The Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council (SCSYAC) took to the skies and traveled to Washington June 23-July 1. The Youth Council’s first stop was to Seattle, Wash. The youth got to experience the vast culture of the Northwest by taking in the smell of fresh fish at Pike’s Place Market to being high in the sky beaming from the top of the Seattle Space Needle, all excited to be in a new unfamiliar place.
Rejuvenated and ready to learn, the Youth Council headed west to join hundreds of tribal leaders and representatives at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Mid-year Conference held at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Wash.
Youth attended the Emerging Leaders section of the conference, which focused on the youth and taking on future leadership roles within their tribal communities. Jeri Brunoe, Native American actress and owner of Brunoe Training and Consulting, facilitated the forum.
Brunoe had the youth do “ice breaker” activities, team building, and also had numerous keynote speakers talk to the youth about leadership and being in a leadership role including NCAI President, Brian Cladoosby – Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington.
The youth council also attended the Summary for Tribal Consultation where the main subject was passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Tribal leaders gathered around microphones to bring up their concerns regarding the, No Student Left Behind Law, the suicide rate in Indian Country and education in Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.
Lakota TwoCrow, Chairman of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council raised many of his concerns during the ESSA leadership part of the summary.
“One of my main concerns on tribal reservations is, why kids are killing themselves because they feel they have too. There are not federal funds given to tribes unless we reach a certain percentage,” TwoCrow said.
After speaking many tribal leaders praised him for standing up for the youth and being a voice and advocate for future generations.
The Youth Council and peers were also privileged to speak with US Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell. Jewell had an open group discussion which included around 30 native youth – nine of them being the SCSYAC and Southern Ute reps. Jewell listened to concerns from the youth and answered questions and opened up to the youth by explaining her perspective on major issues she sees affecting native communities such as: the Indian Child welfare Act (ICWA), reservations, land, water and education.
The youth council also got to voice their perspective on their culture. Engaging in the #CultureMatters initiative, the youth council got to tell other youth and social media why culture matters to them.
“Culture is a part of my life and community,” Allisianna Baker, secretary for the SCSYAC, said.
It wasn’t all business, the Youth Council got invited by the youth of the Kalispel Tribe to go out and have some fun on the lake. The youth enjoyed paddling boarding, kayaking, biking but most importantly making new friends.
During their trip the youth also got to visit and tour three colleges: University of Washington, Central Washington University and Gonzaga University.
“It is a great experience to show the kids other colleges outside from Colorado. I want to show them various types of colleges,” Mary Guenther, Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council Coordinator said. “College exploration is important because we can help them expand their horizons in planning and achieving their academic goals”
Next on the Youth Council’s agenda will be the Jimmy Newton Youth Leadership Conference on Wednesday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ignacio High School. This year’s conference theme is “Honoring the Past for our Future.” All Native American students ages 11-18, in the Ignacio, Bayfield, Durango, Cortez and Towaoc are invited to attend.