UNITY youth leaders have taken center stage across the U.S. this Native American Heritage Month. UNITY Peer Guide and Earth Ambassador, Angela Noah, White Mountain Apache, presented at the Oregon Students of Color Conference at Lane Community College representing the University of Oregon’s Native American Student Union. Her workshop, “Resiliency in Storytelling,” about the importance of oral traditional storytelling and cultural songs, was highlighted among students of color attending the conference from throughout the Northwest.
As a UNITY Peer Guide, Noah holds an youth advisory role for the Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative, made possible by a cooperative agreement (2018-TY-FX-K002) between UNITY, Inc. and the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. UNITY, with its trainers, youth guides, and mentors will offer regional trauma-informed youth leadership development trainings over the next two-years. These peer led asset mapping, youth advocacy and movement building workshops will collect Native youth feedback, from those who have been impacted by trauma and the Juvenile Justice system.
As a UNITY Earth Ambassador, Noah was nominated by a member of their community, meeting criteria that included demonstrating leadership potential, showing an interest in protecting the environment, and experience and participation in community service projects. Earth Ambassadors take their message to tribal and governmental agency representatives, as well as lawmakers and others committed to environmental stewardship.
Noah shares her reflections on the storytelling event:
“Presenting at the Oregon Students of Color Conference as a first year non-traditional students representing the University of Oregon, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, UNITY Inc. and myself was a humbling experience. Most spaces in academic settings such as conferences and colleges are dominantly white which can feel intimidating as a Native American. Seeing other peers who look like you, understand you, and can even quote a Smoke Signals movie line makes navigating these predominantly white spaces less scarier. We know that academic spaces weren’t created for Native people as there are many factors and defying the odds to be done especially when obtaining higher education. I am the first in my family to have graduated high school, attend college, and even be invited to conferences and gatherings to present workshops.
I say this humbly and to hold space as I know our Native youth are rising. I see the importance in community especially as students of color. At the Oregon Students of Color Conference, I felt validation, less intimidation, supported, and comfortable to see that there were other students also learning to navigate school at a big university such as the University of Oregon. If you are a current college student, I applaud you and hope you know our ancestors and your entire tribal community are rooting for you! This also pertains to those who did not do college and maybe joined a job vocational training program instead. This message is also for those in high school. Higher education is a scary thought but think of it as a tool to help you and your community!”
Over the next two years, as part of the UNITY Peer Guide Cohort, Noah will spearhead this initiative in order to support and enhance Native youth engagement, coordination, and action related to public safety issues, with a focus on cultural prevention approaches to wellness in Indian country. Each one of the Peer Guides were chosen based on their personal testimonies of overcoming adversity and helping lift up others. For More Information, or to request a Peer Guide participate in a regional youth training, contact Program Manager LorenAshley Buford at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or Call UNITY National Headquarters: 480-718-9793