America Is Trying to Fix a Mental Health Crisis That It Created

Lawmakers and advocates are trying to help Native American youths, who are dying in record numbers.

(Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

(Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

By Jamilah King,

Julian Juan was only 13 when he noticed the scars. A high school freshman on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation, about an hour and a half southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Juan had a tight-knit group of seemingly gregarious friends. But even in southern Arizona’s desert heat, some of those friends wore long-sleeved shirts. Once, a friend’s sleeve rode up high enough to reveal scarred flesh.

“When I asked about it, they would say, ‘Oh, I cut myself doing yard work,’ or ‘I got caught in a fence,’ ” Juan remembered. He persistently pushed them for the truth. “They would say they were having these thoughts and would never fully explain,” he said. He could tell the people closest to him were suffering. And he wanted to do something about it.

Today, Juan is a 23-year-old junior at the University of New Mexico who serves as a youth cabinet member in the National Congress of American Indians, the largest advocacy organization for Native Americans in the country, where he’s worked with a broad coalition of young people to put mental health among tribal elders’ top concerns.

“This issue is really taboo for people in my community,” he said. “They don’t like to talk about it, and it does hurt to talk about, but it’s not going away.”

There’s a growing mental health crisis among Native American youths, and it’s being driven by poverty, violence, and lack of resources. It’s difficult to definitively assess how pervasive the problem is, partly because cultural stigma about mental illness makes it difficult for experts to access many Native American communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Native Americans between the ages of 15 and 34—a  rate that’s two and a half times higher than the national average for that age group. The crisis appears to be afflicting Native American communities across the country.

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were reported between 2004 and 2013. In roughly the same period, the local hospital has apparently treated more than 240 people under age 19 who planned or tried to commit suicide.

The crisis is getting national attention. Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama touted the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge, a White House–backed initiative with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The initiative has the lofty goal  of “removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed.”

The first lady outlined a “long history of systemic discrimination and abuse,” ranging from 19th-century laws that forcibly removed Native Americans from their land to the early-20th-century boarding schools that meticulously extinguished many tribes’ language and culture. Those injustices set the tone for the dire situation in many of today’s tribal communities. Here are the statistics, according to the American Psychiatric Association: Native Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than the rest of the U.S. population. They’re also nearly twice as likely as to suffer psychological distress, usually in the form of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Given this history, we shouldn’t be surprised at the challenges that kids in Indian Country are facing today,” the first lady said. “And we should never forget that we played a role in this. Make no mistake about it—we own this.”

In November 2014, a U.S. Justice Department task force, led by retired Democratic U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, submitted a report to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining several actions that could help address the trauma experienced by Native American children. The task force recommended that a Native American Affairs Office be fully staffed within the White House Domestic Policy Council and more federal money be spent on funding tribal criminal and civil prosecutions.

People working in tribal communities are searching for answers. Sheri Lesansee is program manager of New Mexico’s Native American Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse. She says that understanding the diversity of 22 tribal communities is key to accessing their needs. “The outreach and technical assistance really does have to be tailored to meet the needs of that community,” Lesansee told TakePart, pointing to therapists who are well versed in the concepts of generational trauma and familiar with tribal family dynamics. At the same time, Lesanee said it’s important to focus on the tools tribal communities already possess, such as endurance. “We believe—as Native people—we are strong and resilient, and we emphasize that in prevention efforts,” she said.

Jennifer Nanez, a senior program therapist at the University of New Mexico’s Native American Behavioral Health Program, said overt racism continues to play an important role in kids’ lives. “A lot of times the mainstream perspective is that Natives can’t seem to get out of this rut—and that it’s just a characteristic of an American Indian when it’s not,” Nanez said, before echoing the first lady’s sentiments. “[This] is the result of hundreds of years of oppression, and our kids are dealing with it.”

As proof, Nanez pointed to an instance from January when a group of Native American children attending a minor-league hockey game in South Dakota were accosted by a group of white men in a skybox above their seats. The men allegedly dumped beer and yelled racial slurs at the kids, and the story eventually made headlines. “They were getting drunk, and around the third quarter they were talking crap to our kids and throwing beer down on some of them, including our staff and students…telling our students to go back to the rez,” one chaperone wrote on Facebook.

New Mexico is one of a handful of states that have tried to address the problem through legislation. In 2011, the state legislature passed a bill that, in part, created the Native American Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse, which does outreach and consultation for various tribal communities.

