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.”

Miccosukee Indian School Receives Historic Flexibility to Meet Academic and Cultural Needs of Students

By DOI Media Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today that the Miccosukee Indian School (MIS) has received flexibility from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), to use a different definition of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) that meets their students’ unique academic and cultural needs. The Miccosukee Indian School in Florida is funded by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

As part of the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative to remove barriers to Native youth success, granting flexibility for the Miccosukee Indian School to define AYP specifically for their students is an important step in making the BIE work better to support individual tribal nations and Native youth. This is the first tribal school to be approved to use a definition of AYP that is different from the state in which it is located, and the flexibility is the first of its kind from the Department of Education.

“The plan that Miccosukee put forward will support culturally-relevant strategies designed to improve college and career readiness for Native children and youth,” said Secretary Duncan. “We believe that tribes must play a meaningful role in the education of native students. Tribal communities are in the best position to identify barriers and opportunities, and design effective, culturally-relevant strategies to improve outcomes for Native students.”

This flexibility builds on the work that MIS has already accomplished through its transition to higher standards and more rigorous assessments, and will allow MIS leaders to further their work to ensure students graduate high school college- and career-ready. MIS serves approximately 150 students in grades kindergarten through 12 and is the only school of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe.

“I applaud Chairman Billie and the Miccosukee Indian School for developing this innovative and culturally-relevant plan for guiding and measuring their students’ academic progress,” said Secretary Jewell. “This flexibility will help the Miccosukee Nation achieve their goal of maintaining a unique way of life, cultural customs and language by transmitting the essence of their heritage to their children. This not only advances Tribal self-determination but can also serve as a model for other tribes within the Bureau of Indian Education school system seeking to achieve the same goal for their students.”

The announcement was made during a ceremony at the Department of the Interior with Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, BIE Director Dr. Charles ‘Monty’ Roessel, Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education William Mendoza, Chairman Colley Billie of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, and MIS Principal Manuel Varela.

According to recent U.S. Department of Education statistics, the graduation rate for American Indian students has increased by more than four percentage points over two years, outpacing the growth for all students. The graduation rate for American Indian students increased from 65 percent in 2010-11 to 69.7 percent in 2012-13. Despite these gains, the graduation rate for American Indian students is lower than the national rate of 81 percent.

A 2014 White House Native Youth Report cites Bureau of Indian Education schools fare even worse, with a graduation rate of 53 percent in 2011-12. To address the critical educational needs of these students, the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for Reform, an initiative of the White House Council on Native American Affairs chaired by Secretary Jewell, is restructuring Interior’s BIE from a provider of education to a capacity-builder and education service-provider to tribes.

In addition to reforming the Bureau of Indian Education into a service-provider to tribal schools, the Obama Administration is supporting other efforts to improve educational opportunities for Native communities, through initiatives such as:

Generation Indigenous (Gen-I): focuses on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and opportunities to succeed.

Native Youth Community Projects: provides an estimated $4 million in grants from the Department of Education to help prepare Native American youth for success in college, careers and life as part of Gen-I.

National Tribal Youth Network: supports leadership development and provides peer support through an interactive online portal.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Initiative Guidance: permits states to share FAFSA completion rates with tribes to help Native American students apply for college financial aid as part of President Obama’s FAFSA Completion Initiative.

Later today, Secretary Jewell will convene the sixth meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs (Council), formed by Executive Order of the President, to work more collaboratively and effectively with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to help build and strengthen their communities. Obama Administration Cabinet Secretaries and other senior officials will continue discussions focused on several core objectives for the Council, such as reforming the Bureau of Indian Education, promoting sustainable tribal economic development, and supporting sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. The discussion will also include follow-up from additional areas of focus based on consultation with tribal leaders.

Tulalip movers and shakers form Native youth council

by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News 

 

Chena Fryberg announces her candidacy for the Youth Council media coordinator.Photo/Brandi N. Montreuil

Chena Fryberg announces her candidacy for the Youth Council media coordinator.
Photo/Brandi N. Montreuil

 

Native youth across Indian country are assembling to make a difference in their communities. They are known as the Gen-I movers and what they say will be heard by top-level leaders in Washington D.C. The goal is to get youth involved in their communities and to remove barriers to education and health opportunities, while growing leaders for future generations.

