July | August 2017

Tribal Youth Gather in Colorado for OJJDP-Sponsored Leadership Summit

On July 6, 2017, OJJDP Acting Administrator Eileen M. Garry addressed approximately 300 youth gathered for the Today’s Native Leaders (TNL) National Summit in Denver, CO. OJJDP sponsored this United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) preconference event through its Today’s Native Leadership initiative. The initiative provides peer-led training to help tribal youth nationwide create action plans to address issues affecting their communities.

The summit brought together training recipients and showcased community service projects that the youth could celebrate, learn from, and possibly replicate in their own communities. Groups that shared projects are:

  • The Chahta Alla Youth Council—Choctaw, MS: The council’s Alcohol Abuse Awareness Day included peer presentations, an alcohol awareness survey, and an "impairment goggles" experience, a prevention exercise used to simulate the effects of alcohol impairment.
  • The Rosebud Sioux Tribe Sicangu Youth Council—Rosebud, SD: The council’s Cultural Healing: Bringing Our Relatives Home project supported youth’s efforts to bring home the remains of tribal members buried at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.
  • The Tsedildoii Community Youth Group—Hard Rock, AZ: The Tsedildoii Youth Summit educated youth at the Rocky Ridge Boarding School about restoring Dine’ (Navajo) culture and language to stop violence and promote healing in the community.
  • The Bishop Tribal Youth Council—Bishop, CA: “Be Smart, Your Body Is a Work of Art” was a day dedicated to combating substance abuse with art therapy, music, physical activity, and to remembering those who paid the ultimate price because of addiction.
left quote As the next generation of leaders, this summit is designed to give you a greater voice in shaping your world. You know the challenges your community faces.right quote

—OJJDP Acting Administrator Eileen M. Garry

UNITY has partnered with OJJDP on the Today’s Native Leaders project since 2013. To date, TNL has conducted 11 training sessions nationwide for 760 American Indian and Alaska Native youth, and 9 webinars that averaged 80 participants each. Community service projects implemented as a result of the trainings have emphasized improving family and community relationships, sharing and strengthening culture, beautifying communities, and educating youth and families.

The summit occurred 1 day before UNITY’s 2017 National UNITY Conference, which drew more than 2,000 tribal youth from across the country to Denver. This year’s theme was “Finding Wellness and Healing Within Our Cultures.” Workshops covered a range of topics, including human trafficking awareness, addressing substance abuse, and cultural and historic preservation. The conference also featured traditional elements, such as the lighting of the UNITY fire, blessings, and a presentation from an Indigenous youth delegation from Taiwan.

“Working toward meaningful change is hard, for young people and adults alike,” Ms. Garry said. “[B]ut please understand that you have people at UNITY and OJJDP who care about you and your communities. The work you have done to date is both encouraging and impressive.”

UNITY is a national organization with 160 affiliated youth councils operating in 36 states and Canada that represent thousands of Native youth. UNITY’s mission is to foster comprehensive development of American Indian and Alaska Native youth, and involve them in building and unifying a self-reliant Native America.


More information on OJJDP’s tribal youth programs and services is available online.

OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center offers additional resources, including no-cost virtual training.