Even Native Americans who don’t live in tribal communities feel the impact of the problem. Christian Redbird, 22, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has struggled with mental illness while attending community college. Members of her family suffered from undiagnosed mental illness. No one in her family had ever gone to therapy, and instead self-medicated with alcohol, she said. Redbird, the first person in her family to go to college, realized she didn’t have the familial and social networks to help her thrive.

“I work as a server in a restaurant and make more money than anyone in my family does,” she said. “It’s hard for me to know what steps to take when I don’t know what they are.”

Tulalip team sweeps through game tournament

Jay Miranda, Tulalip Boys & Girls Club games room director stands in front of the special display that houses the medals won in the March 7, 2015 Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County Games Tournament. (Tulalip News Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Jay Miranda, Tulalip Boys & Girls Club games room director stands in front of the special display that houses the medals won in the March 7, 2015 Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County Games Tournament. (Tulalip News Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – Tulalip Boys & Girls Club gaming team had an incredible performance at this year’s annual Snohomish County Boys & Girls Club Game Tournament on March 7. Players in the Tulalip team took home 12 medals including several first place spots, in a variety of game categories.

The annual event brings together club teams from around the county to compete in games such as bumper pool, checkers, pool, foosball, ping-pong and card games. This year the event was held at the Everett Boys & Girls Club.

The Tulalip team placed in the top three slots for each game category. Tulalip club members Gaylan Grey placed first in checkers and pool, and second in bumper pool. Terrance Phillips second in ping-pong, Mauricio Garcia first in foosball, Joshua Miranda third in pool, and Maximo Gonzalez third in checkers. Matthew Miranda placed first in ping-pong and second in foosball, while Marcella Gonzalez placed second in speed cards and Ayrik Miranda placed first in pool and third in bumper pool.

Tulalip Games Room Director Jay Miranda explains the tournament is more than just a bunch of kids playing games. Unlike other popular sport choices such as basketball and football, games in the tournament are played individually. They also help the kids develop skills that they can use later in life.

Medals won during the March 7, 2015 Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County hang in a special display area inside the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club. (Tulalip News Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Medals won during the March 7, 2015 Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County hang in a special display area inside the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club.
(Tulalip News Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

“These games teach the kids strategic thinking, along with critical thinking skills. Bumper pool and pool are games about angles which helps in math at school because they have to look at the angles before they make their move. They have to calculate before they shoot,” said Miranda, who has been the director for just under year and incorporates a philosophy of fair play and respect with players.

“I tell the kids, when you get older you will learn life isn’t fair, but as long as you keep trying you will overcome the things that seem unfair in life. I tell them to always play to win,” said Miranda.

Unlike other clubs in the Boys & Girls Club of America chain, the club at Tulalip is uniquely tailored to the population it serves, which has a large percentage of Native American youth.

“We teach more than just the rules of the games. We teach about having morals and standards for personal growth and we incorporate traditional cultural teachings in our club,” Miranda said. “If there was no games room it would impact the other departments in the club with an overflow of kids. The games room gives them a competitive outlet. If we lose the games room, the kids lose the feeling of accomplishment.”

“This year was a great accomplishment,” Miranda said. “In last year’s tournament we had only three players, but this year we had seven and they did great.”


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;





President Obama Wants $1 Billion for Indian Education

Associated PressPresident Barack Obama poses with Native America dancers during his visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation Friday, June 13, 2014, photo in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Associated Press
President Barack Obama poses with Native America dancers during his visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation Friday, June 13, 2014, photo in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.


Tanya H. Lee, Indian Country Today


President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget request includes $1 billion to transform American Indian education, a $138 million increase from the current funding level.

The transformation would change the Bureau of Indian Education into “an organization that serves as a capacity builder and service provider to support tribes in educating their youth and deliver a world-class and culturally appropriate education across Indian Country.”

The $138 million increase would include $58.7 million for school repairs and replacement; an initial $34.2 million to deliver broadband access to all BIE schools; an additional $20 million for operations and maintenance at Indian school facilities; $75 million (an increase of $12.9 million) to fully fund tribal costs for running their own education programs; an additional $10 million “to incentivize creative solutions to school transformation”; and $2.6 million to improve school administration.

The increased American Indian/Alaska Native education funding request is part of the launch of the president’s Generation Indigenou sinitiative intended to reduce barriers to success for Native American youth. The Gen I initiative also includes a small increase for scholarships and adult education, $3 million to support 60 new tribal youth projects in natural resources, a $15 million increase for the Tiwahe Initiative and $4 million to establish a One-Stop Tribal Support Center. Funding for Native Youth Community Projects would increase by a whopping $50 million (up from $3 million) to improve college and career readiness among Native youth.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, Chickasaw; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; and Jodi Gillette, special assistant to the president for Native American affairs, held a teleconference on January 29 to begin to create public support for the education initiatives.

