In February, the Center for Native American Youth announced its fourth class of Champions for Change. These five young Native leaders are working to address critical issues in their communities and changing perceptions of young people in Indian Country. The 2016 class of Champions for Change includes Brayden White (St. Regis Mohawk), Christie Wildcat (Northern Arapaho Tribe), Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss (Southern Ute Indian Tribe/Southern Cheyenne/Caddo Nation), Sam Slater (Navajo Nation), and Vanessa Goodthunder (Lower Sioux Indian Community). Click here to learn more about each Champion and their leadership efforts.
On Tuesday, February 23, CNAY hosted a public panel discussion at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC to introduce the 2016 Champions for Change. The Champions shared their leadership stories and spoke about their initiatives to address important issues in their tribal and urban Indian communities. The event, titled “Native American Youth: Changing Perceptions. Changing Communities,” highlighted the ways in which these Champions are reshaping the way Native youth see themselves and the way that others see indigenous young people. The discussion was co-moderated by CNAY Founder and Chairman, Senator Byron Dorgan (ret.), and CNAY Board Member and award winning journalist Patty Talahongva. Click here to watch a video recording of the event.
Following the panel, the Champions traveled to the Supreme Court for a courthouse tour and private meeting with Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor got to know each of the Champions, answered their questions, and offered advice on being strong leaders and maintaining focus on their advocacy goals. Next, Senator Dorgan joined the Champions at the National Congress of American Indians Winter Session to introduce them during the evening general assembly. Then, the Champions met with US Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Roberts for a closed-door meeting to hear about their priorities and leadership efforts. Finally, the Champions joined CNAY staff, board members, and over 180 partners and stakeholders for CNAY’s fifth anniversary reception. Following a welcome from Senator Dorgan and a blessing from NCAI President Brian Cladoosby, Secretary Sally Jewell and Congresswoman Betty McCullom (D-MN) provided remarks and applauded the Champions and other attending Native youth for their impactful work to improve their communities.
On Wednesday, the Champions visited the White House for a meeting with Raina Thiele, Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, and Karen Diver, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs. The Champions talked with Thiele and Diver about their efforts to engage and motivate youth in their communities, and asked questions about the Administration’s efforts to sustain the momentum of the Generation Indigenous movement. Afterward, the Champions visited Capitol Hill, where they met with Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. During the meeting, the Champions discussed some of the challenges they’re tackling, and learned about current initiatives underway to address those issues. The Champions then met with each of their representatives to talk about important priorities for youth in their communities. The Champions ended their time in DC with a tour of the White House.
Last week’s recognition events mark only the beginning of the Champions’ relationship with the Center for Native American Youth. CNAY looks to the Champions for Change as youth experts and community liaisons whose perspectives and priorities guide the direction of our work. The 2016 Champions will serve a one-year term on CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board and will share their expertise through speaking, writing and other engagements.
Click here to learn more about the Champions for Change program.