You All Amaze Me: Thoughts on the 2016 Native Youth Summit
This past summer the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women held its 5th annual Native Youth Summit in Santa Ana Pueblo Territory at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya. We only had roughly four days with the young leaders in total but it was definitely enough to ignite the fire amongst many of our youth attendees to go forth into their own Native communities and work to break the cycle of violence. Not only were their narratives and personality strong and filled with a sense of community, each of them continually inspired me through their demeanor and resiliency that they carried with themselves throughout the duration of the Native Youth Summit.
It was my pleasure to greet each and every one of them along with their chaperones as they poured into the summit at check-in. I could tell by many of their faces that they were excited to be in a new environment and to network with other Native youth. The first day went as smoothly as it could with some expected delays in the schedule but was soon marked as no problem because of the amazing adaptability of our Native youth leaders. It definitely showed all of that we have no problem with the all too well known application of the colloquial “Indian time” because everyone was accommodating to our new time structure. The students at this point were able to gain an understanding of the structure of the summit, the chaperones whom they would be spending the next few days with, along with the other students in attendance.
The days to follow were filled with activities: laughing, bonding, teamwork, and communication as we all navigated through challenging obstacles and accomplishments at the Santa Fe Mountain Center. This is where I saw the building of movement amongst our youth to learn about each other’s stories and communities. It also demonstrated the strong symbolic and usefulness of the land as a method of engaging youth in an critically conscious environment that required them to problem solve and work together to complete difficult task. The last day had an anxious feel to it. It was like everyone was wanting to go home but at the same time, we hadn’t finished learning about each other. There was still much learning to do but alas, it was time to go.
Overall, the Native Youth Summit was an amazing experience to be a part of and I wish that we could accommodate the students requests to let the summit go on for a few more days to continue our momentum, or to let them sleep longer, because I truly saw that these Native youth are not leaders of the future BUT are the leaders that we should be looking toward TODAY.
Our Native youth have so much knowledge within them that they are willing to share and that they are willing to contribute to anyone. Its just a manner of how that knowledge will be contributed to. The value of their knowledge is unbounded and will continue to hold onto that knowledge until we continue to foster it into healthy community-based action that they can channel into their own Native Nations. The resiliency that they showed with their very souls and their very beings was so strong that I could tell that they are truly the answer to our prayers for future Indigenous leaders that will contribute positive social change and self-determination. Each of our student possess a special passion and love for their families, community, and tribes that its amazing to see what outlets they wish to express that through whether it be an interest in academics, sports, arts, STEM, activism, organizing, or memes – we have yet to see what they will do. And, I hope that I will be there to continue to support them in any way that I can.
Be sure to stay in touch! And look out for my monthly #CSVANW Native youth newsletter!!!