Jewell noted that the president’s recommendations would provide the highest level of funding for AI/AN education since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Duncan said, “The lack of opportunity [for Native American youth] is simply unacceptable… At every level, early childhood, K to 12, higher education, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us… Tribes need to play a meaningful leadership role in the education of their students. We know that tribes are best able to know their own students’ needs and best able to build upon their strengths.”

Asked what chance the AI/AN education proposals had to make it through the Congressional appropriations process, Jewell said, “There is strong bipartisan support for addressing the issues that we talked about and identified here today… There is no question that we are not serving Indian children well and I think there is a sense of appreciation that we are tackling these things head-on and we’re not just kicking the can down the road as has been done by both Democratic and Republican administrations for many years. I am quite optimistic that we will get support for this budget.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, a Republican representing Oklahoma’s 4th District, said in a statement: “Throughout President Obama’s tenure, Native American issues have proven to be a source of bipartisan cooperation, particularly on the House Appropriations Committee… In the days ahead, as my colleagues in the House and Senate seek to find common ground with the Administration, I remain hopeful that we can make significant progress in Indian country during this session of Congress.” Cole serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and on the House Budget Committee.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, said in a statement: “The Bureau of Indian Education has long been underfunded and meeting our trust and treaty responsibility for educating Native American children will not happen overnight… President Obama and Secretary Jewell have taken a significant action to set us on a path towards ensuring that all children in Indian Country have access to a safe place to learn.” McCollum is the ranking Democratic member on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the Democratic co-chair of the Native American Caucus.

In response to a question from ICTMN about whether other AI/AN programs would be cut in order to fund the education initiative, Washburn responded, “We have not made significant compromises” in developing the budget.

Jewell said the president’s commitment to the American Indian community, based in part on his June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and December’s White House Tribal Nations Conference, was instrumental in developing the FY16 budget requests for AI/AN education. She noted that the administration would launch a Cabinet Native Youth Listening Tour next week to hear directly from AI/AN kids.



Studio looks for Native American stars

By Daily Times staff, The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — TBA, a Los Angeles-based network, is hosting a casting call today and Saturday for a reality TV “docuseries” about a subculture of Native American youth.

The studio is looking for people between 18 and 28 years old who are interested in a medical career, environmentalism, leadership or similar programs. The people must be outgoing and not camera shy.

Auditions are from 4 to 8 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Comfort Inn Suites, 1951 Cortland Drive in Farmington.

The show will focus on young Native Americans who leave the reservations, tribes, cultures and ways of life to pursue life in a city.

The studio is looking for a few people who are willing to leave everything behind to pursue their “big dream.”

According to a press release, the show will look at how their leaving might cause disruption to their communities and what they are willing to endure to achieve a dream bigger than themselves. If they succeed, their work will help many others including their tribe.

TBA is comparing the new series to Breaking Amish.

For more information, call or text 818-299-0949

SMCF grant will help fund study of Native American education

GRAND RONDE — The education status of Oregon’s Native American youth will be the focus of a new, one-of-a-kind study thanks to a grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund.

Aaron Newton, Polk County Itemizer Observer

Kathleen George

Kathleen George

GRAND RONDE — The education status of Oregon’s Native American youth will be the focus of a new, one-of-a-kind study thanks to a grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund.

The Chalkboard Project, a Portland-based education advocacy group, received a $71,000 grant from SMCF to study the state of education among Oregon’s Native American population.

The sweeping study will look into the achievement outcomes of K-12 students, graduation rates and higher education status in eight of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon.

This spring, the Chalkboard Project approached SMCF for a grant and SMCF staff saw it as an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

“This was an unusual and exciting request for Spirit Mountain Community Fund,” SMCF Director Kathleen George said. “After discovering it and looking into it, we saw that really this would be the first-of-its-kind study in the state.”

The Chalkboard Project, partnering with Pacific Northwest-based consulting firm ECONorthwest, has conducted similar studies — most recently publishing a report on Oregon’s K-12 education system — but none solely focusing on Oregon’s Native American tribes.

The eight tribes involved in the study are spread across Oregon, from Coos Bay to Burns and Klamath County to Umatilla County.

