Scroll Top

2023 National UNITY Conference Updates


May 24, 2023

Mesa, Arizona – United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) will feature several guest speakers at its National Conference including documentarian Matika Wilbur (whose book is a NY Times bestseller), Grammy-winning fashion designer Norma Baker-Flying Horse, youth writers Kinsale Drake and Lily Painter of the NDN Girls Book Club, and entrepreneur Victoria Vasques. There will also be a panel featuring the official DJ of the Oklahoma City Thunder Marcus “Emcee One” Guinn and Shawn “DJ Tribal Touch” Martinez, senior director of live presentation for the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. The National Conference will take place at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, from June 30 to July 4.

“As the National Conference draws closer, we are thrilled to announce the exciting lineup of speakers who will be sharing their stories and insights with our Native youth,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY executive director. “Our past speakers have inspired attendees to pursue different paths to success, and these individuals promise to do the same.”

The National Conference will engage Native youth from across the country through workshops, breakout sessions, and cultural sharing. Attendees can find more information about the conference and register here. While the host hotel is sold out, overflow rates are available at the two hotels across the street; the Generator Hotel with a cutoff date of June 13, 2023, and the Churchill Hotel with a cutoff date of June 8, 2023.

Workshop opportunities are still available. The conference offers two full days of workshops that vary from health, advocacy, career, and culture. Organizations or individuals can submit to present a workshop on one or both days, here.

Additionally, UNITY is expanding its team and seeking a highly skilled and creative digital media manager to develop and execute the organization’s digital media strategies and enhance its online presence. To learn more and apply for the position, email your resume and cover letter.

2023 UNITY National Conference sponsors and partners include Gaming Labs International, Gila River Indian Community, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Tribal Tech, LLC, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Nike N7, The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Sponsorship opportunities are still available, learn more.

About the Guest Speakers

Norma Baker-Flying Horse, an enrolled member of the Hidatsa tribe and a member of the Dakota Sioux and Assiniboine tribes as well as an adopted member of the Crow Nation, is the creator of Red Berry woman, a fashion line that incorporates Native American traditional garment styles into contemporary couture garments and ready to wear for both women and men. Red Berry Woman was named the 2020 International Designer of the year, the 2022 Phoenix Fashion Week Designer of the Year, and a 2022 Cultural Recognition Visual Arts Grammy Award co-recipient. Her designs have been seen on various red-carpet events such as the Grammys and the Oscars. She was the first Native American contemporary designer to have a dress worn on the Oscar stage during an Oscar musical performance. Giving her business her Native given name, Red Berry Woman, Norma strives to create pieces that honor and celebrate her tribal bloodlines.

Brings Water, also known by her English name, Lily Painter, is a 21-year-old citizen of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. She is a poet, writer, community and arts advocate, and filmmaker, and was an inaugural Remembering Our Sisters Fellow with the Center for Native American Youth where she advocated nationally for MMIWG2S+ awareness and policy advancement. In 2023, she was the White House’s first Native American Intern in the Domestic Policy Council and was named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21. She is a past UNITY 25 under 25 and the reigning 2023 Miss Indian Oklahoma. In her free time, she assists with graphic design for NDN Girls Book Club.

Kinsale Drake is a Diné poet, playwright, and performer based out of the Southwest. Her work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Best New Poets, Black Warrior Review, Nylon, MTV, NPR, Teen Vogue, Time Magazine, and elsewhere. She recently graduated from Yale University, where she received the J. Edgar Meeker Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, the Young Native Playwrights Award, and the 2022 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Previously, she served as a National Student Poet representing the Western region of the country. She is a Yahoo In the Know Changemaker and was named by Time Magazine and filmmaker Ava Duvernay as an artist representing her decade “changing how we see the world.” She is also the founder of NDN Girls Book Club (, which teaches literary programming to Native youth and uplifts Indigenous authors and literature.

Marcus Guinn, “Emcee One,” is an emcee, DJ, youth advocate, and national speaker. He is an official DJ for Nike N7, international DJ/tour Support for Taboo (The Black Eyed Peas), MTV Video Music Award Winner, a member of newly formed group #Mag7, CEO of One Innertainment Inc. and co-founder of an outreach program called One Chance Leadership.

Shawn Martinez, “DJ Tribal Touch,” an enrolled member of the Diné/Navajo tribe is in his third season as Senior Director of Live Presentation for the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. He oversees the strategy and execution of all in-game live production and entertainment elements for the organizations. Martinez played a pivotal role in the two-and-a-half-year development of the Suns’ ORIGINATIV platform, a symbolic turquoise City Edition uniform and basketball court honoring and celebrating Arizona’s 22 federally recognized indigenous tribes. The program and uniform details pay homage to the rich histories and cultures of the state’s Tribal Nations and celebrate their shared love of basketball. An NBA veteran, Martinez has supported the strategy and execution of four NBA All-Star Games and produced both the 2021 NBA Finals and 2021 WNBA Finals. Beyond basketball, Martinez regularly mentors Native youth and shares his indigenous roots and career journey at various events across the country.

Victoria Vasques is the Owner and Chairwoman of Tribal Tech, LLC and Cowan & Associates, Inc. Both companies are American Indian, SBA 8(m), third-party verified, woman-owned small businesses (WOSB) that provide management and technical services to federal, state, tribal and corporate clients. For more than 30 years, Ms. Vasques has been an advocate for American Indians, leading education reform, health care and advancing energy initiatives.
Her career in public service includes serving as the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education, where she was the principal point of contact within the federal government for Indian education across the nation. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. She also served as executive director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities, as an education program specialist in the Office of Indian Education, on the President’s Commission on Indian Reservation Economics, and on the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic. Her experience with Indian issues outside the federal government includes serving as a technical assistant specialist at the National Congress of American Indians and as tribal liaison at The Committee for the 50th Presidential Inaugural.

Matika Wilbur is a critically acclaimed social documentarian and photographer from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington. Project 562, a crowdfunded initiative to visit, engage, and photograph people from over 562 sovereign Tribal Nations in North America, is her fourth major creative venture elevating Native American identity and culture. She co-hosts the All My Relations podcast which has over 2 million listeners. She has offered over 300 keynotes at such places as Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Google, TED Talks, the National Education Association, and National Geographic Explorer, and she is a regular contributor to the New York Times. Her book, “Project 562: Changing The Way We See Native America” was released in April 2023 and was instantly a New York Times bestseller.

Related Posts