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Native youth Ideas Blossom into Empowered Change Agents with a Plan

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Peer Guide Trainer Nataannii Photo by Adriel Clements ACMedia

Reflections of the New Years Healing Circle Training hosted by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Youth Council in Oklahoma.

By: Nataanii Hatathlie, UNITY Peer Guide Trainer
During the Healing Circle, I had the opportunity to learn more about the Cheyenne & Arapaho tribal community on an intimate basis by working with the youth leaders and their community mentors and advisors. The youth leaders who participated made carrying out this training as a Peer Guide Trainer a pleasure. I especially appreciated learning more about traditional hand games by playing with the youth. I gained a deeper insight into how this custom fit into the tribe’s historical context when resolving internal and external disputes, even surpassing language barriers that existed among differing tribes.

The training with the Cheyenne & Arapaho youth was certainly a standout gathering. Within approximately 48 hours we powered through the content of a standard Healing Circle gathering while also implementing the success of the 10-step project planning process YOU-th Can curriculum. This project planning process was the stepping stone for the development of the Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative, building off the success of the Today’s Native Leaders regional trainings. It is wonderful to see how this has grown over two cooperative agreements between UNITY and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention since 2013.

The growth in the Cheyenne and Arapaho youth council can be seen in this video from 2015 when they showcased their service project at the TNL Summit. It is wonderful to see how they are building upon past skill-building to keep the community transformation going through the next generations.

The youth leaders who attended this Oklahoma training were excellent in taking on tough conversations following critical questions we asked about their experiences as Native youth. Moreover, the youth who participated were among the tribe’s standout group of young leaders who have shown continued engagement, a strong willingness to learn, and a hunger for more opportunities to empower their communities. They were able to come together to focus on how to become better community organizers by following a proven 10-step methodology for youth success in planning community service projects.

Photo by Adriel Clements ACMedia
One thing I learned from the youth at the Healing Circle is that they possess a deep passion for uplifting their tribe by using their community strengths to their advantage while addressing community challenges in a way that includes their peers as project leaders. These youth leaders are serious about making an impact on longstanding issues that they know need attention.
As the training progressed, I noticed how youth who were initially hesitant to share their ideas blossomed into empowered change agents adamant about speaking their voices as key community stakeholders.
After the training, I, first and foremost, felt thankful. I was thankful to have been invited by the Cheyenne & Arapaho tribe to conduct this youth training, but also thankful for us to gather in such a sacred space of healing, learning, and peer-to-peer mentorship following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Adriel Clements ACMedia
As a facilitator, it was refreshing to work with young leaders again in person. The support from the greater community and tribal leadership for the Cheyenne & Arapaho youth to make this Healing Circle possible is inspiring as a facilitator. I look forward to continuing the work of UNITY as we move forward with additional training opportunities across varying regions.