“Healing the Spirit of Native Youth”
About The UNITY National Conference
The National UNITY Conference is an impactful five-day youth-led annual event held every July in a pre-selected region of the U.S. About 2,500 Native youth and advisors are expected to attend the 2023 National UNITY Conference in Washington, DC (June 29 – July 3, 2023). The National UNITY Conference complete with general sessions, regional caucuses, workshops, career/education fair, and fun evening activities provides hands-on leadership development activities and where the National UNITY Council conducts elections and its annual business meeting. The national conference is a place where Native youth voice is encouraged and valued. All activities are planned with safety in mind.In addition, UNITY offers unique youth programming through its UNITY Fire and UNITY Drum. The UNITY Fire, which burns 24-7 during the annual conference and led by alumni fire keepers, is used for social and prayer purposes and has provided conference attendees an opportunity for support, healing and spiritual nourishment. The fire is meant for all beliefs and religions to share their “Good Medicine” with other participants. The UNITY Drum, also led by alumni, is an open drum with roots in the southern style of powwow singing. All youth singers are encouraged to bring their drumsticks to join in. While youth leaders meet, advisors and adults who work with youth are also involved in intense training and networking activities. Adult training may include building rapport, peer-to-peer sharing, conflict resolution, approaches to youth work, and more.
Affiliated Youth Councils and individual members are eligible for registration discounts. Become a member today!
Washington Hilton - Washington, D.C.
UNITY Announces Speakers for the
Annual National Leadership Conference
Director of Public Affairs at Walmart
Zoya Awan is the Director of Public Affairs at Walmart. In her role she directs the strategic outreach and engagement strategy for Walmart’s strategic partnerships within multicultural and minority communities including People with Disabilities, Native Americans, and Emerging Generations across communities.
Prior to her work at Walmart, Zoya worked at Microsoft in Government Affairs, in the State Department’s office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and various non-profits. Zoya has an MBA from Georgetown University and her B.A. in International Affairs and Communication Studies from American University.
Zoya is a proud Pakistani- American Muslim woman and an explorer who loves to travel and explore all things in the world. Zoya is passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless and building partnerships to work across sectors to make impact in communities. Born and Raised in Long Island, New York a longtime Washingtonian Zoya currently resides with her family in New York.
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Andrea Palm is the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As Deputy Secretary, she is the Chief Operating Officer and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Department.
Palm most recently served as Secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services (DHS), overseeing one of the largest state agencies in Wisconsin as a member of Governor Tony Evers' cabinet. In this role, she had responsibility for the state's Medicaid program, its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and behavioral health programs, among others. DHS is also Wisconsin's public health agency, and as such, Palm led the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, Palm held a number of policy and operational roles in the Obama-Biden Administration at HHS, including Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Counselor, Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to the Secretary. During her eight-year tenure, she worked on a variety of Administration priorities, including the Affordable Care Act, as well as providing leadership for the Department's work to combat the opioid epidemic.
Palm was born and raised in rural, upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a Master's degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
CHIEF MUTÁWI MUTÁHASH (MANY HEARTS) MARILYNN “LYNN” MALERBA
18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe
Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female Chief in the tribe’s modern history.The position is a lifetime appointment made by the Tribe’s Council of Elders. Lynn follows in the footsteps of many strong female role models in the Mohegan Tribe, including her mother, Loretta Roberge, who was a member of the Tribal Council that achieved Federal Recognition for the Tribe and held the position of Tribal Nonner (elder female of respect) as well as her great- grandfather Chief Matagha (Burrill Fielding). Before becoming Chief, she served as Chairwoman of the Tribal Council, and served in Tribal Government as Executive Director of Health and Human Services. Preceding her work the for the Mohegan Tribe, Lynn had a lengthy career as a registered nurse ultimately as the Director of Cardiology and Pulmonary Services at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital. She earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice at Yale University named a Jonas Scholar. She was awarded an honorary Doctoral degree in Science from Eastern Connecticut State University and an honorary Doctoral Degree in Humane Lettersfrom the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, CT. She earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the College of St. Joseph and her diploma in nursing from Hartford Hospital School of Nursing. Lynn was appointed by President Biden and is currently serving as the Treasurer of the United States.
