By Erin Bailey
Earlier this week, former US Senator Byron Dorgan and the Aspen Institute celebrated the one year anniversary of the Center for Native American Youth. The March 6 reception, held in conjunction with the National Congress of American Indians’ conference, was attended by more than 200 tribal leaders, Indian advocates, members of Congress, and the Administration. The gathering emphasized the importance of a joint effort to improve the lives of Native American youth, and also to celebrate the Center’s first year efforts, which are highlighted in this short video.
Special guests included Senator Max Baucus; Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echohawk; and Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Melodee Hanes. Senator Dorgan founded the Center for Native American Youth as a policy program at the Aspen Institute in 2011 with $1 million from excess campaign funds. He founded the Center to highlight the many risk factors Native American youth face, including high rates of poverty and unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, and increased youth gang activity. The Center for Native American Youth is determined to raise all of these issues into the national dialogue.
Work highlighted during the event included: 20 roundtables in nine states with youth from over 100 tribes, in an effort to hear directly from youth about their lives; a series of federal agency resource roundtables to develop coordinated strategies to address problems facing Native American youth; the development of the Center’s one-stop shop resource center for Native youth, tribes and the general public; and the production of a public service announcement featuring Senator Dorgan and two of the Center’s board members, NCAI President Jefferson Keel and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.
During the reception, Senator Dorgan was honored with a legacy gift for his strong leadership and commitment to save and improve lives in Indian Country. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Mark Begich, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Tom Udall, Congressman Tim Walz, and National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover served as honorary hosts for the event. The Center’s reception was held in conjunction with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Council Winter Session at the L’ Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC.