Native youth kick off Generation Indigenous challenge

By Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Janay Jumping Eagle is on a mission to curb teen suicide in her hometown on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Dahkota Brown of the Wilton Band of Miwok Indians in California wants to keep American Indian and Alaska Native students on track toward graduation.

The teenagers are at the heart of Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, a White House initiative that kicked off this week with a brainstorming session that happened to coincide with tens of thousands of indigenous people gathering in New Mexico for the Gathering of Nations, North America’s largest powwow.

The Generation Indigenous program stems from a visit last year by President Barack Obama to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Meetings followed, the president called for his cabinet members to conduct listening tours, tribal youth were chosen as ambassadors and a national network was formed.

The goal is to remove barriers that stand in the way of tribal youth reaching their potential, said Lillian Sparks Robinson, a member of the Rosebud Sioux and an organizer of Thursday’s Gen-I meeting.

“This is a community-based, community-driven initiative. It is not something that’s coming from the top down. It’s organic,” she said.

The teens are coming up with their own ideas to combat problems in their respective communities.

For example, a string of seven suicides by teenagers in recent months has shaken Pine Ridge, and close to 1,000 suicide attempts were recorded on the reservation over a nearly 10-year period. Jumping Eagle, a high school sophomore, said her older cousin was one of them.

“That was really devastating. I just wanted to at least try to stop it from happening and I’m still trying,” she said, noting that a recent basketball tournament she organized as part of her Gen-I challenge to bring awareness and share resources with schoolmates was a success.

Brown, 16, said he sees Gen-I as a tool to “shine a light on the positive things that are happening in Indian country rather than all the other bad statistics that go along with being a Native teen.”

From New Mexico’s pueblos to tribal communities in the Midwest and beyond, federal statistics show nearly one-third of Native youth live in poverty, they have the highest suicide rates of any ethnicity in the U.S., and they have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. And for American Indians and Alaska Natives overall, alcoholism mortality is more than 500 percent higher than the general population.

Federal agencies are working with the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute to pull off Generation Indigenous, and the White House is planning a tribal youth gathering in July in Washington, D.C.

In one of her last tasks before passing on the Miss Indian World crown, Taylor Thomas spoke to Gen-I participants Thursday. She shared with them her tribe’s creation story, which centers on the idea that every animal, plant and person has a purpose. She encouraged the teens to be leaders.

“No matter the difficulties we have in our communities, we have so many bright lights shining from all over Indian country. And when I say that I’m talking about all of you,” she told the crowd of about 300.

United National Tribal Youth, Inc. Receives $850K Grant from Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Source: Red Lake Nation News

Chandler, Arizona–United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) has entered into a four-year cooperative agreement with the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to plan and implement the National Intertribal Youth Leadership Development Initiative. The Initiative’s goal is to offer opportunities for Native American youth to, “Reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors in youth, schools, communities, and families.” To accomplish this goal, the Initiative will conduct a series of national and regional Intertribal Youth Leadership Development gatherings and a range of related youth leadership development opportunities for Native American and Alaska Native youth.

UNITY, Inc. is a national network organization promoting personal development, citizenship, and leadership among Native youth between the ages of 14 – 24. UNITY affiliated youth councils that make up the National UNITY Council will have an opportunity to put the training their youth members receive through the Initiative to good use within their communities as the youth themselves learn by doing. The training will enable the youth to plan, organize, and carry out service projects within their respective communities. These youth led projects will benefit tribal communities while providing valuable real world leadership experiences that will better prepare the involved youth to assume and succeed in their future leadership roles. UNITY and a team of technical assistance providers will offer guidance and support to engaged youth and their adult advisors throughout the project to help ensure the successful completion of the service projects.

“The Initiative provides welcome resources that will help make it possible for UNITY to continue the important work that it has performed for the past 37 years. The UNITY staff, members of the Council of Trustees, and the youth leaders of the National UNITY Council are looking forward to working with the OJJDP staff and its team of consultants and trainers to provide our Native American youth with the added opportunities for personal development the Initiative makes possible. I personally encourage Native youth and youth-serving programs throughout Native America to take part in this important Initiative,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY Executive Director.

UNITY staff, OJJDP staff, trainers and technical assistance providers will collaboratively develop and adopt specific project objectives along with a plan for accomplishing the Initiative’s overall goals. The schedule for all project activities and events is expected to be completed and announced on the UNITY website ( as well as through other media outlets shortly after the start of the New Year.

UNITY’s mission is to foster the spiritual, mental, physical and social development of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and to help build a strong, unified, and self-reliant Native America through greater youth involvement. UNITY’s network currently includes 132 affiliated youth councils in 35 states. Youth Councils are sponsored by Tribes, Alaska Native villages, high schools, colleges, urban centers, and others. To learn more about UNITY, visit the website at