Hotchkiss recognized as Champion for Change

Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss was recognized as a 2016 Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth during the National Congress of American Indians Conference Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Washington D.C.
Photo Credit: Amie Hammond | Weenuche Smoke Signals

Last month, the Center of Native American Youth (CNAY), a policy program at the Aspen Institute, recognized their 2016 Champions for Change. Among the five native youth recognized was 17-year-old Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, the son of tribal member, Kimberly Armstrong, and Jason Hotchkiss. Noah was recognized for organizing an adaptive sports program for disabled Native youth. Noah is Southern Ute, Southern Cheyenne/Caddo Nation.

“There are inspirational young people that are working on and off reservations all across this country to try and improve the lives of Native youth, you got five of them in front of you … these kids are doing extraordinary things,” former US Senator Byron Dorgan and founder of CNAY, said during a public panel discussion held on Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Washington D.C.

During the panel, Noah said he and his father started the Tribal Adaptive Organization and received a $10,000 grant from the Dreamstarter Grant Project, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, to host wheelchair basketball programs on the reservations.

“Our mission is to use sports as a tool to change and impact the lives of disabled Natives,” Noah said.

During the discussion, Noah talked about the November 2009 car crash he was injured in that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

“It really impacted my life,” he said about becoming paralyzed after the car accident. “It made me feel like I had no value left in this world.”

But over time, Noah said his father started encouraging him to become more active, he began taking Noah to do outdoor activities including taking him skiing for the first time.

“I went to Adaptive Sports Association of Durango and that’s where I really started coming out my shell a little bit and realizing there are opportunities … then I started going to wheelchair sports camps where I met other disabled people who started pushing me to go further and further,” Noah said. “I think through my accident I’ve learned a lot about not seeing barriers as barriers that I can’t get over; I see them as barriers that I can overcome. And I’m always open for challenges.”

During the panel discussion Noah talked about how far he has come. He is now on the number one ranked wheelchair basketball team in the country, Phoenix Suns, and is the fastest monoskier under the age of 21 in the world, he said.

Noah continues to lead the way, using his athletic talents, intelligence and voice to reach out to disabled Native youth all over Indian Country.

“I don’t want them to try and fight through major depression or anger in their lives. I want them to … look ahead and not back,” he said.

Also recognized as Champions for Change were: Brayden White, 21, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe; Christie Wildcat, 18, Northern Arapaho Tribe; Samuel Slater, 18, Navajo Nation; and Vanessa Goodthunder, 22, Lower Sioux Indian Community.

To watch the full panel discussion with the Champions of Change visit the Center of Native Youth website at: .

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