Thu Nov 9th, 2017
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
This October, five Sunshine Smith Youth Advisory Council members traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to attend the 2017 National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Convention and Marketplace. Courageous youth leaders Allisianna Baker, Christina Herrera, Lexy Young, Elijah Weaver and Larenz Wilbourn took part in the convention as representatives for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. The NCAI Convention is a formal gathering for tribal leaders to discuss and dispute policy, vote and elect leadership into office, and connect with influential leaders from 567 sovereign tribal nations.
Youth Council members had the opportunity to observe Native American politicians, executive directors, chairmen, chairwomen, council members and elders speak on critical issues tribal nations are facing today. Each of the members in attendance took part in subcommittee meetings on topics like housing and education, as well as veterans, land, and water rights.
One of the most impactful experiences of the conference was an Elders Roundtable. Elders from many different tribes came together to impart powerful lessons onto our youth. “Something I really liked about the conference was getting to meet elders from different tribes,” Southern Ute Elijah Weaver said. “After talking to these elders it makes me want to go and talk to the elders in our community and listen to what they want to say.”
The Youth Council members left the roundtable discussion with a renewed sense of their power and pride as indigenous peoples.
Jerri Brueno, an Indian Youth Empowerment Coordinator & Speaker, facilitated several empowering icebreakers and activities for youth to connect, establish trust, use their voice and discover ways to resolve pressing issues within their communities. Workshops on managing stress, unconscious bias, and community development inspired new ideas for our Youth Council to bring home.
Youth leaders bravely shared personal stories on suicide, alcohol and drug addiction; struggling with identity and their disgust at the absence of American Indian genocide in history books. As they united to chant, “We are strong Nations,” a powerful energy filled the room as students realized they faced similar levels of hardship.
“I learned that many reservations have way more problems than we do and that we should not always complain about how bad our reservation is,” Weaver said. “I have heard kids in our community talk about how they just want to get out of this community; but once you really take the time to think about it, it really isn’t that bad here in Ignacio.”
Our group was invited to Cultural Night at the Indian Community School to share in an evening of bison stew and celebration. The private school in Franklin, WI has a mission of teaching through a pathway of indigenous tradition and knowledge. The night included workshops on making dream catchers, cornhusk dolls, traditional games and dress. The evening was celebrated by an intertribal powwow and a performance by local Smoke Dancers.
In between twelve-hour conference days, The Youth Council members took a tour of Milwaukee’s vibrant history, art, culture, and of course food! If you see Sunshine Smith Youth Advisory Council Members be sure to ask them about their trip.