NORMA BAKER-FLYING HORSE
As a featured guest presenter at UNITY’s Annual Gala Fashion Show for over three years, we celebrate this Grammy award-winning Hidatsa, Dakota Sioux, and Assiniboine Woman. “Norma joins the ranks among some of Indian Country’s most renowned artists. Her work is high in demand from many of Indian Country’s dignitaries regularly making appearances on the red carpet or at some of the most prestigious events celebrating Native people.” said Native Max Magazine. Learn more about the Red Berry Woman Designs and her journey to the runway. (photo by @pharaoh171photography) UNITY looks forward to working with Norma in the Future!
NDN Girls Book Club is an organization founded by Diné writer Kinsale Drake that is dedicated to uplifting Indigenous authors, promoting Indigenous literature, supporting young Indigenous writers, and centering Indigenous booksellers and tribal libraries. The Book Club hosts free author talks, free workshop programming, and an extensive database of resources for emerging writers. It has been featured since its early 2023 launch in Teen Vogue, NPR, Indian Country Today, The Salt Lake Tribune, Yahoo’s In the Know, and more.
LILY PAINTER BRINGS WATER
Lily Painter Brings Water, also known by her English name, Lily, 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, 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 as one of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21. She is a 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.
Owner and Chairwoman of Tribal Tech, LLC and Cowan & Associates, Inc.
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.
Ms. Vasques received her Bachelor of Science degree from California State University at Fullerton, then went on to receive teaching credentials from the University of California at Irvine. She is Diegueno of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, Valley Center, California, and is a former American Indian Woman of the Year.
She also serves on various boards for national and local non-profit organizations dedicated to supporting and promoting education and health care. Vicki has created a non-profit organization, The Ronald Maese Peralta (RMP) Foundation, in honor of her father. RMP’s mission is to improve the education, health and wellness of all people, especially those throughout Native communities.
Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
Cynthia Chavez Lamar is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She is the first Native woman to head a Smithsonian museum. Chavez Lamar oversees the museum’s three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan and the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland.
Chavez Lamar is an accomplished curator, author and scholar whose research interests are focused on Southwest Native art and the methodologies and practices involved in collaborating with Indigenous communities.
Since January 2021, Chavez Lamar has served as acting associate director for collections and operations at the museum. She was responsible for overseeing its collections, facilities, safety and information technology departments. She led efforts to ensure effective management of and care for the museum’s collection, which is composed of more than 1 million objects and photographs and more than 500,000 digitized images, films and other media documenting Native communities, events and organizations.
Chavez Lamar has been at the museum most recently since 2014, and earlier in her career was a museum intern (1994) and later an associate curator (2000–2005). From 2014 through 2020, Chavez Lamar served as assistant director for collections at the museum.
UNITY Announces Trainers for the
Annual National Leadership Conference
Hunter Genia, is Ojibwe and Odawa from Michigan (Mich-a-ga-ming) and has been involved with and a supporter for UNITY for several years. Hunter was a member of the first Earth Ambassadors circle. Hunter continues to advocate and utilize his knowledge to help strengthen Indigenous communities and organizations while promoting and protecting cultural and traditional lifeways. Hunter loves working with our tribal youth while opening doors to help each see and believe in the value of their own rezilience and potential. Hunter is an LMSW, and employed with Tribal Tech, LLC, an Indigenous woman owned company from Alexandria, VA.
For more than 20 years Chance Rush has served as a motivational speaker and trainer for tribal organizations and communities. He also serves as a Master of Ceremonies for national events throughout the country. Chance is the founder and executive director of 501(c)3, Our Native Men, Inc. and owner of Cloudboy Consulting, LLC. Chance lives a healthy lifestyle and promotes fitness, education, and spirituality. Chance is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Hidatsa). He’s also Dakota, Arapaho, Oneida, and Otoe. He’s a graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Oklahoma Baptist University. Chance serves as a Life and Health Coach, Personal Trainer and is a licensed ordained Pastor. He is an NAIA National Champion and 4 Time All American (Track & Field).
I am an EMCEE, DJ, Youth Advocate, & National Speaker. I am currently 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. & Co Founder of an outreach program called One Chance Leadership.
