Champions for Change (profile/news)



The Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) will announce its second class of Champions for Change, a youth leadership program inspired by a White House initiative. These five youth, ranging from 16 to 23 years old, from Indian tribes from Washington to Oklahoma, are being honored for making a positive impact in Native communities.

Center for Native American Youth is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy. Founded by former US Senator Byron Dorgan in February 2011, CNAY is a policy program within the Aspen Institute, headquartered in Washington, DC. The CNAY works to strengthen and create new connections as well as exchange resources and best practices that address the challenges facing Native youth, with a special emphasis on suicide prevention. Visit CNAY’s website for a comprehensive list of resources available to young Native Americans, tribes, and the general public. For more information, visit

The Aspen Instituteis an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information,

Elizabeth Burns, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Age: 18
Hometown: Claremore, Oklahoma

Elizabeth, a senior in high school, is passionate about promoting healthy nutrition and obesity prevention. She currently serves as the president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and is a mentor to youth who struggle with obesity, self-acceptance, nutrition and eating disorders. Elizabeth is also creating a blog to raise awareness to health and wellness issues impacting Native American youth today.

"I have been told that my dream of helping other Native youth is ridiculous and that I should give up. I realized that negative comments won’t hold me back. I will make my dream a reality."

Danielle Finn,
 Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Age: 23
Hometown: Bismarck, North Dakota

As a recent college graduate, Danielle is a hardworking, positive role model who drives three hours twice a week to teach Head Start students, volunteers as an after school tutor, and serves as a dance teacher in her spare time. She also mentors children within her community and helps address teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse issues among Native Youth through her participation on the Mid Dakota Teen Clinic Advisory Board.

"Donating time to work with Native youth, no matter how much or how little, is still time that could make a huge difference." 

William Lucero,
 Lummi Nation
Age: 17
Hometown: Ferndale, Washington

William, a senior in high school, is part of the Lummi Nation’s Teens Against Tobacco Use (T.A.T.U.) group. The mission of the group is to inform youth and their parents about the hazards of smoking. Through the use of peer-to-peer education, a public service announcement, and an annual "World No Tobacco Day Event," William's peers and the younger generation have become effective enforcers in helping parents who want to stop smoking. T.A.T.U.'s presence on the Lummi Nation has exposed many Native Youth to more positive role models in their community. 

"It's time for smokers to quit for their families, our community, 
and future generations."

Keith Martinez,
 Oglala Lakota Sioux 
Age: 20
Hometown: Pine Ridge, South Dakota

As a college student, Keith works with the Lakota Children's Enrichment, Inc. (LCE) to fight against poverty and increase educational resources available on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Keith serves as the chair of the Youth Advisory Board with LCE and is also a Youth Ambassador with Youth Service America for the state of South Dakota. Through his ambassadorship, Keith raises awareness about LCE’s efforts and positively impacts hundreds of young people through organizing and leading youth summits, fundraising events, toy drives and writing/art competitions. He is a passion-driven individual who encourages his peers to obtain an education, mentor the younger generations, and get involved to make a positive difference in their communities. 

"I want to see today’s youth go out into the world, motivate others, and gain an education 
to make a true difference in their communities."

Lauren McLester-Davis,
 Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin 
Age: 16
Hometown: De Pere, Wisconsin

Lauren, a senior in high school, is passionate about providing books to children in need. At an early age, Lauren became a “reading buddy” for children at a local children’s bookstore and noticed the lack of books the children had at home. In response to this, she co-founded First Book - Greater Green Bay in 2007, a volunteer organization that provides books to children in need. First Book - Greater Green Bay serves seven Title I schools, the local Green Bay/De Pere YWCA, Boys and Girls Club of America – Green Bay, the Children’s Miracle network Hospital – Fox Valley, and community libraries. Through fundraising and donations, Lauren has successfully placed over 18,000 new books into the hands of children in need within her community.

"Learning to read is critical to a child’s success both in school and in life. I believe children’s 
literacy is the most critical priority for Native youth today."


Got Land? Thank An Indian! (news)

Written by Christine Smith McFarlane at March 2, 2014

This slogan has stirred up a lot of controversy and one of the creators of this slogan, Jeff Menard, has been featured in the news several times because of the reactions it has received from mainstream society. But first, little background on what happened.

In mid-January 2014, CBC News reported that 13-year-old Tenelle Starr, a First Nations student in Saskatchewan, was told not to wear the “Got Land? Thank An Indian” hoodie to school after some parents, students and school officials took offense.

Starr, a member of the nearby Star Blanket First Nation, goes to school in Balcarres about 90 kilometers northeast of Regina. “ I wear it proudly around the school,” she told CBC News, even though some students told her the message was “cheeky” and “rude”.

The controversy was eventually resolved through meetings between the school and Star Blanket First Nations’ leaders, leading to greater understanding and acceptance about Star’s sweatshirt, and its message. I still find the whole situation infuriating on so many levels.

The first issue is the right to have the fundamental freedom to express oneself. According to Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there fundamental freedoms we Canadian citizens are allowed, including: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly, and lastly, freedom of association.