The divergent nature of Oregon’s tribes and its relatively low population has led to the general inattention when education is concerned, George said.

“I think they’re largely out of sight and out of mind for the education leadership of our state,” she said. “Our kids are widely dispersed across the state. You’ll have several hundred Warm Springs kids; maybe a hundred, maybe less in Burns Paiute.”

The Chalkboard Project’s goal for the study is to inform each tribal government on their students’ progress and achievements in the public school system.

Reports will be provided specifically for each tribe, with only data on their students, and a master report will be prepared for Oregon legislators at their 2014 session.

The study is now under way, but sifting through the data to produce quantitative information is where the trouble lies, said Dr. Andrew Dyke, economist with ECONorthwest.

“The big hurdle is figuring out who the population is, because of confidentiality concerns it’s not as simple as going to the tribes and asking who their kids are,” he said. “The next step is to quantify the high level outcomes and take that information back to each tribe for feedback.”

First Nations Development Institute Receives $100,000 from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to Bolster the Financial Literacy of Native American Youth

Red Lake Nation News

LONGMONT, Colorado (August 12, 2013) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) today announced it has received a grant of $100,000 from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation of Seattle, Washington, to bolster the financial literacy of Native American high school students.

The two-year project will empower up to 75 Native American high school students and their families in Portland, Oregon, by providing culturally appropriate financial education that combines classroom and experiential learning to result in behavioral changes positively affecting management of financial assets. Youth Savings Accounts (YSAs) will be used to help youth to build assets and learn the savings habit, while introducing them to the use of mainstream financial services. First Nations will undertake the project in partnership with the Native American Youth Family Center (NAYA) in Portland.

Activities will include teaching the “Life on Your Terms” course to the students and taking a field trip to a participating bank or credit union to sign up for a YSA account. Those who complete the course with a passing grade will be entered into a drawing to earn an additional $100 to deposit into their account. The students also will participate in a financial simulation fair called “Crazy Cash City” that will help them put the lessons learned in class into practice through experiential learning. By the end of the grant period, an online teacher’s guide for the process will be completed and then made available nationally to teachers of Native American students.

Financial and investor education is one of the five focus areas of First Nations. First Nations and its independent subsidiary – First Nations Oweesta Corporation (a community development financial institution) – work in partnership with Native American tribes and communities throughout the U.S. to assist them in designing and administering financial and investor education programs. These projects range from helping individuals and families understand the basics of financial management – opening and maintaining a bank account and using credit wisely – to helping individuals understand financial markets and a variety of financial instruments for borrowing and saving. The programs result in increased investment levels and economic growth in Native communities.

About First Nations Development Institute

For more than 30 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit

About the Native American Youth Family Center

The Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland, Oregon, works to enrich the lives of Native youth and families through education, community involvement, and culturally specific programming. It has provided educational services, cultural arts programming, and direct support to reduce poverty in the Portland metropolitan area’s American Indian and Alaska Native community for over 30 years. Learn more at

About The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation

Launched by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen in 1988, the Allen family’s philanthropy is dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress. Since inception, the foundation has awarded over $469 million to more than 1,400 nonprofit groups to support and advance their critical charitable endeavors in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The foundation’s funding programs nurture the arts, engage children in learning, address the needs of vulnerable populations, advance scientific and technological discoveries, and provide economic relief amid the downturn. For more information, go to

Celebrating Two Years of Let’s Move! in Indian Country

By Jodi Gillette, White House Blog, May 8, 2013
Jodi Gillette at Chimney RockMatthew Mooney, Jodi Gillette, and Dakota Lorenzo at Chimney Rock (by Harry Burell, Southwest Conservation Corps)

I recently had the honor of attending an event to mark the 2nd Anniversary of Let’s Move! in Indian Country at Chimney Rock National Monument in southwestern Colorado. I hiked and learned about this magnificent landscape on our way to the top with fifty youth from the Southern Ute Montessori Elementary, the Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Butch Blazer, and a handful of youth from the Pueblos who work with the Southwest Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps partner organization that engages and trains a diverse group of young women and men and completes conservation projects for the public benefit.

I had lengthy conversations with Aaron Lowden, an Acoma Pueblo, regarding the strength and resiliency of the ancient people who built and lived in that space, and how their journey is connected to his own. Below I’d like to share some of his thoughts:

Guwaatse howba tu shinomeh kuwaitiya eshte e Aaron Lowden madiganashia kuhaiya haanu stu da aakume’ haanu stu da! Hello everyone my name is Kuwaitiya in Acoma and Aaron Lowden in English and I come from the bear clan of the Acoma people. I am a program coordinator for the Southwest Conservation Corps’ (SCC) Ancestral Lands regional office in Acoma Pueblo, NM.

