On April 8, the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute and the White House co-hosted a convening of philanthropies, nonprofits, and thought leaders. The convening included remarks from the First Lady Michelle Obama and small group discussions among high level government officials including four members of the President’s Cabinet. The goal of the event was to discuss Generation Indigenous (Gen-I), a national initiative launched by President Obama in December focused on removing the barriers that stand between Native youth, and make the case for increased investments in the lives of the most vulnerable population in this country.
“The lives of Native American youth are largely invisible to most American citizens,” remarked Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute president and CEO. “The purpose of this convening is to raise their level of awareness by bringing together influential thought leaders, White House and Administration officials, and philanthropists to findways to invest in the needs of this all but forgotten population.”
During her remarks, First Lady Michelle Obama, highlighted the Generation Indigenous initiative and the need for national partners to get engaged. “We all need to work together to invest deeply – and for the long-term – in these young people,” remarkedthe First Lady. “These kids have so much promise – and we need to ensure that they have every tool, every opportunity they need to fulfill that promise.”
The First Lady’s full remarks can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/08/prepared-remarks-first-lady-michelle-obama-white-house-convening-creatin
From the President’s Cabinet, US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and US Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke in smaller group discussions with the philanthropies, nonprofits, and partner organizations about public and private sector investments. The discussions focused on priority needs of Native youth including education, health, social services, juvenile justice, housing, and economic development.
“The fact is Native children do not have the equitable access to resources and opportunity,” said former Senator Byron Dorgan, founder and chairman of CNAY. “I believe we have for too long left Native American children behind and I am proud of the work the Center for Native American Youth is doing with the First Lady and the White House to change and improve lives.”
Dr. William C. Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, a national foundation based in Seattle, Washington, that works to decrease the need for foster care and ensure that supportive communities nurture the safety, success and hope of every child, emphasized the importance of the convening and Gen-I. “The fact is that the programs that serve Native youth are some of the most under-resourced and we must work together – public and private sectors – to ensure that Native American children have equal opportunities to succeed.”
As a part of Gen-I, CNAY has partnered with the White House and Department of the Interior, to launch a National Native Youth Network to expand resources and connections for Native youth and the programs that serve them. Casey Family Programs helped support CNAY’s role in the April 8 convening at the White House. In addition, the Bush Foundation contributed $100,000 and Nike, Inc. has made a two-year commitment through the N7 program that includes $200,000 in funding to support youth sports and physical activity in tribal communities. Additional support has come from Novo Nordisk Inc., Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and AMERIND Risk Management Corporation.
As a part of CNAY’s commitment to Gen-I, several youth were included in the event. Rory Wheeler, a 16 year-old from the Seneca Nation of Indians who attended, commented, “it is inspiring to have the First Lady committed to making a difference for us Native youth,” said Wheeler. “Together, we’re working to promote hope in Indian Country.”
To learn more about Gen-I, visit www.genindigenous.com.