Leech Lake Youth Appointed to Governor Dayton’s Steering Team

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Early in December, two youth delegates from Leech Lake traveled to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, MN for the initial meeting of the Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering Steering Team. The delegates were officially appointed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton during the meeting.

In November, notice of an essay contest was sent to the nine school districts on or near the Leech Lake Reservation. From the multitude of entries submitted, two youth were chosen to represent Leech Lake on the Steering Team. The chosen delegates are:

  • Cierra Wittner, Leech Lake Band Member and Senior at Cass Lake Bena High School, and;
  • Jaydyn Johnson, Leech Lake Band Member and Junior at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School

Cierra and Jaydyn will work with the rest of the steering team to help plan the 2018 Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering which is set to be held in July of 2018. Each of the eleven tribes in Minnesota along with educational organizations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area selected two delegates each to represent them on the committee.

The steering team will meet 1-2 times per month in St. Paul leading up to the Tribal Youth Gathering in July. More information on the Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering is available below.

Cierra Wittner receives her official appointment to the Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering Steering Team from MN Governor Mark Dayton (Photo submitted by Governor’s Office)
Jaydyn Johnson receives his official appointment to the Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering Steering Team from MN Governor Mark Dayton (Photo submitted by Governor’s Office)

The following information was provided by Governor Mark Dayton’s Office:

About the Minnesota/Mnisota Tribal Youth Gathering

Native American youth face some of the most challenging disparities and barriers to success in the country; but their cultures, communities, and nations also provide them with tremendous strength and resilience. This is what inspired President Barack Obama to launch the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative in 2014—a nationwide call to action to strengthen resources for Native youth and build new platforms for their success across sectors.

The Minnesota/Mnisota Tribal Youth Gathering (MYTG) will be the first state gathering in the nation to take place as part of the Gen-I initiative. Our goal: to recognize and amplify the positive work Minnesota Native youth are doing to improve their communities, learn from them, and build a platform to inspire other Native youth across the state. Participants will have the opportunity to share their stories and work together with state leaders to create a brighter future for their generation and generations to come.

Proposal for the Gathering

We propose a statewide gathering for a full day of Native youth leaders in July 2018 with approximately 200-500 participants. To be eligible for participation, youth will be asked to take the Gen-I Challenge to make change on both the state and national levels. Please find information below about the Gen-I initiative and the White House Tribal Youth Gathering (WHTYG) that has inspired our Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering. By leading this effort, the governor’s office will directly elevate the voice of Native youth and strengthen their role as advocates about the policies and decisions that impact their lives. It is also an opportunity for our state to build on the success of the national Gen-I initiative and inspire other state leaders to do the same.

To organize this effort, the Governor’s Office will form an advisory council composed of a small and diverse group of delegates from tribal youth councils in the state. We will also involve strategic members of the administration who can coordinate across agencies, and other partners who can provide technical assistance and communications support. One such partner is the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute, a core partner with the White House on the original Gen-I pledge and White House Tribal Youth Gathering. After the advisory council agrees on the goals, format, and logistics for the gathering, we will approach foundations and tribes to sponsor the event.

With support, we can identify key officials across both the private and public sectors who can share information about their programs and how they can support Native youth. They can also participate in high-level dialogues with Native youth leaders, who can provide input to strengthen these programs and propose new solutions based on their experience in their communities.

Key Areas to Address at Gathering:

  • Education
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Juvenile justice
  • Language and Cultural Revitalization
  • Housing,
  • Youth engagement

More about the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Initiative

The Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative focuses on improving the lives of Native youth through new investments and increased engagement. This initiative takes a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential. Gen-I helps improve the lives of Native youth by promoting a national dialogue and policies and programs to mobilize and cultivate the next generation of Native leaders. Key programs address: education, health and nutrition, juvenile justice, housing, and youth engagement.
Gen-I was launched on the heels of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Nation in North Dakota where they had the privilege to meet local youth who shared their struggles and also their inspiring stories of hope and determination. Upon their return to the White House, the President told his staff to “find new avenues of opportunity for our Native youth . . . [because] if we do, there’s no question of the great things they can achieve – not just for their own families but for their nation and for the United States.”

Although the administration has changed, Gen-I continues to thrive as a platform for Native youth across the country. The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) continues to manage the National Gen-I Native Youth Network which connects and engages thousands of Gen-I youth across the country and develops new opportunities with a diverse range of partner.

Gen-I Youth Challenge

To plug into Gen-I, the Obama Administration invited Native youth and organizations across the country to take the Gen-I Native Youth Challenge. Those who took the challenge, “Challenge Takers,” became part of the National Native Youth Network — a White House effort in partnership with the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at The Aspen Institute and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Now, this initiative has partnered with Minnesota to affect positive change for Native youth on the state level.

To take the Gen-I Native Youth Challenge, Native youth must:

  •  ACT: Within 30 days of taking the challenge, youth should work with other youth in their community or at their school to do something positive of their choosing (for example: completing a volunteer project with a local organization or charity, hosting a meeting with other youth to brainstorm how to address an issue of concern in their community, or becoming a mentor to a younger person). The youth can use resources from CNAY and the National Native Youth Network, as well as other Gen-I partners to help them achieve their goal. Their local tribal youth council, urban tribal youth group, or Native youth organization can also be a resource.
  • CAPTURE: Youth should document their community efforts and projects through a short summary (3-4 sentences) with photos and video.
  • SHARE: Youth should share their stories online using #IAmGenI and send the National Native Youth Network their story through www.cnay.org/Challenge.html. The National Native Youth Network may even feature their story.
  • PARTICIPATE: By taking the Challenge and participating in the National Native Youth Network, youth may be invited to apply attend national, state, and local Gen-I Gatherings such as the WHTYG and MTYG as Gen-I Ambassadors.
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