wore traditional tribal clothing. More than 230 tribes from across the country were represented. (Cronkite News Photo/Aubrey Rumore)
About half of more than a thousand youth at the White House Tribal Youth gathering wore traditional tribal clothing. More than 230 tribes from across the country were represented. (Cronkite News Photo/Aubrey Rumore)

By Aubrey Rumore, Cronkite News

WASHINGTON — Brooke Overturf of Window Rock, Arizona, was momentarily flustered as she stood holding hands Thursday with Michelle Obama, while hundreds of other Native American youth crowded around, hoping for a handshake.

But the Navajo 19-year-old quickly recovered and pulled a turquoise ring from her hand to give to the first lady.

“I told my mom last night that if I met her (Obama) I was going to give her my ring. I gave her a ring my grandmother gave me,” said Overturf, emerging from the crowd one accessory shy of when she went in.

Overturf was one of more than 1,000 Native American youth representing more than 230 tribes from across the country who had come to Washington for what organizers were calling a “historic” first White House Tribal Youth Gathering. Dozens of youth from Arizona were at the event.

President Barack Obama had called for the meeting in April as part of his Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, initiative.

The event brought together Cabinet secretaries and elected officials – and the first lady – for speeches and small-group sessions to discuss issues in Indian country and share their stories with tribes and various federal officials.

“Your cultures, your values, your discoveries are at the heart of the American story,” Obama told the cheering gathering, but she said tribes rarely receive credit for their contributions.

But the gathering was less about history than it was about finding solutions to current problems on tribal lands. Most Native youth, including those at the gathering, face what Attorney General Loretta Lynch called “tremendous” challenges.

“Many Native American children suffer post-traumatic stress similar to the level of veterans who have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Lynch said.

For a long time the federal government has tried to “prescribe how the nations should live,” but Lynch said the U.S. government needs to recognize that tribal decisions are best left to the tribes.

“You have to lead, and we have to be your partners,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, not the other way around.

Lynch, Burwell and other speakers encouraged the youth there to raise their voices. Lynch noted that “when it comes to civil rights and human rights,” young people have the “determination” to generate change.

“Every movement in this country has really been fueled by the energy of young people,” Lynch said.

The young people at the event had to be involved in order to get invited: The gathering was open to Native Americans ages 14-24 who had took the Gen-I challenge to create and document a project in their communities.

For Overturf, that meant organizing a free basketball camp on the Navajo Nation, recruiting help from a former women’s basketball player at Arizona State University, where Overturf is Miss Indian ASU.

She got her invitation in May and had help getting to Washington from ASU and from various sponsors. But many youth had to raise funds to make the trip.

“I know it was a challenge for a lot of Native youth to get here,” said Elton Naswood, a Navajo who works at HHS’ Office of Minority Health Resource Center in Washington.

Overturf said she reached out to other Navajo youth and other youth through the Indian community at ASU before making the trip.

“I could easily go by myself, but I am representing them too,” said Overturf, who routinely reminds tribal youth to “be proud of who you are and where you came from.”

Youth at the event were lauded by the Washington officials who turned out Thursday.

That was echoed by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota.

“We know one thing is for certain,” Heitkamp said. “We must involve youth.”

Despite the emphasis on self-reliance, however, the U.S. government still has to play a role in the betterment of Indian country, Heitkamp said.

“If by the time I’ve left office we have not changed opportunity, education, safety and healthcare on Indian reservations, then I have done nothing,” she pledged to the crowd.

The comments were well received but the first lady was clearly the star of the show.

“Every single one of your lives is precious and sacred,” Obama said. “And you definitely have a president and a first lady who have your back.”

U.S. Department of Education Announces $3 Million In Grants Available to Help Native Youth


The U.S. Department of Education today announced the availability of an estimated $3 million in grants to help Native American youth become college- and career-ready. Funding for the new Native Youth Community Projects is a key step toward implementing President Obama’s commitment to improving the lives of American Indian and Alaskan Native children. The new grants will support the President’s Generation Indigenous “Gen I” Initiative launched last year to help Native American youth.

“We know that tribes are in the best position to determine the needs and barriers that Native youth face,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “The Native Youth Community Projects will allow tribal communities to come together to improve outcomes for students.”

In a Federal Register notice, the Department said it would award five to seven demonstration grants ranging from $400,000 to $600,000 to tribal communities before Sept. 30. The new program is based on significant consultation with tribal communities and recognizes that these communities are best-positioned to:

·       Identify key barriers to improving educational and life outcomes for Native youth, and
·       Develop and implement locally produced strategies designed to address those barriers.

Each grant will support a coordinated, focused approach chosen by a community partnership that includes a tribe, local schools and other optional service providers or organizations. For example, the program allows tribes to identify ways to achieve college and career readiness specific to their own communities – whether it’s early learning, language immersion or mental health services.  Communities can tailor actions to address one or more of those issues. The success of these first projects will guide the work of future practices that improve the educational opportunities and achievement of preschool, elementary and secondary Indian students.

