The Center for Native American Youth held a youth summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 13th, led by former US Senator Byron Dorgan, Director Erin Bailey, and new Program Coordinator, Josie Raphaelito. The event took place during the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) mid-year conference and was attended by over 100, including nearly 60 Native youth! We are excited about the interest and support for the Center’s work and also the commitment from so many young people to address the tragic issue of suicide and other challenges facing Native youth.
The event was kicked off with the Center’s founder, Senator Dorgan. Erin and Josie introduced the Center and its mission to the crowd.
Famous Dave Anderson and Nike’s Sam McCracken fired up the crowd with their inspirational stories and presented about their work to support Native youth. With the help from a tribal education director and a suicide awareness and prevention session, summit participants left the event with concrete steps and tips for what to do when a friend is thinking about suicide.
Three strong Native youth leaders on the Native Youth Program Showcase panel highlighted information and experiences with different programs available to young Native people. In addition, Mac Hall talked about the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, a great program and camp that has been working with Native youth for over 25 years!
An open roundtable discussion offered the opportunity for youth participants to share their ideas of challenges, successes, and possible solutions. A young man from a tribe in Michigan shared that attention must be paid to the mind, body and spirit as a key preventative factor for youth suicide.
Other ideas and thoughts were shared by youth participants at the summit; however, we would like to open the dialogue to youth who were unable to make it to Milwaukee. The Center and Senator Dorgan challenge young people to email us their ideas about ways the Center can make a positive impact on the lives of young people in Indian Country. A pair of free Nike shoes and a free dinner from Famous Dave’s Restaurant have been donated by Sam McCracken and Famous Dave Anderson- 2 members of the Center’s Board of Advisors– to the 5 individuals with the best ideas!
The Youth Summit was a successful and well-attended event! Thank you to all the youth, tribal leaders, and community members who were able to join us.
Special thanks to NCAI for hosting our event.