Pearl Yellowman is a member of the Navajo Nation and is now a full-time Trainer focusing on Youth Development, Community Development, Government Development, and Executive Leadership Trainings. In 2019, Pearl Yellowman was appointed by then Navajo Nation President Johnathan Nez and Vice-President Myron Lizer, as the Executive Director of the Division of Community Development. As Executive Director and Cabinet member, Pearl advised President Jonathan Nez on policy matters and fiduciary concerns impacting the Navajo people. Pearl earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, a second Master’s Degree in Counseling Education, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana, in the Educational Leadership program focusing on Leadership and Higher Education. Pearl is a mother of three young adults, Mylan, Megan, and Mikayla. Her traditional teachings include the Ho’zho’ which translates into the Navajo Beauty Way.
Osiyo my name is Michael Killer, i am a full blooded Cherokee from Tahlequah, OK where i live with my wife Jerri Ann and our 2 kids Levi & Lennox.I am the singer for the U.N.I.T.Y. Drum. I have also served on the executive committee as a member at large and as co-president. I have been singing around this drum since its instalation back in 1994 at the Tampa conference. There have been many great singers from all over Indian country that have sat around grandpa. we invite everyone to come and sing with us, so bring your songs. It is an open drum. It has been taught to me that the drum is the heartbeat of our native people. Its good medicine. I am very honored and humbled to serve as the leader singer. Just want to say thank you to Mary Kim and to U.N.I.T.Y. wado!!!
LoVina Louie, Coeur d'Alene/Colville/Nez PerceLoVina is schitsu'umsh (Coeur d’ Alene) Tribe, nselxcin (Okanogan/Colville), Nimipu (Nez Perce) she is a descendant of Chief Morris Antelope of the schitsu'umsh and Chief Manuel Louie of the Inkaneep Band in Oliver BC Canada. She is a graduate of the University of Idaho where she received her Bachelors in Organizational Sciences with an emphasis in Community and Tribal Wellness. She was recently featured on Lifetime Movie Network 50 Women in 50 States and a speaker at the TEDx Coeur d’Alene event. LoVina is a board member for the Native Wellness Institute, a national trainer and facilitator in youth leadership development, strategic planning, family constellations and community healing and wellness planning. She also has certifications from the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship. She has worked with youth and adults in wellness and healing for over twenty years throughout North America. LoVina is a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and an amazing human being. Her passion and zest for life is infectious.
Abby Rush is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold and resides in Tulsa, OK where she is pursuing her M.A. in English Literature and Language at the University of Tulsa. Abby seeks to tell the stories of Indigenous people through her work, always uplifting those voices in her writing and outreach endeavors. As a Co-Founder of Tribal Unite, Abby is dedicated to spreading her message of wellness through storytelling across Indian Country. Her work has been published in the Oklahoma Women's Journal, the STYLUS Literary and Fine Arts Journal, NATIVE MAX Magazine, and the Hechinger Report. She has also performed her poetry at the grand opening of the First Americans Museum and the White House Native Women Symposium.https://abbyrush.com
UNITY Announces Panelists for the
Annual National Leadership Conference
Director of Policy & Advocacy, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
Theresa Sheldon (she/her), citizen of the Tulalip Tribes, began her tenure at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition as the Director of Policy & Advocacy in April 2022. Theresa has 16 years of experience in political advocacy, serving in numerous roles with the Democratic National Committee, EMILY’s List, and Tulalip Tribes, while also presiding as the Native American Director for the Biden-Harris Presidential Inaugural Committee. She served two terms as elected representative for the Tulalip Tribes as a Board Director and served seven years as a policy analyst for Tulalip Tribes. Theresa has been the Co-Chair for Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Native Vote since 2008 and was a founding member and Co-Chairperson for Native Vote, WA. She currently serves as National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Co-Chair for the Safety & Justice Subcommittee and is on the Board of Directors for Native Americans in Philanthropy.
Theresa is an advocate for historical justice, civic engagement, upholding and strengthening tribal sovereignty and the trust responsibility, and protecting sacred places. The federal government should take responsibility for the genocide of Native peoples, fully fund Tribal education/language programs, and recognize that health care is a human right as well as a treaty right. She graduated from WWU with a BA in Law & Diversity in 2005, is a snowboard coach, and enjoys pulling canoe on the Coast Salish Sea with her son.
