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Via Press Release
07/24/2014 12:55 PM

On Monday, the Center for Native American Youth’s founder, former US Senator Byron Dorgan, and four Native youth Champions for Change attended an event hosted by President Obama to announce new commitments to the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The event featured remarks from the President and dialogue with youth in the audience. CNAY, a policy program at the Aspen Institute created in 2011 by Dorgan, was allowed to select four youth leaders to attend. These youth — who make up our country’s most at-risk population — shared Native American priorities; ensuring Native youth perspectives were included in the discussion with President Obama.

“Obama’s initiatives that will expand opportunities for young men of color are very important and it is critical that he continue to make tribal leaders and Native youth a part of the agenda,” said Dorgan. “Young Indian men too often face some of the steepest barriers to opportunity in America.”

My Brother’s Keeper is a White House effort aimed at addressing persistent gaps in opportunity facing young men of color — including American Indian and Alaska Native youth — and ensuring that all young people can reach their full potential. The initiative was announced earlier this year and the Center for Native American Youth has been working with various agencies and partner organizations to include Native American children in the President’s efforts.

Dahkota Brown, of Jackson, a 15-year-old Argonaut High School student and a member of the Wilton Miwok tribe, shared his perspective, saying “I see the difficulties and struggles that follow us every day. Native boys are affected by the devastating statistics that haunt Native Americans; we have the highest dropout rate, lowest numbers represented in college, and young Native men have the highest suicide rates among all ethnicities.”

With support from the Native American Contractors Association, these youth traveled from their tribal communities to attend the event and talk about the priorities they see for young men in tribal communities across the country. The Native American Contractors Association is a trade association located in Washington, DC that advocates on behalf of tribes, Alaska Native Corporations and Native Hawaiian Organizations on issues relevant to federal contracting and economic development.

“I am beyond excited that President Obama is creating hope, success and positive awareness for young men of color through our own personal stories,” said Vance Home Gun, a 20-year old member of the Salish and Kootenai tribes in Montana.

“I want to tell the president that having this opportunity to be in the White House with him is a dream come true,” said Keith Martinez, a youth from the Oglala Sioux Nation. “It shows other young men on my reservation that they, too, can do so through education.”

CNAY works to shine a spotlight on Native children and prioritize their needs at all levels of government, in private and public funding institutions, and within child advocacy organizations. In CNAY’s outreach to over 3,500 Native youth across the country, young people and tribal authorities have identified priorities and challenges facing young Native men and women. Racism, access to quality health care and educational opportunities are serious needs experienced by youth.

CNAY continues to engage young male voices from Indian Country to ensure the nation’s First Americans are included in My Brother’s Keeper activities, as well as other mentoring, support networks, leadership opportunities and skills to secure educational opportunities or successful job placement.

Dahkota Brown is the founder of NERDS — Native Education Raising Dedicated Students, an organization that works to help young Native Americans.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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