The President’s FY 2016 budget proposal calls for increased investments across Indian Country, including a total request of $20.8 billion for a range of federal programs that serve tribes – a $1.5 billion increase over the 2015-enacted level. The budget proposal includes $53 million for fiscal year 2016 – a $50 million increase from this year – to significantly expand the Native Youth Community Projects program.

For more on the Administration’s investment in Native American issues, visit

Rapid City man awarded $10K grant to start Pine Ridge youth running camps

By John Lee McLaughlin, Rapid City Journal

James Pine, 23, goes on a run Friday afternoon in his southwest Rapid City neighborhood. Pine has been awarded a $10,000 grant to start a youth fitness camp this summer called Lakota Forever Running and Fitness in each of the eight districts of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. (Josh Morgan, Journal staff)
James Pine, 23, goes on a run Friday afternoon in his southwest Rapid City neighborhood. Pine has been awarded a $10,000 grant to start a youth fitness camp this summer called Lakota Forever Running and Fitness in each of the eight districts of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. (Josh Morgan, Journal staff)

James Pine has his heart set on empowering the Oglala Lakota, both young and old.

And Pine, 23, of Rapid City, has been awarded a $10,000 grant to take his desire and run with it. He is one of 10 recipients of the Dreamstarter grant program, which is administered by Running Strong, an American Indian youth nonprofit based in Alexandria, Va.

Each of the 10 awardees received $10,000 to start youth camps promoting health and wellness across the nation. Each will work with a mentoring nonprofit to help implement their startup camps.

Pine, who works at Dakota Business Center delivering office supplies and installing office furniture, will be working with Dustin Martin, program director for Wings of America in Santa Fe, N.M.

Born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine knows firsthand the problems that people there deal with daily.

“There’s not much to do,” he said last week in a phone interview while he was at the Dreamstarter Academy in Washington, D.C. “There are a lot of bad habits. There’s a lot of suicide. There are a lot of drugs and alcohol, and there’s not much to turn to. On a daily basis, a lot of people are bored, and they want to hang out with their friends, and they do bad things.”

An avid runner, Pine said, “I just want to bring my people up. I just want to help them out. I want to be a mentor and a coach. I just want to help the youth, and not even just the youth. I want to help everybody, elders, too, old people, tall, small — anybody.”

This summer, Pine said, he will be starting a series of two-day youth camps, dubbed Lakota Forever Running and Fitness, in eight communities across the reservation. He hopes to start the camps in June, continuing through August.

Pine is a former state-qualifying cross-country and track runner for Pine Ridge High School.

“Running has helped me in a major way, and I don’t even know if I can put it into words, but it was just an awesome thing because when I was younger, growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, I went through the hardships, just like everyone else,” he said.

Running Strong was co-founded by 1964 Olympic champion Billy Mills, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, who to date is the only American to win a gold medal in the Olympic 10,000-meter run.

“Billy Mills, he played an important role in my life,” Pine said. “He was kind of like a hero, just someone to look up to. He was like the glimmer of hope. You know, you see all these NBA stars and these people on TV, and none of them are Native American. Some people get it in their head: ‘Oh, I can never be that,’ but then you look at Billy Mills. He’s a national idol.”

Pine applied to the Dreamstarter Program with friend and colleague Martin. The duo met last summer at a Wings of America program that trained Pine and others to facilitate youth running and fitness camps.

“Immediately, James stepped into a leadership role and was a leader for those facilitators that came down from Pine Ridge,” Martin said. “It was obvious to me that they looked up to him, and they respected his guidance when he gave it. So when we had this opportunity to apply for this grant, it was a no-brainer for me.”

Pine’s father, Dale, has been a long-time supporter of Wings of America running and fitness programs, Martin said. Dale Pine has coached at Pine Ridge High School for more than 25 years.

He is a leading force of Team One Spirit, which facilitates running programs and raises funds for youth on the reservation. The team sent James Pine to run with four other Oglala Lakota runners in the New York City Marathon. The group is collectively called the Lakota Five. Pine finished the 26-mile, 385-yard race with a time of 3:52:31.

Partnering with Pine to start running camps at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is a natural transition from an already strong partnership, Martin said.

“Dale Pine has been a longtime advocate and helper of Wings of America, and I sort of see myself as the next generation of Wings,” he said. “In a lot of ways, I see James as the continuation of that legacy, you know, and myself included, so together, he and I can continue that legacy of Wings working in South Dakota, and particularly in Pine Ridge.”

Pine said Wings of America has granted him an additional $9,000 to start the Pine Ridge running camps, which he said will incorporate games, mentorship and wellness education, all the while promoting the sport of running.

“Everything is going to revolve around running and being healthy and living a good, natural life,” he said. “If you make a game out of it, it’s very interesting and fun to them, even though they will be running the whole time.”

Pine said he will coordinate with schools on the reservation to see what gym space is available for his camps, though there’s always the option of holding them outdoors. He said he will also be seeking sponsorships from local businesses.

Running “took me a lot of places, and it brought me to where I am now,” said Pine, who lives in Rapid City with his girlfriend and 1-year-old daughter. “I’m a dad now. I just changed my life around … I just feel obligated to help my people and give back to the community.”