“The Nevada Healing Circle brought Native youth, peer mentors from various high schools to young adults in higher education to a two-day training centering on healing and building network connections,” said Peer Guide Angela Noah (White Mountain Apache). “Engaging with Native youth was a surreal moment, understanding that I am no longer a recipient but on the teaching side now and it helped me gain perspective that we are actively living the seven-generation prophecy sharing wisdom with those coming behind us.” UNITY partnered with the Nevada Department of Education, the Nevada Native Youth Community project, and the Multicultural Center of the University of Nevada to host the first in a series of UNITY Healing Circles for Native youth representatives from tribes across the state.
The UNITY Healing Circle training features informative training sessions and hands-on activities that will inform, engage and empower Native youth attendees to address community concerns in Indian Country. Participants work in small groups with UNITY trainers to go through the steps of addressing a challenge of their choice. The objective of using the train-the-trainer approach is in hopes that the youth can develop their own community events in the future to increase community safety. The event culminates with a mock-Tribal Council presentation, where Native youth are able to practice requesting funding for their ideas with real-life feedback from influential stakeholders.
Peer Guide Angela Noah shared that “as mentors helped facilitate dialogue surrounding healthy outlets when problem-solving or collaborating to implement healthy community-led projects, it was a gentle reminder of what happens when we bring intention to healing for ourselves and the community. I returned to Oregon feeling empowered and grateful for the time I spent with these youth. I certainly felt that the UNITY peer mentors made a safe space for Native youth enabling Nevada youth to share their ideas and talents. It was inspiring to see them take initiative, grow together, and begin to feel confident that they could make a change in the communities. To me, that is the ultimate purpose of a Healing Circle.”
The team believes it is crucial for Native youth to be at the center of the movement to create safe places to encourage help-seeking behaviors for youth who may be struggling. In doing so, UNITY Healing Circles help to encourage young people to become powerful advocates for the transformation of the spaces in which they live.
UNITY Western Regional Representative Steve Harvey (San Carlos Apache) shared how “This training has been a phenomenal experience to take part in. Overall, I am very fortunate to attend the Nevada Healing Circle training because it was a lot more hands-on and personal. I felt like everyone who attended got the chance to interact and know each other on a deeper level than we do at a National Conference training.” As a member of the National UNITY Council’s Executive Committee, Harvey shared how “after attending this Healing Circle, I feel inspired and empowered, because I am confident that the Nevada Native youth will implement what they learned and start the conversations within their communities to tackle these important issues.”
During the Healing Circle training, participants identify ways to rebuild youth councils and build community support after the global pandemic. The youth-informed decision process will allow them to gain feedback on the best ways to remove obstacles to community safety. With four years in the making through the efforts of the Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative (HILI), the Peer Leaders are eager to teach other youth to utilize community asset mapping as a strength-based approach to reduce risky behaviors and juvenile delinquency.
2022 UNITY Advisor of the Year Carrie Brown (Bishop Paiute) attended the Nevada Healing Circle as additional support to the youth Peer Leaders. In her reflections, Brown shared that she “learned that youth in different areas have many of the same issues across the state” and witnessed how “the youth are very much the leaders of not only tomorrow but of today.” She shared how she was impressed how the participants were “so aware of all that is going on around them, and willing to brainstorm on solutions, outreach, and how to be of service to others.” Brown shared how she “truly saw a change from the time that the youth arrived to when we parted ways, they were more willing to communicate, participate, and even opened up to share personal struggles. I was moved by their courage and willingness to begin healing from recent tragedies.”
Once attending a Healing Circle training, it is the goal of the UNITY Executive Committee’s National “Restoring the Spirit of Native Youth” initiative, for youth to facilitate their own town halls, focus groups, talking circles, or difficult discussions as a form of community development. Thanks to a grant provided by Bank of America, through a National Racial Equity Award given to Executive Director Mary Kim Titla, UNITY is able to partner with host Tribal Nations, Youth Councils, and Education Departments to bring this valuable training to Indian Country.
“What I learned from the Nevada Healing Circle was how much all of us Native youth can relate to each other and build a deeper connection through our shared loss and experiences,” said UNITY Pacific Regional Representative Katy Johnston (Bishop Paiute). Through the Healing Circle, I could see how we all want to change for the better, not only to survive hardships but to be able to thrive as a community.” After the Healing Circle, Johnston shared that she “felt very open-minded, after hearing from youth from across Nevada, I could see things from a bigger picture, and it empowered me to look towards improvement within myself and my home community…I would definitely recommend the Healing Circle training to others because it helps to prepare youth to host deep conversations in a safe place about things we truly care about.”
Peer Guide Angela Noah shared “when you empower a community like this, positive changes come from the community for the community. What a way to kick off the national Healing Circle tour, by amplifying the voices of these Nevada youth. They are the experts when it comes to implementing healing work in their respective communities, and I can’t wait to see what they do next!”