Five youth from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Firekeepers Youth Council attended the 2022 United National Indian Tribal Youth Conference, this past July in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Almost 2000 youth members attended this year’s conference.
Some of the keynote speakers at the event included:
- Chef Stephanie “Pyet” De Spain, PBPN Tribal member, who won the Next Level Chef competition with Gordon Ramsey.
- Kiowa Gordon, Hualapai Native actor who has a role in AMC TV series Dark Winds.
Stormee Lee Kipp of the Shoshone-Bannock and Blackfeet people, who recently starred in the Predator movie Prey.
- Mato Wayuhi, an Oglala Lakota multidisciplinary artist originally from South Dakota. He works in film/TV both as a producer and musical composer, as well as writing his own music, garnering critical acclaim. Most notably, Mato is the composer for the award-winning FX/Hulu series Reservation Dogs.
- Winona LaDuke is a Harvard-economist, environmental activist, author, hemp farmer, grandmother, and a two-time former Green Party Vice President candidate with Ralph Nader. LaDuke specializes in rural development, economic, food, and energy sovereignty and environmental justice.
The PBPN Youth said that what they liked most about the Conference was that they enjoyed being with other Native youth from around the country, making nice and new friends and learning about their communities. UNITY allowed them to see different view-points of their people as a whole. The UNITY fire was sacred. Those who spoke did so with emotion when they talked. The participants learned to cheer for others and do the best they can.
The PBPN Members all agreed that youth should attend and have this experience at the UNITY conference.
Victor Organista said, “I liked meeting new people from different communities around the country. Most of the people I met brought different perspectives to my life. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. People like the genuine you, so don’t try to be someone you aren’t. I learned that if you are having a hard time in life, don’t resort to illegal substances. There are people that care about you and they want to help you. If you ever feel the need to do illegal substances, don’t do it. Try and keep yourself busy by going out into the community and helping others out.”
He went on to say, “I met some amazing people while at Unity that really inspire me to go out and help my community and be kind to others. You never know what someone has gone through or what they are going through. So be kind to everyone, you could end up making someone’s day by being nice to them.”
The adults weren’t left out of all of the activities as chaperon training was offered, giving them the opportunity to network with other advisors and meet new people working with native youth.
JoAnna “Dumps” Mitchell, PBPN Youth Outreach & Prevention Specialist at the Boys & Girls Club, said, “It was great to be able to attend the UNITY conference again after the pandemic. The youth have enjoyed going for the past years, fundraising to pay for the costs of the trip. This year we were very fortunate to be funded through the PBPN Native Wellness Connections program. We would like to say Igwien for this opportunity for our youth to attend.”