Senior Advisor for Alaska Affairs and Strategic Priorities to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Raina Thiele serves as Senior Advisor for Alaska Affairs and Strategic Priorities to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. In this role, she serves as the Department of the Interior’s policy lead on issues related to Alaska’s public lands, tribal relations, the arctic, and international Indigenous issues. She is the first Alaska Native to serve in this role. Raina has spent her career in public service, the private sector, and the nonprofit sector. She previously served as President Obama’s tribal liaison and led planning for President Obama’s historic 2015 trip to Alaska. She also served for nearly five years in the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she focused on a range of tribal, international, and energy issues. She has served on the boards of the Arctic Economic Council, the Verizon Consumer Advisory Board, and the Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She is a first generation college student who earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale College and her master in public policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Raina was born and raised in Alaska and her family hails from Pedro Bay Village on Lake Iliamna and Alexander Creek near Mt Susitna. She is Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik of the Tulchina (water) clan.
Deputy Director of the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) at the U.S. Department of Justice
JoAnn Kintz is the Deputy Director of the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) at the U.S. Department of Justice. OTJ is the primary point of contact for the Department of Justice’s government to government relationship with Indian tribes. OTJ also serves as a source of Indian law expertise for the Department. Prior to her current position, Ms. Kintz served as Senior Counsel at Democracy Forward, where she represented entities, including non-profit organizations, labor unions, and Indian tribes, in legal and policy matters aimed at protecting and advancing democracy and combating unlawful government actions that seek to undermine it. She began her career as a Trial Attorney with the Environment & Natural Resources Division/Indian Resources Section of the Department of Justice, where she represented the United States in a variety of civil matters pertaining Indian tribes and tribal interests.
Ms. Kintz is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and served as a Managing Director for the Human Rights Law Review. During law school, Ms. Kintz had the opportunity to intern at the Indian Law Resource Center as well as participate in pro bono projects at the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and the Pine Ridge Office of Dakota Plains Legal Services. She received her B.A. from Columbia College.
SPECIAL ENVOY FOR GLOBAL YOUTH ISSUES OFFICE OF GLOBAL YOUTH ISSUES
U.S. Special Envoy Abby Finkenauer grew up in a working class family in rural Iowa and was a first generation college graduate. At the age of 24 she successfully ran for the Iowa House of Representatives and served her community and her state in the Iowa House from 2015-2019. She was the Ranking Member of Government Oversight while also serving on Economic Development, Ways & Means, Transportation, and Labor. She led the fight against attacks on collective bargaining and workers rights and was an advocate for legislation addressing equal pay, public education, infrastructure funding, voting rights and women’s reproductive health access.
At the age of 28, Abby successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2018 she became the youngest woman in history to flip a Congressional seat as well as one of the first of two congresswomen from the state of Iowa. In 2019, within her first two weeks as a Congresswoman she became the youngest woman in history to pass a bill through the U.S. House of Representatives. She served as Democratic Caucus Assistant Whip, Vice Chair of Highways and Transit on the Transportation Committee, and was the youngest woman to chair a subcommittee with her role as Chairwoman of Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship Subcommittee as part of the Small Business Committee. Abby also founded the Endometriosis Congressional Caucus, and doubled the NIH research funding for the disease, which affects 1 in 9 women worldwide.
In November 2022, Abby was appointed as the U.S. Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues and is focusing her energy on lifting up the voices and stories of young people across the globe and fostering relationship for the United States that will span generations advancing and protecting democracy.Biography, photograph and content taken from official https://www.state.gov/biographies/abby-finkenauer/ website
Gary J. Cooper
Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nafive American Programs at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development
Gary J. Cooper serves as the Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nafive American Programs at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Along with the Deputy Assistant Secretary Heidi Frechefte, they lead the Office of Nafive American Programs (ONAP). Gary provides oversight and management to the nearly 200 ONAP employees across the Nafion, leading a team of professionals at the Headquarters Office in Washington, DC, in addifion to six regional offices, and two satellite offices. ONAP manages over twenty programs dedicated to Nafive American communifies – including one that is the largest source of housing assistance.