Generation Indigenous was announced at the 2015 United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) midyear conference. Issued by President Obama this call to action, “is the first step in engaging a broad network of people interested in addressing the issues facing Native youth and creating a platform through which Native youth can access information about opportunities and resources, and have their voices and positive contributions highlighted and elevated.”

Tulalip youth have answered the challenge by creating the first ever Tulalip Youth Council. The thirteen-member council elected their officers on Wednesday, May 13, 2015.

Officers include co-chairs Andrew Davis and Mikaylee Pablo, vice-chairs Kayah George and Jlynn Joseph, secretary Ruth Pablo, treasure/ fundraiser coordinator Isabel Gomez, event coordinator Keryn Parks, media coordinator Cyena Fryberg, recruitment coordinator Tahera Mealing, and junior co-chairs Arnold Reeves and Krislyn Parks. Senior advisors are Santana Shopbell and Deyamonta Diaz. Each officer will hold a six-month term to establish the council. Elections will be held in November for one-year terms.

“This is something we have been looking forward to for many years,” said Marie Zackuse, Tulalip Tribes Board Secretary. “We want to hear from you. We know what we think might be important to you but we want to hear what is important to you, and through this we can.”

Many youth running for council mentioned wanting equal rights to opportunities and expressed a desire to support all youth in having a voice on the council.

“I want every single voice to be heard and I want us to be the voice of change in the Tribe, not just talk about it, but be that change,” said Kayah George, vice-chair.

“I speak from my heart and I want to see my community change in a positive way. I want to break the chain in my family and graduate from high school,” said Mikaylee Pablo, who encouraged her peers in her election speech to prove people wrong about negative reputations. Pablo was elected as co-chair along with Andrew Davis, who said he wants to get youth involved with community events and have a youth presence at ceremonies.

Mikaylee Pablo, the new Tulalip Youth Council female co-chair, listens as other candidates to the youth council discuss changes they would like to see happen in their community.Photo/Brandi N. Montreuil

Mikaylee Pablo, the new Tulalip Youth Council female co-chair, listens as other candidates to the youth council discuss changes they would like to see happen in their community.
Photo/Brandi N. Montreuil

 

While no projects have been decided on yet, youth will meet regularly and participate in national challenges such as working in their community and volunteering with local organizations or schools. Meetings will be scheduled at a later date for the council to brainstorm with youth on how to address issues of concern in the community.

As part of the national Gen-I challenge, youth will document their community efforts and projects through photos and video, which will be used to share their stories at the National Native Youth Network. Youth will also have the opportunity to represent their tribal communities at the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in D.C. this summer.

“You all are future leaders,” said Zackuse. “You are role models and we are excited to see what you achieve.”

 

For more information on the Tulalip Youth Council please contact Jessica Bustad, Tulalip Youth Services Education Coordinator at 425-280-8705 or Natasha Fryberg at 425-422-9276.

 

Contact Brandi N. Montreuil, bmontreuil@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

 

 

 

 

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

Source:WHITE HOUSE MEDIA RELEASE

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 https://www.whitehouse.gov/nativeamericans.

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.

Secretary Jewell to Kick Off Native Youth Listening Tour

Obama Administration Officials to meet with young people across Indian Country to better understand and act on unique challenges facing Native Youth 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (“Gen-I”) initiative to remove barriers standing between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will kick off the Obama Administration Native Youth Listening Tour tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10, in the Phoenix, Arizona area with tribal visits and student discussions at Salt River Elementary and Gila River Crossing Community Schools.

During the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama announced that members of his Cabinet would visit Indian Country to hear directly from Native youth on how to bolster federal policies to help improve the lives and opportunities for the next generation of Indian Country. Over the coming year, Obama Administration Cabinet Secretaries will hold listening sessions with native youth across the country.

As part of her visit with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Secretary Jewell will learn about the tribe’s Family Advocacy Center which follows a ‘co-location’ model for social services, such as counseling, law enforcement and other professional social services. The Center serves as a national model for taking a ‘whole-of-child’ approach to youth and social services.

At the Gila River Crossing Community School, Secretary Jewell will meet with students who are part of Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council, an active and well-established youth council that has served to provide an avenue for empowerment and mutual support for native youth within the community.

According to a recent White House report, nearly half of Native American people (42 percent) are under the age of 24; more than one-third of Native children live in poverty; and Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools.