Model United Nations: Indigenous brings first-ever Native American delegation to 45th Annual National High School Model United Nations Conference in NYC

The 2019 Model United Nations: Indigenous delegation at the National High School Model United Nations closing ceremony, United Nations Headquarters General Assembly Hall in New York City on March 10, 2019. Left to Right: Veronica Toledo (Navajo/Mexican), Yelih Rodriguez (Oneida), Kianna Joe (Navajo), Nalzheii Lonetree (Ho Chunk/Navajo), Lacey Cachucha (Jicarilla Apache), Karen Guise (Red Lake Band of Chippewa), Chris Talamo (Executive Director, International Model United Nations Association), Emily Staley (Navajo), Nathan Balk King (Rosebud Sioux, Founder/Director of MUN:I), Chase Baird (Rosebud Sioux/Navajo), Alyssa Noriega-House (Muscogee Creek/Seminole), Ariayna Yellowbank (Cheyenne Arapaho/Ho Chunk Winnebago of Nebraska), Garen Growing Thunder (Nez Perce/Nakota/Dakota), Zaden Salabye (Navajo).(Photo: Lise Balk King)

Model United Nations: Indigenous, launched by Sturgis Charter High School senior Nathan Balk King (Sicangu Lakota), gains full endorsement of host organization International Model United Nations Association

News Release

Model United Nations: Indigenous

Fledgling organization Model United Nations: Indigenous (MUN:I), started by Sturgis Charter Public School senior Nathan Balk King (Sicangu Lakota), successfully launched this week with a Native American delegation at the National High School Model United Nations Conference (NHSMUN) in New York City. The group of 13 outstanding Native American students hailed from across the United States and represented the first-ever such delegation in the Conference’s 45-year history.

The National High School Model United Nations Conference is the largest and most important high school Model United Nations conference, with over 5000 students from 74 countries in attendance (www.NHSMUN.nyc). King attended the National High School Model United Nations Conference in 2018 with the Model United Nations Club from Sturgis Charter Public High School West, in Hyannis, Massachusettes, and noted how “It was amazing to meet students from all over the world, to hear so many languages spoken around me, but about two days into the conference, I noticed that there were no other Native American youth there.” In response, Nathan decided to create Model United Nations: Indigenous.

His goal is to facilitate Native youth training in diplomacy and human rights through participation at the National High School Model United Nations Conference, as well as the creation of Native Model United Nations clubs at high schools across the country.

King started the project in the spring of 2018 and spent his summer working on it as a non-profit startup.

He was chosen to present a workshop on Model United Nations: Indigenous at the United National Indian Tribal Youth Conference (UNITY) in San Diego in July, and built the website and Facebook page to prepare for the conference. It was through a post on Facebook tagged “NHSMUN” that his project was discovered by Chris Talamo, the Executive Director of the International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA), the organizers of the National High School Model United Nations Conference, who reached out to King to offer his support. International Model United Nations Association then offered a full endorsement of Model United Nations: Indigenous and helped with planning logistics for the National High School Model United Nations Conference.

In support of King’s efforts, Talamo said, “Because of the various costs involved, Model United Nations, the world's most popular debate activity, is largely dominated by students from wealthy, privileged schools. Many schools in lower-income communities may only be able to afford short conferences in their area, or they may not have a Model United Nations program at all. This dramatically skews the voices that are heard at the world's leading Model United Nations conferences. When only the world's most privileged kids are discussing the issues that affect some of the world's most marginalized, including Indigenous peoples, those living in extreme poverty, international refugees, and labor rights, the simulation is inherently skewed. There are no authentic voices that can relate to the challenges experienced by the people they are trying to help.”

(For full letter of endorsement, go to: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/1b938d_5b747ffda8a84ebdb6c3ec596aef1df2.pdf)  

King used Facebook to promote his project and invite students to apply to be delegates. He chose a group of 12, representing a number of tribal nations and regions across the United States. Delegates all pitched in to raise the approximately $1000 each needed for expenses to participate, and King is now working to raise the remaining funds needed to begin building a sustainable non-profit. (Go to www.MUNIndigenous.com and click on the “Donate Now” button to contribute).

The Provincetown Community Compact, and Executive Director Jay Critchley, also offered critical support, and are serving as the project’s 501c3 fiscal sponsor (www.thecompact.org).

After a year of work and this past week’s success, King said, "The National High School Model United Nations Conference included the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) for the first time in their 45-year history. Model United Nations: Indigenous was the first-ever group to represent the voices of Indian Country at the National High School Model United Nations Conference, and I am especially proud that we had four delegates in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues simulation. Our delegation not only learned about human rights diplomacy but also had the opportunity to represent Indigenous peoples to a global youth community. We were honored to represent our communities and tribes at the largest Model United Nations gathering in the world.”

King is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota) who currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusettes, with his mother, Provincetown Select Board Member Lise Balk King. Nathan was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and vacationed in Provincetown, where his grandmother lives full time. He moved to the East Coast with his mother in 2009.

“It was an amazing experience working with other bright and dedicated Native American youth, and to be able to give them this opportunity to learn and practice new skills. Many of them had not heard of Model United Nations before Model United Nations: Indigenous, and have told me about how meaningful an adventure the National High School Model United Nations Conference was and how excited they are for next year. A few of our delegates intend to start Model United Nations clubs at their high schools.

"After a year of developing my Model United Nations: Indigenous idea, it feels incredibly gratifying to know that my actions helped other Native American students in an impactful way. I was also pleased to see the delegates become friends and bond over the experience, most of whom had only met during our weekly Skype sessions.”

After the National High School Model United Nations Conference, Delegate Zaden Salabye (Navajo), a senior at the Greyhill’s Academy High School in Phoenix Arizona, said, “Playing the role of an ambassador from a given country makes you realize just how diverse and unique the world really is. This program is something very special, I’m confident when I say the future is bright for us. For my native friends, I HIGHLY recommend pursuing this program through the Model United Nations: Indigenous organization directed and founded by a young entrepreneur and bright mind Nathan Balk King, it’s purpose is to bring all types of Indigenous kids together to attend Model United Nations. I personally feel that Model United Nations: Indigenous is the best way to experience Model United Nations with a chance to represent Indigenous people in front of a prestigious community.”

Delegate Ariayna Yellowbank (Ho-Chunk/Cheyenne/Arapaho), a Junior at the Watonga High School in Watonga Oklahoma, explained, “I am participating in Model United Nations: Indigenous to expand my horizons on knowledge about the United Nations. I also want to learn more about how to protect human rights and learn about global affairs and almost everything else the National High School Model United Nations Conference has to offer. I think it is important as Indigenous people to have a voice and have a seat at the table. I want to be a leader and gain more leadership qualities while attending not only for myself but so I can execute these leadership qualities back home and put them into action. I would also like to set an example for native youth everywhere to let them know they can travel and do big things and to learn how to better their communities and tribes.”

The International Model United Nations Association, a longstanding partner of the United Nations, provides students with a forum to hone skills in diplomacy, negotiation, critical thinking, compromise, public speaking, writing, and research. This opportunity allows Native youth to practice and take an interest in human rights, including advocating for the rights of Indigenous people around the globe.

Model United Nations: Indigenous Delegates 2019

  • Nathan Balk King (Rosebud Sioux, Founder/Director of Model United Nations: Indigenous)
  • Ariayna Yellowbank (Cheyenne Arapaho/Ho Chunk Winnebago of Nebraska)
  • Garen Growing Thunder (Nez Perce/Nakota/Dakota)
  • Zaden Salabye (Navajo), Yehli Rodriguez (Oneida)
  • Kianna Joe (Navajo)
  • Nalzheii Lonetree (Ho Chunk/Navajo)
  • Lacey Cachucha (Jicarilla Apache)
  • Karen Guise (Red Lake Band of Chippewa)
  • Emily Staley (Navajo)
  • Chase Baird (Rosebud Sioux/Navajo)
  • Alyssa Noriega-House (Muscogee Creek/Seminole)
  • Veronica Toledo (Navajo/Mexican)
  • Yelih Rodriguez (Oneida)
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