Vanessa Goodthunder Connects Dakota Native Youth in Minnesota

2016 Champion for Change Vanessa Goodthunder is connecting Native youth from all four Dakota communities in Minnesota to talk about issues they face, motivate one another to enact solutions, and support each other, peer to peer.

Daunkotapi Youth Gathering 2

Vanessa created Daunkotapi as a safe space for Native youth to talk about
what it means to be a young indigenous person today. Participants in the group help each other navigate obstacles as part of a supportive and inclusive community. Daunkotapi, which means “We’re all Dakota” in the Dakota language, convened youth around the topic of “Native Resiliency” on June 9. The first portion of the meeting was used to reflect on findings from a year-long listening session of sorts, whereby Daunkotapi worked to identify the most effective programming that could connect Dakota youth to one another and support resiliency. Daunkotapi then spent time planning upcoming activities like lock-ins, a bonfire, tipi construction, basketball and lacrosse tournaments, and even a Native Olympics in which all four Dakota communities could compete. The planning, promotion, agenda, and execution of Daunkotapi events are entirely in the hands of participating youth, who work hard to make them a success.

The second portion of the meeting was a celebration that incorporated food, dancing and drumming contests, and other fun activities. Vanessa happily reported that community members volunteered to provide “healthy,  but tasty” food at the request of the youth. Renowned Minnesota MC Jerry Dearly kept the crowd upbeat, along with three other presiding masters of ceremony. Vanessa says that humor was woven throughout the meeting, despite the difficulty that sometimes accompanies the topics discussed at Daunkotapi gatherings. “Native resiliency can become a really heavy topic, but we were able to keep it light and exciting and fun,” said Vanessa. “The community was really into it.”

Event poster created by youth artist Rochelle Lamebull

As part of the goal to connect Native youth across communities, Daunkotapi gatherings rotate to a different Dakota community each time the group meets. This month’s event took place in Morton, Minnesota and included a celebration of the group’s one year anniversary. The next meeting will take place in August, in the Upper Sioux Community.

Vanessa Goodthunder was recognized as a Champion for Change in 2016 for her work with Daunkotapi, Dakota Wicohan, and her passion for using her Native language as a tool to help youth heal from historical trauma. Click here to learn more about Vanessa.



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