In 2015, President Barack Obama visited Alaska. He left so inspired by the Alaska Natives’ traditional relationships with the land that he called on his aides to create Fresh Tracks, a program to bring together tribal, urban, and rural youth in the outdoors to build leadership skills through cross-cultural exchanges. The program provides resources and mentorship for youth leaders to carry out community action plans following the expedition. The first expedition gathered young people from Compton, California, and tribal Alaska. They visited each other’s communities and learned about each other’s cultures. They put faces and stories to issues they’d only heard about on the news.
Now, the Institute’s Center for Native American Youth, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, and the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, have joined forces to continue both the Fresh Tracks and Generation Indigenous programs here at the Institute (see “Creative Native,” page 24). Fresh Tracks continues to bring together urban, rural, and tribal youth to learn four pillars of advocacy: personal narratives, leadership development, community organizing, and action planning. They also receive implicit-bias training, meet with local leaders, and learn about their own leadership styles. All these lessons occur in and around the outdoors. This year, Fresh Tracks, which is open to young adults ages 18 to 24, held trainings in Essex, Massachusetts; Long Beach, California; Abiquiu, New Mexico; and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.