Gary is a cifizen of the Cherokee Nafion and for nearly twenty-two years before joining HUD he worked for the Nafion’s housing program. For more than eight of those years he served as the Execufive Director of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nafion. During his tenure he served on the Board of Directors for the Nafional American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC), elected by his peers to serve as the organizafion’s Chairman for two and half years, before stepping down to accept his new posifion.
Liz Ryan became Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on May 16, 2022, following appointment by President Joseph R. Biden. Prior to leading OJJDP, Ms. Ryan served as president and CEO of the Youth First Initiative, a national campaign focused on ending the incarceration of youth by investing in community-based alternatives. Ms. Ryan founded the Youth First Initiative in 2014; under her leadership, it achieved the closure of youth prisons in six states and redirected more than $50 million to community-based alternatives to incarceration.
Ms. Ryan founded the Campaign for Youth Justice in 2005 and served as its president and CEO until 2014. The national, multistate initiative sought to end the prosecution of youth in adult criminal courts and the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons. During Ms. Ryan’s tenure, the campaign’s work led to legislative and policy changes in more than 30 states, a 60 percent decrease in the number of youth in adult courts, and a greater-than 50 percent decrease in the number of youth placed in adult jails and prisons.
A staunch advocate for youth, Ms. Ryan cofounded and cochaired Act 4 Juvenile Justice, a campaign to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. She also served as advocacy director for the Youth Law Center, national field director for OJJDP’s Juvenile Court Centennial Initiative, and as an advocate for the Children’s Defense Fund. She has written extensively about juvenile justice reform, including articles, editorials, reports, and chapters of books.
Since 2020, Ms. Ryan has worked as a student investigative journalist with the Louisiana State University Cold Case Project, focusing on the murders of African Americans by the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era. She collaborated with other Cold Case Project students on Killings on Ticheli Road, a four-part narrative investigating the murders in 1960 of four Black men in Ouachita Parish, LA. The reporters reconstructed the day of the murders and questioned local authorities’ failure to prosecute the killer: the murdered men’s employer, a white man who later became a statewide Klan leader. For their work, Ms. Ryan and the other Cold Case Project reporters were named semifinalists for the 2022 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, an award by the Harvard Kennedy School for reporting that impacts U.S. public policy. They were the only students recognized.
Ms. Ryan also worked with families of the Martinsville Seven and other advocates to obtain posthumous pardons for seven young Black men who were executed in Virginia in 1951 for the alleged rape of a white woman. Ms. Ryan and her colleagues revisited the convictions, ultimately asserting that they were tinged by systemic racism, a rush to judgment, and a lack of due process. The Virginia Governor issued posthumous pardons in 2021, saying the men did not deserve the death penalty.
Ms. Ryan earned a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College and a master’s degree in International Studies from the George Washington University.Biography, photo and content sourced from official https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/about/administrator-liz-ryan website.
SENIOR ADVISOR AND TRIBAL AFFAIRS DIRECTOR FOR THE WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
PaaWee Rivera serves as a Senior Advisor to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Director of Tribal Affairs for the Biden-Harris Administration. Prior to his appointment, Rivera served as the Western Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign. He also served as Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Western Political Director, as a Special Advisor for her 2018 Senate re-election campaign, and as Colorado State Director for her 2020 presidential campaign. He also led Senator’s Warren’s Native American engagement and helped formulate her Native American policy platform. Rivera spent 3 years at the Democratic National Committee in a number of positions, including as the DNC’s national Native American Engagement and Finance Director. Before the DNC, he worked as a government relations advisor working with Tribal governments on federal public policy and political affairs. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a major in Government and minor in Native American Studies. Rivera is from New Mexico and is an enrolled Tribal member of the Pueblo of Pojoaque located just north of Santa Fe New Mexico.
CEO, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
UNITY Announces Panelists for the
Annual National Leadership Conference
Sap kaic bañ ce:gig Caleb Dash añi an amjed Oñk Akimel. Hello my name is Caleb Dash and I come from the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. I am thankful to have been elected as the Co-President of the NCAI Youth Commission and look forward to representing youth from all over Indian country. I am currently a project assistant for the UNITY Organization (United National Indian Tribal Youth) and am a former 25 under 25 awardee. I am Oñk akimel O'odham, Xalychidom Piipaash, Hopi, and Diñe. I Love learning more about my O'odham and Piipaash culture as well as helping teach youth to speak the language. Some of my favorite activities are hiking, traveling, photography, and learning new things.
