UNITY Youth address the United Nations

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Earth Ambassador Candice Joe and 25 Under 25 Awardee Sareya Taylor spoke on a panel for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN). As part of the World Food Forum festivities, Indigenous Chef Nephi Craig was joined by a panel of seven Indigenous youth and leaders from North America in a roundtable discussion on the importance of Indigenous foods as medicine, culture, history, identity, lifeways, and reconciliation. The UNITY youth were also joined by Jacob Beaton, Terrius Harris and Kyle Jim.

Having grown up in the urban Phoenix, Arizona with family on the Navajo Reservation, Candice Joe (Navajo), relates to both rural and urban Indigenous communities. She is currently a UNITY Earth Ambassador, a student at Estrella Mountain Community College, and Intern at the Phoenix Indian Centre. Her experiences growing up in both settings have honed her passions and focus on supporting urban Indigenous communities to stay culturally connected, as well as addressing the lack of resources in rural communities.

As a UNITY Earth Ambassador, Joe is focused on infrastructure and policy change with tribal governments to improve water access in urban and rural communities. It is important to her that Indigenous youth feel validated in their experiences, as well as in opportunities of leadership, civic engagement and decision-making. While she did not grow up very involved in her culture, her growing community of peers and elders are supporting each other to strengthen the future culture of Indigenous Nations. 

 “I am very grateful I was able to be on a panel with other amazing and passionate community members” stated Joe. “We were able to reflect on our work as well as what it means to us and our communities. We also were able to connect with an audience from at least 25 countries. It was overall a great experience and I am appreciative of everyone involved.” 

Poetry and writing for Sareya Taylor (White Mountain Apache and Navajo) are an outlet and avenue for her activism. She opened the webinar with a reading of her poem, I am Thinking of Strawberries. As the Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Phoenix, Arizona, the experience has afforded her the opportunity to travel, meet, and connect with writers and other Indigenous authors. Currently studying creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of her goals is to create a poetry centre in her hometown, White River on the White Mountain Apache reservation.

As a child Taylor was bullied for being Native and did not connect with her culture until later life after experiences motivated her to learn more of her culture, languages, history and be able to speak up for herself and her People. As a 25 Under 25 Awardee she encouraged Indigenous youth and adults, “to keep in mind you may not know everything, but there is always time to learn things and go back to your roots and figure out who you are.”

Learn more on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at https://www.fao.org/north-america/news/detail/en/c/1447134/ 

As part of the World Food Forum festivities, Indigenous Chef Nephi Craig was joined by a panel of seven Indigenous youth and leaders from North America in a roundtable discussion on the importance of Indigenous foods as medicine, culture, history, identity, lifeways, and reconciliation.

The questions raised by panellists brought forth themes around personal journeys connecting to their own Indigeneity, languages and cultures; and how food is part of this journey. Additionally, they shared formative experiences traveling away and returning home; overcoming adversity, intergenerational trauma and racism; and resourcefulness in urban and rural experiences as Indigenous Peoples. With the youngest members of the group around fifteen years old, to college students, a young executive director, and Jacob Beaton and Nephi Craig in programmatic mentoring roles – the group brought together an age range of perspectives on the discussion themes.   

As Indigenous youth continue their personal and collective processes to reconnect to their cultures, learn their languages, traditions, songs, ceremonies, prayers, and traditional foods – they are equipping themselves and supporting one another to be the future culture barriers of their communities and nations. As mentors and teachers providing culturally safe, supportive spaces for Indigenous youth and community to connect, learn, heal, and grow – Jacob Beaton and Nephi Craig and their programs are nourishing bodies as well as hearts, minds, and spirits. 

In closing, Chef Nephi Craig encouraged all the speakers to, “keep that sense of communication active because never before have we been this interconnected so quickly and able to share and revitalize our foodways and systems,” and “to participate in your own evolution staying committed, passionate and diligent in this courageous pathway we’ve created.” Chef Craig encouraged everybody to support Indigenous food practitioners, Indigenous food suppliers, farmers and anyone that is connected to Indigenous food way movements and cultural resurgence.   

Useful Resources 

Watch the recording: https://bit.ly/106Recording  

Speaker bios: https://bit.ly/3DgRYtz 

World Food Forum 

Cafe Gozhóó & Rainbow Treatment Center: http://cafegozhoo.com/

Tea Creek Enterprise: https://www.teacreek.ca/

Diné Introspective: https://www.dineintrospectiveiina.org/

Planet Forward Fellow: https://www.planetforward.org/users/terrius-harris

UNITY Earth Ambassadors: https://unityinc.org/earth-ambassadors/

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