The United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) National Conference starts tomorrow in Denver, Colorado, and Native American youth from across Turtle Island have been preparing for months.
Like Anthony Hurtado, the 17-year-old whose submission was the inspiration for the final design for this year’s logo. Hurtado, who lives in Valley Center, California, is from the Tohono O’Odham Nation, said he was inspired by the strength and perseverance of past generations of Native people and wanted to illustrate an image “that symbolizes the brave indigenous men and women who strive to protect their sovereignty and traditional ways of life,” he told UNITY.
Native American youth groups from around the country are posting pictures on social media with a “See You at Nationals” sign. There are even indigenous youth from other countries making preparation for the UNITY National Conference. For the third year, UNITY will host a Taiwan indigenous youth delegation. The delegation are members of the Vox Nativa Choir.
“Taiwan, which sits more than 100 miles off the southeast coast of mainland China, is believed to be the homeland of the Austronesian people,” reads a press release from UNITY. “In Taiwan, there are 16 Indigenous ethnicities. Those attending the National UNITY Conference will represent the Amis, Bunun, and Paiwan people.”
An overseas exchange began at the UNITY National Conference in 2013 in Los Angeles with the idea that Taiwan’s indigenous tribe’s could benefit from the formation of youth councils. Since then, a Taiwan indigenous delegation has tried to attend the conference every year. Native American youth from UNITY even traveled to Taiwan in 2014.
Check out a Vox Nativa Choir performance below:
Keeping in line with the conference’s theme—Finding Wellness & Healing Within Our Cultures—a culture-based wellness app will be launched at the national conference. With help from a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and input from Native American youth, the free Wellness Warrior app will be available for download on the app store and play story July 6.
“We hope all of Indian country will join UNITY in its effort to transform lives through this wellness app. This app will encourage Native youth to interact with each other in a way we’ve never seen before. They will be able to share how they stay fit through traditional games and share recipes of healthy traditional foods, how they aspire to be wellness warriors,” said Mary Kim Titla, Executive Director for UNITY, in a release about the app.
In addition to the release of the app, Native American youth will discuss issues important to them like culture and language preservation, bullying, and suicide prevention over the five-day agenda.
During the UNITY National Conference Native American youth will hear presentations from eight Native American youth councils from around Turtle Island. The presentations will focus on how they gave back to their communities and they will challenge other groups to follow their lead. This part of the conference will take place on July 6 at that Today’s Native Leaders National Summit at the Hyatt Regency next door to the Colorado Convention Center.
The groups sharing their projects will be:
- Mesa Strength Youth Council, Mesa, Arizona
- Chahta Alla Youth Council, Choctaw, Mississippi
- Horse Creek UNITY Youth Council, Whiteriver, South Dakota
- Rosebud Sioux Tribe Sicangu Youth Council, Rosebud, South Dakota
- Cheyenne and Arapaho Youth Council, Concho, Oklahoma
- Tsedildoii Community Youth Group, Hard Rock, Arizona
- Henrietta “Raven” Stanley, Lumberton, North Carolina
- Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leadership, Sterling, Alaska
- Page High School UNITY Club, Page, Arizona
- Bishop Tribal Youth Council, Bishop, California
Featured keynote speakers at the UNITY National Conference include Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault, former Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes Deborah Parker, Filmmaker and Artist Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa/Choctaw), Actor and Comedian Tatanka Means (Navajo/Lakota), Wellness Advocates Thosh Collins (Onk-Akimel O’odham, Wa-Zha-Zhi/Haudenosaunee), Chelsey Luger(Lakota/Ojibwe) and Lovina Louie (Couer d’Alene/Oklanagan and Lakes Band of the Colville Confederated Tribes).