Pathkeepers for Indigenous Knowledge, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, held its 5th Annual Native Youth Leadership Camp last month on a horse farm in Culpeper, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.
Over 30 Native boys and girls, ages 11 to 18, attended, representing over 20 tribes all across Indian Country, including: Navajo, Salt River Pima Maricopa, Gila River, Pascua Yaqui, Haliwa Saponi, White Mountain Apache, Southern Ute, and Cheyenne.
Following this year’s camp theme, “Not Afraid to Try – Ready to Succeed,” these Native youth participated in Indian cultural and educational activities, identified healthy food and life choices, and explored their personal interests and tribal identity.
Following Pathkeepers unique Free Learning Method, combining alternative education approaches with Native cultural curriculum and experiential learning, the youth build self-confidence, leadership and consensus skills, educational goals, creative and independent thinking, and health and wellness.
During camp, youth had the time and freedom to choose what they wanted to learn, freely exchanged and offered ideas without fear of judgment or testing, and had the freedom to explore and play. The result was that these youth underwent significant emotional and intellectual transformations in a very short amount of time.
Pathkeepers President, Angelina Okuda-Jacobs, said: “Our fifth annual leadership camp builds on years of successful camps that have helped hundreds of Native youth freely express themselves, build their self-confidence, and uncover latent talents they didn’t even know they had. The youth built a wonderful camaraderie within a very short time and made lasting friendships.”
One 14-year-old Native girl (names withheld for privacy reasons) said: “This Camp has helped me connect to a side of me I never knew I had and has made me proud to be Native and want to help my community. Coming here feels like a dream.” Other youth echoed these sentiments. One 15-year-old Native boy stated: “Camp really gave me a chance to come out of my shell,” and a 11-year-old Native girl stated, “Camp taught me to be fearless.”
To help ensure that Native lifeways are passed to these younger generations, Pathkeepers brought Indian elders, tribal leaders and cultural educators from around the country to share their knowledge.
Pathkeepers was also honored to host the Yapatoko Drum who shared their songs and dances at the Camp pow wow.
Camp activities included exploring artistic expression like beading, Native flute, storytelling and Native logic and creative writing; Native horse culture; and Native games and social activities, including: lacrosse, Kiowa hand game, powwow singing and dancing. The Camp also included an “Entrepreneur Day” bringing together Native entrepreneurs who have developed successful businesses to discuss business development with the youth and explore how they can start up and develop their own ideas into sustainable, Native-owned businesses.
Campers also helped prepare meals, which were all-natural and nutritious, with an emphasis on traditional Indian foods. The youth learned how to replace high-fat, high-calorie and nutrient-barren foods with Indian traditional foods that are healthy and nutrient-rich – benefits that can fight the epidemic of health problems among Indian people, like obesity, diabetes, depression, blindness, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and cancer.
The camp included a two-day trip to Washington, D.C. where the youth met with policy and lawmakers working in Indian Affairs. The youth toured the U.S. Capitol and visited with Senator Udall of New Mexico to discuss issues important to Native youth. The Camp held a mock hearing at the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing room and wrote their own legislation on four separate issues they identified as areas of concern for their communities.
While in Washington, D.C., the youth visited the Navajo Nation Washington Office to learn about the work the Nation does in D.C. and participated in the Center for Native American Youth’s Networking Event at the National Indian Gaming Association. The youth also visited the National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Natural History.
Pathkeepers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies purely on donations to provide these opportunities to Native youth. If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please go to Pathkeepers website, their Facebook page, or you may reach Pathkeepers President Angelina Okuda-Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (202) 957-2696.