Native Youth Lead

June 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

For one week in February, the Center for Native American Youth brought five remarkable young leaders—Owen L. Oliver, Jazmine Wildcat, Warren Davis, Isabella Madrigal, and Shavaughna Underwood—to Washington, DC. The annual Champions for Change week includes training in leadership, empowerment, and advocacy. The 2020 champions focused on indigenizing institutions, destigmatizing mental health, healing through culture, creating culturally competent programs and mentorships, and addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women. This year, CNAY also partnered with the National Congress of American Indians’ Youth Commission to train these young leaders in the power of personal narratives. The group heard from keynote speaker Paulette Jordan, a current US Senate candidate in Idaho and a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, who told the champions that “our ancestors prayed you into existence.” Other CNAY experts explored historical healing, reimagining communities through post-traumatic growth, using social media to elevate platforms, tapping into community action and cross-cultural coalitions, and initiating a productive meeting on Capitol Hill. Champions met with members of Congress to share their work and to invite lawmakers back to their communities. The champions themselves also participated in a panel—along with the Youth Advisory Board’s Anthony Tamez, Sam Schimmel, and Christie Wildcat—at the Institute’s Washington office to share their work with new colleagues, tribal leaders, and CNAY partners. The program also hosted an annual reception to celebrate the Champions for Change class and recognize Governor Stephen Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community as the 2020 Honorary Champion for Change, for his commitment to Native American youth.