Student Board Member
Ms. Gover is a 5th and 6th grade Reading teacher at Indian Wells Elementary School, located on the Navajo reservation. Ms. Gover has provided eight years of instruction to IWES, where she has taught as a 1st, 5th, and 6th grade teacher, and has served as the school’s reading specialist. Ms. Gover has also served as a coach and is currently serving as a mentor teacher overseeing a student teacher.
A 2010 graduate of Winslow High School, in Winslow, Arizona, Bernice went to further her education at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. Upon her completion she transferred to Haskell Indian Nations University, located in Lawrence, Kansas. Bernice completed her education at Haskell, earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree in 2015.
Bernice graduated from Grand Canyon University in 2019, with a Master of Arts in Reading. During the same time period (2018-2019), Bernice was a part of the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators. While attending, she helped create a culturally relevant curriculum for indigenous education.
Bernice is now attending Northern Arizona University’s American Indian School Leadership Program. With an expected graduation date of 2024, Bernice will graduate with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with plans to work as an administrator in her district. She strongly believes in the advancement of Indian education. Serving as a member of the board will allow her to utilize her voice to make positive changes in the world of Indigenous academia.
Gabriella Nakai (Choctaw/Navajo) is a junior honor student at Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Gabbe is committed to food security and sovereignty—especially under climate change. Recently, she was hosted by First Lady Jill Biden at the White House Native American Heritage Month Celebration, she moderated a panel discussion with leaders of the USDA as part of a White House Youth Forum, and she has contributed to conversations with the Department of Interior. Her service involves growing sustainable, heirloom Native produce in arid conditions and encouraging seed saving and propagation. She formerly served as a national UNITY Earth Ambassador and has founded clubs for Native American Heritage and Equity & Inclusion at her high school where she holds offices in both. Gabbe serves as an Arcadia Ambassador and the Public Relations Officer for her Student Government Organization. Gabbe is part of the Hoop of Learning Program, and Native American Program, and a student member of both the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). When Gabbe is not pursuing her education and community service, she is working at a local Phoenix Yoga studio where she is currently in the fitness industry and is earning her Yoga (200-hour RYT Certification). Gabbe is interested in pursuing Environmental Studies/Sustainability in College.
Yanenowi was recently elevated as the NCAI Youth Commission’s Co-President. The Youth Commission focuses on youth advocacy throughout Indian Country and I’m excited to mobilize our issues to new platforms and areas of action in my new role. Some of my initiatives in this new term are focused on Indigenous women’s abortion access and health care, bringing attention to the issue of Land Grant Universities, education on laws and policies for Indian Country youth like ICWA, and environmental advocacy always. We are currently designing our agenda for the 2023 Executive Council Winter Session in Washington D.C..
Special Performance by the
Yuan Sheng International Academy
on Saturday July 1, 2023
Yung Sheng International Academy
A nonprofit school for students in rural locations
Yuan Sheng International Academy belonged to Vox Nativa Taiwan Association. It was established in 2018 as the first indigenous public-interest experimental school in Taiwan, supported by the private sector to carry on the care for young children in isolated places. To aid with the financial, academic, and life adjustment issues so they may continue on to college, we recruit high school students in Taiwan who are native to the rural areas.
The YSIA choir includes all of the students. Students develop and boost their confidence via choir practice and performance exposure. The wonderful voices of the Indigenous people will be shared with the world by preserving their traditional songs and timbre, fusing them with contemporary music, and training the choir into a world-class ensemble. We encourage students to contribute back to society on their own by teaching them the principle of "Taking from the community, giving back to society." As a result, the YSIA choir frequently receives invitations to and participates in benefit concerts hosted by nonprofit organizations.
UNITY Conference Updates:
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Exhibitors - Your involvement will enhance the experience for attendees!
June 29 - July 3, 2023
Conference Bag Stuffing $250
Bag Stuffing Includes:
⟐ Limited to 10 per conference
⟐ Informational Items (brochures, flyers, booklets, etc.)
⟐ Promotional Items (pens, hand sanitizer, note pads, etc.)