Our day began in the way I began this blog with a greeting to all attending the Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC) 2nd Anniversary event and by saying a prayer. The prayer was done for the entire group before we entered the ancient Puebloan site of the recently designated Chimney Rock National Monument, CO.  It is as a sign of respect for those who came before to let them know we were there to learn from them. When we started at the trail head we were joined by Southern Ute schoolchildren, the Southwest Conservation Corps, the US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of LMIC. We were also joined by Jodi Gillette, the White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Butch Blazer, the Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment at the Department of Agriculture.

Finally, we were ready to do what we all came there to do: get outside and get active. Led by the Chimney Rock Interpretative Association guides, we hiked with anticipation to see the ruins. Walking through the Great Houses on steep inclined trails the group gained knowledge by experiencing the difficult and active living conditions of the original occupants of these sites.

Aaron Lowden Welcomes Hikers to Chimney RockAaron Lowden welcomes hikers and youth to Chimney Rock (by Harry Burell, Southwest Conservation Corps)

We learned how every single bit of rock and mortar had to be transported up to the top of this steep peak. If you were to talk with one of the ancestral inhabitants today and ask them about environmental stewardship, exercising, and eating right it’s reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t know what you were talking about, it’s just how they lived.

Today, Native Americans – particularly youth – have one of the highest obesity rates in the country. Although progress can be a good thing and has made our lives extensively easier, it is imperative that we keep these reminders and retain our old ways to have a healthy future as indigenous peoples. I feel this is even more appropriate when on the subject of Native American issues of our health and environmental stewardship. After all, if we can’t take care of the haatsi (land), how can we expect it take care of us.  By getting outside and being active in our country’s public lands, and by eating right and caring about where our food comes from, we can raise a healthier, more environmentally conscious generation.

After the group finished the hike, the Southwest Conservation Corps Ancestral Lands staff prepared a popular Pueblo dish: green chili stew. We were all ready to eat after our hike! Everyone enjoyed the nutritious meal and discussed the hike while the students played outdoors.

As the day winded down and once everything was finished, we all headed home thankful for the beautiful day we had been given.

Please click here to learn more about Let’s Move! in Indian Country.

Jodi Gillette is the White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs

Tiger Woods to Join Notah Begay III for NB3 Foundation Challenge

By Leeanne Root, Indian Country Today Media Network

In announcing the field for the sixth annual Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge, Notah Begay III, the Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta four-time PGA Tour winner and Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, saved the best for last.

Tiger Woods will join Begay on what they’ve dubbed Team USA on August 28 to raise money for health programs to benefit Native American youth.

Both Halbritter and Begay see the advantage of having a 78-time PGA Tour winner like Woods associated with the event.

“It really elevates the visibility,” Halbritter said during a press conference May 20.”

And while Begay said it’s always tough to get Woods because he’s in such high demand, he said Woods “understands the importance of what we’re trying to accomplish with our foundation and our initiatives and our programs and he’s such a big supporter of us.”

Team USA will also include Rickie Fowler, Navajo, who has competed in three previous NB3 Challenges and Bo Van Pelt, a PGA Tour veteran.

The four of them will be pitted against Team Asia and Team International in a combined best-ball format. Each team will have two pairs playing best-ball and the combined score of those two pairs will be the final score for that team.

Team Asia will feature eight-time PGA Tour winner K.J. Choi, PGA Tour veteran Charlie Wi, and two up and coming stars—2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year John Huh, the first person of Korean descent to win that honor, and James Hahn, who emerged on the scene last year.

Team International boasts players from Europe and South Africa including Lee Westwood, the former world No. 1 and 40-time professional winner, as well as 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and Nicolas Colsaerts, who emerged as one of the stars from the winning European team from the 2012 Ryder Cup, and Henrik Stenson, 2009 Players champion.

The partnership between the Oneida Indian Nation and the foundation has raised more than $4 million in the past five years through the NB3 Challenge. And the exposure that partnership and other big names like Woods has brought the foundation has also helped the foundation obtain other important partnerships, like with Johns Hopkins University and more recently with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The event has allowed us to garner more exposure for our work and when you have world-class partners like the Turning Stone Resort and everything it represents… it sets a precedent for future partnerships,” Begay said. “We didn’t have Hopkins when we started, we didn’t have Robert Wood Johnson when we started. We had Chairman Halbritter and myself and an idea—an idea to showcase something that has never existed in Indian country before, a world-class event that can compete with any event in the world and that’s exactly what we have.”

