This month the Sovereign Native Youth Leadership Program, administered by the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, was featured in a full-page article in Say Magazine, the only lifestyle magazine in the world for Native people!  Last month, NCIA submitted an article and Say Magazine published it in their Winter Issue along with a few pictures from our December field trip.

Here is the article as it appears in Say Magazine:


“There is a movement today in Indian country for a new generation of young leaders who can act as effective agents of positive change from within their tribal communities.  These new leaders must understand and be skilled in: business and economic development, tribal, state, and federal government, health and wellness, cultural issues, communication skills, and education.

The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs advocates the building of leadership skills for our young people and so has created the Sovereign Native Youth Leadership Program (SNYLP) to train the next generation of tribal community leaders.  The goal of this program is to give Native students the tools and skills to be leaders and servants of their people, and to act as ambassadors to their schools, serving as role models and mentors for other students.  Ultimately, a strong core of educated, committed, community leaders are the most valuable resource a tribal community can possess.  A strong economy, good schools, healthy families, a sense of hope, a sense of future–these do not come from the outside, they do not come from the government in the form of good intentioned programs and grants, they originate from within; they come from the people, leaders with a commitment of service to their communities.

Our program participants consist of sixteen high school students representing the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago tribes of Nebraska.  Each month the students attend one field trip.  Students are equipped with flip video cameras to document their evolving attitudes and perceptions about tribal community needs and their commitment to acting as agents of positive change within their communities.

September marked the start of the program with a three-day kick-off camp led by Jai Steadman, member of the Ponca tribe and assistant coach for the NBA D-League Vipers.  Students were exposed to a variety of speakers and activities.  Among the speakers was Kevin Abourezk, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member and reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star.  Students also visited the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s (UNL) School of Journalism to learn about conducting interviews from students involved in the school’s Native Daughters publication.

Fredericks Peebles and Morgan Law Firm in Omaha, Nebraska hosted the program in October.  Lance Morgan, Jennifer Bear Eagle, and Danelle Smith shared their personal success stories and spoke about tribal sovereignty issues and careers in law.  The students visited with Senator Scott Price, Chair of the State Tribal Relations Committee over lunch.  One participant, Shanna Wolff, said this field trip helped her “learn how to push [herself] and be motivated.”

In November, participants explored college life at UNL as they toured campus, stayed overnight in the student dormitories, and met with the University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange.  They discovered more career opportunities when they toured Native American Public Telecommunications and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications.  And they ended their November session searching through relics and enjoying contemporary artwork on display at Morrill Hall’s First Peoples of the Plains Exhibit at UNL.  When asked why this field trip was important to his learning as an upcoming leader, Landon Frenchman responded, “So I can help make a change for my tribe and community,” while Bianca White replied, “Being proud of who I am and [that] I can become whatever I want.”

For the month of December, students took part in an art workshop led by world renowned glass artist and Seminole Indian Therman Statom at his studio in Omaha and toured KANEKO, a public non-profit organization that promotes creativity in all forms.  Throughout the day, students created paintings and blown glass art pieces to reflect and explore their Native American identity and heritage.  Therman coaxed students out of their comfort zones to handle blowpipes and shape molten glass into feathers and spherical dream catchers at Hot Shops Art Center.

During the time between field trips, students work on other projects for the program.  Currently, participants are working with sculptor Matt Placezk to suggest and write narratives about animals important to Nebraska’s tribes to be included in the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo’s Sculpture Garden.  They are also learning how to formulate grant proposals from UNL’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).  Over the next few months, each group of students from the four tribes will write a grant proposal and be given funds to implement a community project.

The program is funded by a grant from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health, Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity and a Nebraska Maternal and Child Health Sub grant from the Federal DHHS Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health Bureau.  We are also grateful to have received generous contributions and gifts from several other donors including UPS and Gallop.  Overall they have enabled us to increase leadership opportunities and skills for our Native American Youth.”


Pictured above: students touring KANEKO in Omaha during their workshop with Therman Statom and Hot Shops Art Center.

Click here to purchase the article in Say Magazine.

Also, the students were featured in the Lincoln Journal Star (click here to read more) and the Omaha World Herald (click here to read more).