Today, as part of a White House initiative, the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute will host a public event themed “Generation Indigenous: Elevating Young Native American Leaders” in Washington, DC from 12:00 to 1:30pm. The event, held in conjunction with National Native American Heritage Month and webcast live, will raise awareness of Native American issues through dialogue with youth leaders from across the country. The conversation will be co-moderated by CNAY chairman and founder, US Senator Byron Dorgan (ret.), and Patty Talahongva, award-winning journalist and CNAY board member. The event will feature closing remarks by US Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. The youth panelists’ bios are below:
SuSun Fisher, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Age: 16; Hometown: Grand Ronde, Oregon
SuSun is a junior at Chemawa Indian School, a Bureau of Indian Education boarding school in Salem, OR, where she is a member of the Chemawa Youth Coalition, which plans activities that benefit the environment and community. She’s also involved in her tribe as the President of her tribal youth council and has served as Miss Siletz for three out of the past four years. For her Gen-I Challenge, she hosted a cultural event that brought together youth and elders from her tribe. SuSun is also a WeRNative Ambassador as well as an Earth Ambassador through United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY).
Keith Martinez, Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe
Age: 22; Hometown: Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Keith is a college senior at Villanova University and also one of CNAY’s 2014 Champions for Change. Keith grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where he attended high school for two years before being accepted into a private program in New York. Over the last few years he has been very involved as the chair of the Youth Advisory Board with the Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc. (LCE) and as a Youth Ambassador with Youth Service America for South Dakota. For his Gen-I Challenge, he created a spring break program for Villanova students to volunteer on Pine Ridge.
Darius Sparks, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Age: 20; Hometown: Bismarck, North Dakota
Darius is a college sophomore who has spent much of his life in foster care in North Dakota after being homeless and removed from his mother. He is a standout basketball player at University of Mary where he also gives back to his tribal and foster youth community. For his Gen-I Challenge, Darius obtained a Dreamstarters grant of $10,000 from Running Strong for American Indian Youth to host four free summer basketball camps on the Standing Rock Reservation and in Bismarck to provide youth the opportunity to learn life and basketball skills.