Each Exhibitor/Vendor Booth Will Include
⟐ One (1) 6-ft table
⟐ Two (2) Chairs-ft table
⟐ Two (2) non-transferable registrations
⟐ Meet up to 500 Native Youth, ages 14-24 and their adult advisor
⟐ College & Career Day – Saturday
⟐ Speed workshop presentations
⟐ All day and evening activities
⟐ Cultural Sharing Night open to the community and public
Set up information and schedule coming soon.
Make Sure to take advantage of the Pre-Conference Activities. We encourage everyone to schedule meetings with your elected representatives on Thursday, June 29, before the Conference begins. Click below to learn more about the UNITY Communications Bootcamp, the Healing Circle training, and the Native Youth Empowerment Night. Plan early to make the most out of your conference experience.
UNITY participants’ and youth’s safety and well-being are our utmost priority! As we prepare for this year’s National UNITY Conference, please know we will work closely with all advisors and chaperones to promote a safe experience. In fact, during the planning of UNITY events, we work closely with each property’s security team to outline safety tips and protocols. Hotel security officers are available onsite 24 hours each day. They may be reached immediately by calling #65 from a hotel phone. We remain dedicated to maintaining a secure environment for all participants and will continue to uphold our commitment to their welfare.
Click here for UNITY Hotel Group Safety Tips & Information
To ensure clarity and ease of response, it is important that advisors and chaperones have well-thought-out procedures in place to handle potential crises. Advisors and chaperones know their youth the best. The tip sheet provides suggested guidelines.
For the continued safety and well-being of attendees, UNITY requires all trainers, contractors, and staff to submit background checks. Attendees’ well-being is our top priority when attending the nation’s largest gathering of Native youth.
UNITY Spirit Room
This year, an expert team of Cultural Wellness and Prevention trainers will team up to host UNITY’s Spirit Room. The Spirit Room (Convention Office 1, lower level) will be available throughout the conference, designed to provide a supervised safe space for Native youth and Advisors to gather, pray, meditate, or share cultural teachings. (Native youth will need to be accompanied by an Advisor) This space can also serve as a quiet place for anyone who may experience sensory overload or need time for reflection. The Wellness team is led by UNITY Alumni Hunter Genia, Lovina Louie, and Sheldon Smith.
Interventions, treatment, crisis assessment and counseling are not available on-site. The Spirit Room is designed to provide calm, focus, prayer and comfort to people while attending the Conference. The Spirit Room will close each night at 11:45pm.
Mental Health Support
The FCC has designated 988 as a nationwide 3-digit number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Callers will be connected to a specialist who will listen to their concerns and connect them to relevant resources. The helpline will be promoted throughout the conference.
Emergency Mental Health Care
Or text “HelpLine” to 62640
There is no Indian Health Service facility nearby. Here’s a link for the nearest Urgent care facilities.
Where’s your buddy? Every year, UNITY encourages youth participants to keep an eye on each other. A buddy system is a common way to reduce risk in any environment. Of course, it’s just one way to promote safety. We encourage youth to not only check in with each other but especially with their advisors. Daily huddles with youth and advisors is encouraged. UNITY peer groups conduct daily debriefs as a way to address any concerns. A group chat, with everyone’s cell phone numbers, is also a good way to keep track of each other.
Community Safety Listening Sessions hosted by OJJDP
On Monday, July 3, 2023, the Department of Justice/Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will host listening sessions at the National UNITY with youth and adults from across the country to discuss safety issues in Indian country. The listening sessions will bring together a select group of youth, ages 14 to 24, and adults with a diverse range of experiences to discuss the challenges they have had with safety in their communities and share their ideas for how federal programs could better empower them and their families.
The OJJDP Listening Sessions will be held Monday, July 3, at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm. One session is for youth, and the second session is for adults. Attendance is limited to 30 for each session. Sign up now!
4th of July Safety in Washington DC
The National Park Service asks visitors to adhere to the following guidelines to help everyone have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. Please bring plenty of water for hydration, dress in weather-appropriate attire, and use sunscreen.
The NPS is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, D.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services, and Arlington County Fire Department, as well as over 100 emergency medical service volunteers to provide medical services on the National Mall and along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Medical Aid Stations will be clearly identified by red banners with a blue star of life on them.