I believe that all Canadian citizens should have freedom of expression in a manner that is conducive to invoking discussion and proactive action. I don’t condone harmful words, but that’s another story. The key question I have is why was mainstream society so troubled by a 13-year-old girl wearing a hoodie? The slogan on her hoodie is not the only slogan on other merchandise that can be seen as “cheeky.” Just conjure up the infamous image of Geronimo on the T-shirts labeled “ Homeland Security, Fighting Terrorism since 1492.” No one has been getting up in arms over that slogan.

I find it most disturbing that the fiasco was created by the actions of Vancouver-based Michelle Tittler, 59, who runs End Race Based Laws (ERBL) that was created a year ago in reaction to the Idle No More Movement. Tittler had the nerve to go on a 13-year-old girl’s Facebook page and leave such harassing posts that the girl’s parents felt the need to shut down her account in order to protect her.

According to CBC, Tittler is known for aggressive online trolling, and for posting inflammatory comments about Aboriginal issues and people that led to at least two police probes.

An ongoing investigation of this woman found that Tittler has a history of harassing people. “In 2006, a criminal court judge in B.C. granted a peace bond against Tittler after a neighbor complained of harassment,” according to the CBC. Yet this hasn’t deterred Tittler from harassing people through BRBL, a not-for-profit organization.

ERBL’s Facebook page has 3,330 likes and Tittler told the CBC that “she is unemployed and spends most of her time online denouncing Aboriginal treaties, posting rants on YouTube, and engaging in caustic debates with vocal critics.”…


Got Land? Thank An Indian!

Cedarville Rancheria (news)

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Congress of American Indians is grieving for Cedarville Rancheria today. When he learned of the tragedy, President Brian Cladoosby remarked:

“A great sorrow stretches across Indian Country for the heartbreaking tragedy in the Cedarville Rancheria community. I know that the country is joining us in prayer for the victims, their families, and the tribe as they gather their strength to walk together during this time.”

Tragedies like this know no boundaries of ethnicity, government, or religion and they are happening far too frequently. Our hearts are heavy as we lift up the families affected by this senseless act of violence.

Dustin Brown and Veronica ({sad}news)

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – A broken and tearful Cherokee citizen Dusten Brown held a press conference this morning in Tulsa to let the nation know he was ending all legal litigation pending in Oklahoma to regain custody of his four year old daughter, Veronica.

He was forced to relinquish custody of Veronica on September 23.

He is doing so that Veronica can now have a normal life –“free of the spotlight.”

”For four years, Veronica has been in the media. I love her too much for her to be in the spotlight,”

said a contrite Brown, who broke down several times and found it difficult to speak during the press conference as he read a prepared statement.

He was joined at the press conference by Chrissi Nimmo, Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General, who announced the Cherokee Nation and Brown were dropping all legal pursuits before Brown spoke.

This essentially ends the four year legal battle Brown fought to be able to raise his biological daughter, who was given up for adoption by her natural mother at birth. Though engaged during the pregnancy, Brown and Veronica’s natural never married.

Dusten Brown held a press conference

Brown vigorously fought to retain custody of his daughter.

“We have lost the battle,”

said Nimmo, who also found it difficult to speak during the her announcement.

This hotly disputed custody battle span two states: South Carolina and Oklahoma. And, the case known as “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” even reached the US Supreme Court.

Veronica was born on September 15, 2009 and was taken to live with a non-Native adoptive couple in South Carolina. Brown won custody of his daughter in late 2011 and he moved her to Oklahoma, where they lived until last month as a family.

Brown was able to get custody of Veronica when South Carolina courts ruled he had not be afforded “voluntary consent” during the adoption proceedings. The Indian Child Welfare Act, most commonly known as ICWA, was cited in the South Carolina legal proceedings.

The case was argued before the US Supreme Court in April of this year and rendered a 5-4 decision that ICWA did not apply in “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” and remanded the case back to the South Carolina courts.

The South Carolina Courts found in favor of the South Carolina couple.

Brown then took his fight to the Oklahoma courts. These courts, including the Oklahoma Supreme Court found in favor of the adoptive couple.

On September 23, Brown decided to abide by the court order for the transfer of Veronica to the South Carolina couple.

Today’s press conference was held 17 days later and Brown shared how difficult it is to come home from work to realize Veronica is not there to greet him. He expressed the pain he has when he goes to her bedroom to see her toys.

He is hopeful the South Carolina couple will allow him to have a relationship with Veronica.

Nimmo asked that all charges pending in South Carolina will be dropped against Brown.

Government Shut Down and Natives (news/government)

National Congress of American Indians NCAIWASHINGTON – The National Congress of American Indians, NCAI, has released the following statement regarding the budget impasse and the shutdown of the federal government:

The trust responsibility to tribal nations is not a line item.

"The failure to come to a budget agreement threatens the capacity of tribal governments to deliver basic governmental services to their citizens. The federal government has made treaty commitments to our people, and in return we ceded the vast lands that make up the United States. The immediate shutdown crisis poses very real threats to tribal governments and denies health, nutrition, and other basic services to the most vulnerable tribal citizens.