The partnership with Johns Hopkins has allowed the NB3 Foundation to better its programming and make it more effective for the Native youth they serve. Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health conducted a two-year study evaluating the impact of NB3 soccer programs at San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico and found the programs have a significant impact on the physical fitness of Native American children.

“Basically, it’s called evidence-based programming, we make curriculum changes based upon the research and data that we’re compiling so we’re not moving the program in a direction because we feel like that’s the right thing to do,” Begay said. “We’re moving it in a direction because our evidence says it’s the right thing to do. It’s a better way to make our dollars work more effectively.”

Halbritter couldn’t be prouder to be partnered with Begay and his foundation.

“In many communities across Indian country parents are in danger of living longer than their children, which is a tragedy… We share Notah’s vision and appreciate his work to improve the lives of all American Indian youth,” he said. “We are taught culturally that all the things we have aren’t just for ourselves, they’re really for future generations so this is… exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. But not often do you get the opportunity to actually do it.”

The foundation works with Native youth to reduce the incidence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. As Begay pointed out, “one in two of our Native American children will be classified as obese by the fourth grade and I think it goes up to six in ten will contract Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.”

NB3 runs a number of soccer and golf programs that have benefitted more than 15,000 Native youth since the foundation’s beginning in 2005.

The NB3 Foundation Challenge will be held August 28 at Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, New York, which was named a 2012 Top 40 Best Casino Course by Golfweek, and Begay can see why. It’s one of his favorite courses.

“It’s gorgeous, there’s not a blade of grass out of place, the greens are always fast. It’s one of the premier golfing venues in the country. And I can always get a tee time,” he laughed.

Tickets to the 2013 NB3 Challenge are on sale now for $50 and can be purchased by contacting the Turning Stone Box Office at 315-361-SHOW.

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, and Notah Begay III, announce the 12-player field for the sixth annual NB3 Foundation Challenge. (Courtesy Oneida Indian Nation)
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, and Notah Begay III, announce the 12-player field for the sixth annual NB3 Foundation Challenge. (Courtesy Oneida Indian Nation)



‘My Green’ Campaign Helps Native Youth Take Charge of Their Money

Source: Wall Street Journal

LONGMONT, Colo., April 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — It’s called “Minor’s Trust,” “Big Money” or “18 Money,” and for a number of Native American youth, it represents a blessing and a curse. However, a new interactive web tool can help Native youth do big things with their minor’s trust.

A small number of tribes pay out dividends from tribal businesses, or per capita payments, to their members. Payments for tribal members who are age 17 or younger are usually held in a financial trust until the youth turns 18. At age 18 (although sometimes later) youth receive a substantial payment and are faced with the responsibility of managing their “Big Money” at a young age.

With funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is launching the My Green campaign this month to help Native youth learn to manage their money. The main feature of the campaign is the My Green website at It features four spokespeople — Native youth ages 17-23 — who present their stories about how they managed their Big Money. They share their lessons learned in several videos, and serve as guides throughout the different components of the website. The site contains several money tools that Native youth can use to learn how to better manage their payments, including a Big Money simulation game that mirrors real-life spending decisions one must make.

First Nations created the campaign and website in response to the growing demand to provide financial education to Native youth who are receiving a large lump sum of money. Studies have shown that Native youth have very low rates of financial literacy and are more likely to be “underbanked,” and Native youth who receive a large Minor’s Trust payment (sometimes $50,000 or more) are especially vulnerable to making poor financial decisions.

“Receiving a large minor’s trust payment at age 18 can be exciting but also very stressful for Native youth,” said Shawn Spruce, program consultant at First Nations. “We are confident the My Green website will offer these kids valuable tools to explore how to invest in their future.”

First Nations will continue to unveil and promote the website at several conferences including the Native American Finance Officers Association conference held April 18-19, the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque April 26-27, and The National Indian Education Association conference Oct. 29 — Nov. 3.

To learn more, visit, “like” the campaign on Facebook at MyGreenFNDI, or follow the effort on Twitter @mygreenfndi.

Contacts: Sarah Dewees (540) 907-6247 or and/or Randy Blauvelt (303) 774-7836 or

SOURCE First Nations Development Institute

/Web site: