If there is one word that could encompass the vibrant atmosphere of the 6th Annual “We Are The Movement” Native Youth Summit 2017, it would have to be EMPOWERMENT.
The 6th Annual Native Youth Summit follows our previous years of Indigenous youth engagement by focusing on empowering our future tribal leaders. It also provides a unique opportunity for the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women to support our generation to continue to create social change to stop the cycles of violence and abuse toward our Native women and children. This year we were able to bring together 37 young people to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a four-day powerful leadership development experience to connect, challenge, and cultivate the voices of our cohort of Indigenous youth ranging in age from 12-18 years old.
Our theme of “We Are The Movement” for 2017 represents our main emphasis of fostering knowledge on land and resiliency, community love, movement building, and community organizing for our Indigenous young leaders in our tribal communities. Throughout the Native Youth Summit, we did our best to provide a welcoming atmosphere to address issues our youth face today which includes domestic violence in the home, cyber-bullying, and teen dating violence. While at the same time, we worked to encourage our young people to use their voice to speak up against violence they recognize in their communities as well as continue their own forms of community organizing in their homeland territory.
We began our summit with a greeting to our cohort of amazing young people along with their relatives before starting our first day. The focus of land and resiliency was talked about with our young people to encourage that our collective love for our mother earth was one that was tied to our hearts and bodies as Indigenous peoples. After our meet and greet, our young people were able to work on team building skills with the Santa Fe Mountain Center before we settled in for the Native Youth Summit.
On the second day, we focused on movement building and organizing by visiting the Santa Fe Mountain Center for a day of adventure, education, and fun to continue to build relationships with our Indigenous young people. We also learned resistance chants as a way to reclaim our voices, bodies, and continue to build teamwork.
Our focus for the third day was community love to show our young people that they have support from their communities and we value their presence, strength and knowledge. On this day, we began our day with a tour of the Institute of American Indian Arts. We later worked with community organizers to learn more about healthy relationships, how to use social media for youth activism, and Tewa Women United’s corn model.
One the last day with our focus of #WeAreTheMovement, we wanted to place emphasis on our young folx as beautiful movement builders that have a deep love for their lands, nations, culture, and people. We enjoyed an art workshop, information on how to build an effective Tribal youth council with leaders from the Santa Clara Tribal Youth Council, and a infosession on Transgender 101. We ended the Native Youth Summit with a community dinner for the youth and their families.
I asked our staff and chaperones what their favorite parts of the Native Youth Summit was and many responded that they enjoyed the healthy food options and the morning circles to begin the day with good intentions. They also enjoyed our visit to the Santa Fe Mountain Center along with our campus visit to the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Throughout the Native Youth Summit, we all got to witness a movement being built as our young folx were able to learn, listen, and grow as organizers and as a resilient community to continue to stop cycles of violence. It was beautiful to see our young people work together and become stronger in their voices and presence over the duration of the Native Youth Summit.
There is so much that I would like to say on how beautiful of an experience the Native Youth Summit was, but I will conclude for now by saying thank you to all our young people who participated, our staff and chaperones, our funders and supporters, and our presenters and facilitators!
Thank you for your wonderful commitment stop violence against Native women and children!