Release: CNAY Recognizes Native American Youth Leaders as 2016 Champions for Change!

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Contact: Erik Stegman, Executive Director
Center for Native American Youth
The Aspen Institute


Senator Dorgan was joined by US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, members of Congress and hundreds of tribal officials in honoring young Native American leaders in Washington, DC.

Washington, DC, February 25, 2016 –– The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY), a policy program at the Aspen Institute, recognized its 2016 Champions for Change through a series of events this week in Washington, DC. The Champions for Change program, inspired by a White House initiative, is designed to shine a spotlight on positive stories in Indian Country, promote hope among Native American youth, and expose young people to leadership development opportunities.

CNAY and its founder and chairman, US Senator Byron Dorgan (ret.) hosted two public events to celebrate and honor these five young Native American leaders, whose efforts include suicide prevention, health promotion, language preservation, community service and adaptive sports for those with disabilities, just to name a few. The Champions were announced on Tuesday, February 23 during a public event at the Aspen Institute and were also recognized during a reception with US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to celebrate CNAY’s fifth anniversary later that evening.

“Our Champions of Change program recognizes Native American youth who are impacting their communities and peers in positive and inspiring ways” said Senator Dorgan. “We are proud to celebrate their accomplishments and will continue to support them as they become the next generation of leaders in Native American communities!”

2016 Champions for Change:

Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, a seventeen year-old from Durango, CO who was named a Champion for Change for his efforts to provide opportunities for those with disabilities to engage in sport, describes his experiences: “Being recognized as a Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth was an amazing experience, and I’m motivated to expand my efforts and make an even greater impact in my community.”

On February 23, CNAY hosted a panel discussion to announce the five Champions and highlight their leadership efforts, which was co-moderated by Senator Dorgan and CNAY board member and journalist, Patty Talahongva. You can watch the video using this link and view photos from the event here. While in DC, the Champions also had meetings with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, US Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, White House staff, members of Congress, and other federal agency officials, where they discussed the challenges that their Native youth peers are facing across the country.

In addition to the public event, CNAY hosted a reception on February 23 to celebrate its fifth anniversary with special remarks from Secretary Jewell and Congresswoman Betty McCollum.

“The 2016 Champions for Change are extraordinary young leaders who are lifting up their communities and peers through a range of efforts from suicide prevention to adaptive sports to language preservation,” said Erik Stegman, executive director of CNAY. “They represent the incredible talent that exists throughout Indian Country that the Center for Native American Youth seeks to highlight every day. These leaders are truly changing their communities and the way the greater public perceive Native American youth through their inspiring efforts.”


Center for Native American Youth is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy. Founded by former US Senator Byron Dorgan in February 2011, CNAY is a policy program within the Aspen Institute, headquartered in Washington, DC. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit



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