Even if the shutdown is resolved soon, a greater crisis remains – both the House and Senate versions of the Continuing Resolution sustained the devastating FY 2013 sequestration cuts.

The sequester has deeply affected tribal programs:

  • the Indian Health Service,
  • Indian education funding streams,
  • law enforcement,
  • infrastructure programs such as housing and road maintenance,
  • Head Start, and others.

These funding commitments serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and are part of the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations.

As Washington faces the threefold crisis of the shutdown, sequester, and debt limit, we call on the Congress to reach a long-term budget deal that meets the nation’s obligations to tribal nations and Native peoples. It is time to address the ongoing fiscal crisis caused by the sequester. The trust responsibility to tribal nations is not a line item and tribal programs must be exempt from budget cuts in any budget deal."

posted October 2, 2013 6:00 am edt

Native Student Not Allowed To Graduate (education/news)

High School Phone Number: (530) 493-2697

Mike Matheson Superintendant:

The Principal is Angelika Brown:

By Trish Glose/KTVL.comHAPPY CAMP, Cal. -- A high school student, getting ready to graduate from Happy Camp High school, wanted to celebrate her heritage by wearing a basket cap with her gown. Her principal told her no.Now, Cheyenne Moore's mother is upset her daughter isn't allowed to wear it. Leslie Moore says her daughter is part Karuk. Along with necklaces and beads, females traditionally wear basket caps.My daughter is very in to her culture and the principal said she was not allowed to because the traditional caps were part of the ceremony, said Moore.Mike Matheson, with the Siskiyou Union High School district says students are only allowed to wear the traditional caps and gowns at all the high schools in the district. He says in Happy Camp, seniors are encouraged to wear traditional beads and necklaces to represent their heritage.Any other head gear other than a traditional cap is not allowed, Matheson said.Moore says her daughter is upset, her culture is very important to her and it's a big part of the community here in Happy Camp and people in the past have worn their caps.She says her daughter wanted to use the traditional cap in the ceremony, too when it was time to move the tassle and when the other students threw the caps into the air. Moore says her daughter plans on wearing the basket cap anyway, even though she was asked not to and said, I'll back her up 100 percent.Matheson says any student wearing anything other than the standard cap and gown will not be allowed to proceed.

First Nations Newsletter (news)

The logo of First Nations Development Institute

May/June 2013

Indian Giver Newsletter Header

Website a Resource for Native Food & Agriculture Efforts

A new website was launched on April 15 that aims to become a valuable online resource for Native American tribes, organizations and individuals who are involved in food systems and agricultural efforts, and/or who are aiming for better health and nutrition for their families and communities.

Production Underway on New Television PSAs

Through a generous grant from Comcast and the Comcast Foundation, First Nations will be launching two PSAs (public service announcements) later this year.  The television “commercials” will run on Comcast cable TV systems in several markets around the U.S.

In early May 2013, folks from First Nations and its production company, Red 76 Creative in Denver, Colorado, traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to do the on-location videotaping for the PSAs.

‘My Green’ Campaign Helps Native Youth
Take Charge of Their Money

It’s called “Minor’s Trust,” “Big Money” or “18 Money,” and for a number of Native American youth, it represents a blessing and a curse.

A small number of tribes pay out dividends from tribal businesses, or per-capita payments, to their members. For tribal members who are age 17 or younger, these payments are usually held in a financial trust until the youth turns 18. At age 18 (although sometimes later) minors can apply for their minor’s trust payout and sometimes receive a very large payment. Thus, many young people are faced with the responsibility of managing their “Big Money” at a young age.

Talented Native Students Make Art of Financial Literacy

In an effort to build Native youth financial literacy, First Nations worked with five art students at Miyamura High School in Gallup, New Mexico, to produce creative, camera-ready posters addressing various financial education topics.   Miyamura art teacher Tine Hayes, who worked with First Nations to facilitate the project funded by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, selected five especially gifted art students to participate.

Native Food Sovereignty Summit is a Hit

More than 250 people from all over the U.S. – representing tribes, Native organizations and businesses, food producers and others – packed the Food Sovereignty Summit held in mid-April in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Registration for the conference had to be discontinued well ahead of the event because attendee capacity had been reached.

The summit was sponsored by First Nations, the Oneida Nation, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. It was held April 15-18, 2013, at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center.

First Nations Moves into New Office Building

First Nations Development Institute has a new address!

First Nations purchased its own headquarters office building in Longmont, Colorado, and moved in on April 26, 2013.  The purchase was a strategic move that makes great economic sense both for the organization and for the Native communities it serves.

Nambe Pueblo Honors Elders by 
Addressing Senior Hunger & Sustainabillity

The experience, knowledge and wisdom of tribal elders have the potential to improve the health and well-being of tribal communities.

In 2012, the Pueblo of Nambe launched an innovative project to demonstrate its respect and appreciation for tribal elders’ lifelong contributions to the tribe. It established a community farm that has helped revitalize traditional farming methods and produced more than 4,000 pounds of food to help eliminate senior hunger on the reservation.