Public Health Considerations
For any viewing location, the public is asked to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for events and public gatherings.
Precautions against the heat
Summer temperatures in the nation’s capital can climb well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the humidity, it can feel close to or more than 100 degrees. Sunburn, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can result from excessive heat exposure. Senior citizens and those suffering from chronic medical conditions may be more susceptible.
Take the following precautions to protect yourself against the heat:
Drink plenty of water
Bring a water bottle and drink water throughout the day even when you are not thirsty
Minimize consumption of beverages containing caffeine or alcohol
Eat a healthy breakfast and normal meals throughout the day
Take frequent shade breaks to cool off
Periodically get out of the heat and into air conditioning, especially between the hours of 10am to 3pm
Reduce exertion during the hottest hours
Loosen clothing and cool off outside before entering an air-conditioned space
Bring extra medication.
If you are taking any prescribed medication for illness or medical conditions, be sure to bring extra doses just in case and have the medication information easily available in case medical providers need to know when treating in an emergency.
If you or someone you know exhibits the following signs and symptoms, go to a Medical Aid Station or summon help as soon as possible.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Nausea, headache, dizziness
Cool, pale, flushed or ashen skin
Increased body temperature
The symptoms of heat stroke include:
Red, hot skin
Change in level of consciousness (may become unresponsive)
Rapid or shallow breathing
Rapid, weak pulse
Body temperature of 104 degrees F or above
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. Cool victims rapidly with splashed water and fanning. Summon help immediately.
Please follow these precautions if you are located near the launch site (West Potomac Park) during the fireworks display:
Consider wearing eye protection and hearing protection
Do not attempt to enter the fenced safety zones around the launch site
Following the fireworks, do not walk along Independence Avenue, SW, between Daniel Chester French Drive, SW, and 17th Street, SW, until safety teams clear the area of potentially harmful fireworks debris
No, COVID-19 vaccines are not required for attendance. UNITY will abide by CDC guidelines for the duration of the conference. If you received a COVID-19 vaccine, you may consider keeping proof of your vaccination with you.
The banquet fee is included for each registration. If a registered attendee wishes to bring a guest, you can pay for an additional banquet ticket online.
Yes, when registering please note the Purchase Order or indicate a pending purchase order. A purchase order will hold the current rate until payment is received for a fee of $25 and must be paid within 60 days.
Yes, casual to business casual. The dress code is similar to a school dress code.
All rooms at the Hilton Resort are Suites that come with double beds and a sofa with a pull out bed, which can accommodate 4 – 6 people. However, there is only one bathroom. A King bed Suite includes a sofa sleeper (2 -4 people).
There are limited hotel rooms available prior to and after the conference on a first come first served basis.
Hotel transportation to and from Washington, DC airports are not available. Your options are to use a Ride Share App such as Uber or Lyft, taxi, or the Metro (take line to Dupont Circle Red Line) and then it’s an 10 minute walk to the hotel. Fares may be up to $30 per person for rides (not including the Metro). For larger groups, you may research the following:
The Washington Hilton Hotel is approximately six miles from the Reagan National Airport. It’s about a 20 minute ride but during rush hour, it may take up to 30 minutes to get to the hotel.
No, you are welcome to attend as an individual. We encourage all youth councils to find out how to become affiliated and take advantage of the benefits, otherwise you are welcome to attend as a group or individual, affiliated or not.
Yes, however, parents and advisors must consider whether topics and length of sessions are age appropriate.
Yes, you can participate in our conference, however, per the National UNITY Council Constitution and Bylaws, youth participants who wish to vote in the business meeting are required to be a U.S. citizen. You may be an observer if you are not a U.S. citizen.
Lincoln Memorial- https://www.nps.gov/linc/index.htm
Washington Monument- https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm
Smithsonian Museum of Space and Aeronautics- https://airandspace.si.edu
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian- https://americanindian.si.edu
Guide to Indigenous DC- Pocket Sight App
Exhibitors and workshop presenters must specify ahead of time if they have any audio or visual needs. A charge may apply.
Chairs and a podium will be provided.
The host hotel has a coffee shop and restaurants with grab and go options. Several sit down and fast food restaurants are within walking distance.