NCAI brings the heat, landing in Phoenix

Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council at the Youth Honoring Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 11 pose with Miss Indian World, Danielle Ta’ Sheena Finn a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and NCAI President, Brian Cladoosby.
Trennie Collins | The Southern Ute Drum


The National Congress of American Indians 73rd Annual Convention and Marketplace took place in downtown Phoenix October 9-14.Representing the Southern Ute Indian Tribe were Tribal Council members, Amy Barry, Tyson Thompson and Mike Olguin along with some of Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council including, Chairman Lakota TwoCrow, Vice Chairman Elijah Weaver and Lexy Young.

The first general assembly began by Southern Ute tribal elders, Dr. James Jefferson who brought in the Eagle Staff followed by tribal veterans of which included Southern Ute Tribal Veteran, Rudley Weaver who carried in the Southern Ute Tribal Flag for the Honor Song which was sung by drum group “Bear Strap”.

The Supreme Court update was given by John Eckohawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund. In fiscal year 2015 Indian Country had four Indian law cases that were granted review. Which is a big step up from just being granted one per year due to a change in Supreme Court Justice seats. Out of those four reviews, Indian Country ended up with wins in Nebraska vs. Parker (8-0), US vs. Bryant (8-0), and an affirmance in the Dollar General court case (4-4).

Along with the Supreme Court update was the White House update was given by Tracy Goodluck, Senior Associate Director of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reportedly gives out $2 billion annually to different tribes within the United States. HUD in fiscal year 2016 built over 500 new homes, renovated over 5,000 homes and build over 6 new emergency shelters. Recently HUD gave out approximately 57 million dollars to 77 Native American communities within the United States.

Even though the Southern Ute Indian Tribe was not one that received the grant our sister tribe, the Ute Mountain Utes did. The Ute Mountain Ute’s received $825,000 to help support housing programs within their community.

One of the more anticipated speeches came from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, David Archambault. Chairman Archambault spoke at the Federal Infrastructure Permitting and the Trust Responsibility portion of the third general assembly. Chairman Archambault gave background to the Dakota Access Pipeline process and how they have ended up fighting for the water that runs in the Missouri River into the Lake Oahe, where the tribe’s main source of drinking water comes from.

“Protect the water, protect the river,” said Chairman Archambault as the attendees erupted in cheers. “We need to exercise our sovereignty and protect what’s important to us.”

One other big topic was education. Envisioning the Future of Education for Native Students session talked about the reform of the BIE, Every Student Succeeds Act and how it’s being implemented. Dr. Tommy Lewis, Superintendent of the Department of Dine Education spoke about how he’s trying to make some major changes within the Navajo Nation.

“Our plan is to really concentrate on having these young children understand their way of life, their culture, their language, their history and their character development which I think is most critical because if their going to survive in this complicated world they need to know their identity and know who they are,” Dr. Lewis said.

After Dr. Lewis’s speech SCSYAC Chairman, Lakota TwoCrow asked, “How are you going to get all 60 schools to corporate with you and how are you going to get them to all meet the state standards?”


The Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council attended the Youth Commission portion of The National Congress of American Indian Convention, which focused around the conventions theme “Prosperity Through Sovereignty”.

The youth commission, which is made up of over 50 youth that represent different tribes, were able to have an actual forum, which included changing resolutions regarding age limits and a change in the youth commission board structure. After a few hours of heated negotiation, everyone was able to come to a consensus on an age limit change from 16-24 to 14-24 which is when the youth can run for the youth commission board. Also changed by the youth commission was abolishment of the treasurer positions on the youth commission board.

The Youth Commission also had a Personality Strategy session with Google and was able to attend the Youth Honoring Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 11, which the Ernie Stevens Jr. Leadership Award is given out to one female and one male who shows excellent leadership skills within their community. Chairman of the SCSYAC, Lakota TwoCrow was nominated for the leadership award.

“For a person to have the courage to nominate me, especially barely knowing who I am as a leader, is a true honor because that kind of action shows people do know how to recognize all types of leadership,” TwoCrow said about being nominated.

The next Mid Year National Congress of American Indians will take place in Uncasville, CT, June 2017.

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