Native American Issues

2023 Champions Are at the Forefront of Change

June 1, 2023  • Center for Native American Youth

This year’s Champions for Change class brought together five Native youth leaders who are taking a stand on issues that matter and sharing their voices on behalf of their communities. Watch a series of videos with the Champions on YouTube.

Allison Binney, CNAY’s Advisory Board Chair, recognized that youth voices are critical to driving community change, and Kaliko Kalahiki, CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board Chair, shared in sentiment, saying youth are “at the forefront of change.”

Native Youth Leaders Advocate for Community Advancement 

Gabriela Nakai, Joshua Jackson-Morrison, Jovi Williams, Samuel Hiratsuka, and Honu’aina Nichols participated in the 2023 Champions for Change Week in Washington, D.C., sharing their work around food sovereignty, youth programming, language preservation, civic engagement, and the protection of sacred lands.

Though these Native youth leaders come from different communities, their work shares a common goal.. “I hope I live in a future where the sovereignty of my people is recognized,” said Honu’aina when referring to her home in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

One reason Champs Week was so powerful was it gave Native youth an opportunity to use their voices to advocate for change. “It all begins right now for Native youth to earn a seat at the table and create a brighter and better future,” shared Jovi. When thinking about his community in Cibecue, AZ, and where life may take him, he said, “I hope it’s for the betterment of my people, of Native Americans, Alaskan natives, Native Hawaiians.”

Championing for Change and a More Equitable World

Not only are these youth amplifying their voices on behalf of their communities, but they’re also amplifying Native youth voices back home. Joshua, for example, said he wants to own an organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and help make his “community a community again.” 

All five Native youth leaders discussed the importance of returning to their communities and being a resource for others. For Gabriela, being of support in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, looks like “amplifying native peoples’ voices and being a positive change.”Samuel wants to bring the skills he’s learned back home to Anchorage, Alaska, so he can “work for the benefit of Alaskans and Alaska Natives.”

These Native youth leaders also share similar goals. “Being authentic in these spaces is what’s going to make the most change,” said Gabriela.

The group believes in working for the betterment of all , and they have a deep love and respect for where they come from. These beliefs that tie them together., “I will continue to take my indigenous identity into these spaces. People need to hear our stories, and our voices matter,”Honu’aina said.

Gabriela, Joshua, Jovi, Samuel, and Honu’aina are each a Champion for Change because they are using their voices to make their presence known, putting themselves forward to better their communities and create a more just and equitable world.

Don’t miss this series of videos with the Champions