Shinnecock Initiates Call-to-Action to Globalize Advocacy Among Native Youth – UNITY, Inc.

Shinnecock Initiates Call-to-Action to Globalize Advocacy Among Native Youth

The following story, which was written and produced by Dyani Brown of the Shinnecock Nation, was provided by the Shinnecock Youth Council.


Youth leaders from Shinnecock Nation received a warm welcome at the 20th Annual International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) held at the United Nations on August 18th. Among the nearly 200 countries that participated, Shinnecock represented as the only American Indian community in attendance.

“We simply responded to an invitation for an opportunity that was afforded to us,” said Preston Brown, a volunteer advisor for Shinnecock Nation Youth Council.

“We want to extend our experience as a call-to-action for all Native youth to align with young leaders from across the globe to advocate for indigenous rights and civic justice on an international level,” said Brown.

Seven members of the youth council attended the IYLA as well as the Nation’s  Council of Trustees Chairman Bryan Polite, the tribal administrator, Sienna Hunter-Cujet and two other tribal leaders who met IYLA’s 34-year-old age limitation.

The theme to this year’s assembly was “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service and Entrepreneurship.” Political agents and social entrepreneurs from across the world shared their experience of the qualities that make for good and bad leadership.

Shinnecock youth learned about the importance of networking, taking initiative in challenging the status quo, and making alliances with groups that support similar values. Youth council members left with empowering messages to strive for their potential as leaders of today.

“The event was very inspirational to the youth but also to myself,” said Weyhan Smith, director of the youth council. “I wanted to broaden our youth’s horizons and show them there is more than just the ‘Rez’ out there”

IYLA is an initiative of the International Youth Leadership Institute, which promotes its institute as “a model for African American and Latino Self-Help in the 21st Century.” For more than 25 years the institute has been working with these two minority groups to empower youth to cultivate their talents and develop solutions that benefit their communities.

However, it is no secret that Native communities face most of the same challenges and are in just as dire need for creative solutions its problems.

“Many Native youth come from broken families and are suffering depression or anxiety stemming from historical and modern-day traumas. It’s important not to dwell on trauma but to expose our Native youth to something greater and what they can do with the opportunities they have,” said Brown.

Organizations such as IYLI and the NGO Committee on Children’s Rights have become trendsetters when it comes to empowering youth as a catalyst for social change. The White House Tribal Youth Gathering held in collaboration with the Center for Native American Youth and the United National Indian Tribal Youth was a testament of the younger generation’s eagerness to confront social issues.

you tube link is: Shinnecock Youth Attend #ILYA