11th Annual Youth Conference Held at Red Lake; "Shaping the Future" is Theme
Hundreds of young people descended on Red Lake High School for the 11th Annual Red Lake Nation Youth Leadership Conference held Wednesday thru Friday, May 4 to 6, 2016, at Red Lake Minnesota. The conference theme this year was "Shaping the Future."
Workshops and presentations were held from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM each day, with a shorter day Friday. As usual, several workshops occurred simultaneously. Sessions this year included culturally related workshops on moccasin making, and jewelry making. Other topics included how suicide affects the family, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, self-esteem, and positive lifestyles.
In addition to the workshops, a variety show was held on Friday evening at the Humanities Center, and a banquet capped with valuable door prizes was held Thursday Evening at Seven Clans Casino Event Center.
This is the eleventh year that Chemical Health programs, Red Lake Schools and other organizations have sponsored this important event for the youth of Red Lake Nation. A host of Red Lake member professionals, and preeminent guest speakers from across Indian Country, joined together to share their knowledge in leadership skills in order to motivate youth, and to promote indigenous values, tradition and culture.
Day One Highlights: Wednesday, May 4, 2016
At 9:00 a.m., after having their fill of fruit and pastry, students filed in and filled rows of chairs set up on the basketball court of the high school gymnasium.
A song by the Red Creek drum group at the beginning of each day's activities followed an Opening Prayer by Obaashiing elder Murphy Thomas. Thomas along with Chance Rush (Three Affiliated Tribes – Hidatsa) acted as conference facilitators. Emcee One aka Marcus Gwinn (Osage & Potawatomi), who travels with Rush, filled the air with a variety of recorded music and sound affects throughout the three-day event.
On the first day, as part of the opening ceremony, Rush set the pace for the conference by encouraging youth to pursue their dreams, to value education, to share what they learn with others, and even to vote. "This is your community, your home and your story," said Rush to those assembled.
Opening ceremonies continued with facilitator Thomas introducing Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Red Lake Nation Tribal Chairman who provided a welcoming address. Seki spoke about the importance of education and the social ills that sometimes get in the way of success such as drugs, alcohol, and suicide. "Be respectful and remember that education is very important," said Seki. "Say no to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and bullying. Be particularly wary of alcohol, it is a depressant and can lead to suicide."
Red Lake Nation Youth Council Vice-Chairman Ryan Strong and Chairperson Alise May who introduced the rest of the Youth Council followed Seki. The Youth Council, formed in 2006 with more than a dozen members, are key players in the organization of the three-day Youth Leadership Conference.
Next Rush introduced a short film on Gen I, (Generation Indigenous) featuring President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference. Some of the youth from the council had attended that event.
Facilitator Rush then introduced the local and guest presenters for the conference who all gave a short introduction of themselves and the workshops they would conduct.
After the rousing "ice breaker" by facilitator Rush, he introduced the keynote speakers Bobby Wilson and Kasey Nicholson.
Bobby Wilson: Wilson is Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota and is most famous for being a member of the five-piece comedy troupe "The 1491s." Bobby's work is heavily influenced by his Dakota heritage combined with a lifelong city upbringing. He lives in Minneapolis.
Wilson gave an often-humorous speech about Healing through Art. Wilson, with the aid of students, painted a mural the first two days outside the gym on a beautiful, warm sunny day.
Back in early January 2016, Wilson was a two-week Resident Artist at the Red Lake Middle School. He worked with students and staff to paint a large mural in the middle school's main hallway inspired from floral beadwork designs on Ojibwe shoulder bags from the 1800's. Wilson also helped students in the after school program Targeted Services, to complete a painting, on a refurbished bus stop.
Red Lake Middle School belongs to a network of Turnaround Arts schools across the country, that are using the arts to improve student learning,
Kasey Nicholson: Nicholson, a member of the Ah-ah-nii-nin (White Clay Nation) of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in north central Montana, is a Licensed Addiction Counselor, Comedian, Motivational Speaker, Emcee, and Wellness Educator. He says he has a passion for sharing, teaching, and creating positive change for Native youth.
Often walking through the isles and into the crowd, Nicholson's message advocated strongly for continued education focusing on self-esteem. He displayed his humor throughout the presentation, later playing the flute. He spoke of cultural identity issues, educational endeavors, spiritual awareness, cultural understanding, substance abuse awareness, and suicide prevention.
During the afternoon, two sessions of assorted workshops were conducted most to be replicated the following day. Some sessions were repeated several times so that participants could be involved with most if not all sessions.
Billed as a Community Variety Night and sponsored by the Red Lake Nation Youth Council and The Indian and Free Program, a variety show was held that evening at the Red Lake Humanities Center.
Entertainment and events of the evening included: Miikawaadizi (Be Beautiful) Fashion Show; Spoken Word Poet, Tenay Winder; Rap Artists Mic Jordan and Thomas X (Barrett); 1491's comedians Bobby Wilson and Kasey Nicholson; and hypnotist Robert Johnston.
Day Two Highlights: Thursday, May 5, 2016
After a prayer, a drum song by Red Creek drum group and conference up-dates, Rush introduced Anne Lundquist, Superintendent of Red Lake Schools who gave a welcome address.
The Key Note Speaker for Day 2 was Jeri Brunoe, of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon. Brunoe says she continues to educate herself with the changing trends in today's society and economy; however, her culture and traditions are the foundation of her work and lifestyle. Guest Speaker Michael Scott also addressed the youth.
During lunch each day, in order to encourage youth to fasten their seat belts, Red Lake Law Enforcement hosted the "Seat Belt Challenge" with School Resource Officer Richardson. Teams of four would get in a law enforcement truck, show their hands, and with a blast from an air horn, fasten then unfasten their seat belts, moving to each seat of the truck repeating the task again and again while being timed. Teams with the shortest times of buckling and unbuckling in each of the four seats, received prizes on the final day.
Lunch was followed by another round of afternoon workshops.
Youth Council Banquet
A Youth Conference Banquet began at 5:00 p.m., Thursday at Seven Clans Casino and Event Center. The menu included beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, vegetable and dessert.
Aided by the music and sound effects of Emcee One (Marcus Guinn), the banquet was facilitated by Chance Rush who warmed up the audience after dinner. He then introduced Bobby Wilson and Jeri Brunoe who performed a skit playing the part of elders on the way to powwow.
The evening closed out with door prizes won with tickets distributed to conferees that attended the various workshops.
Day Three Highlights: Friday, May 6, 2016
The day started at 9 am with a "grab and go" breakfast, followed by a General Assembly in the High School gym. Facilitator Rush provided a short welcome followed by a prayer and a song by the Red Creek drum group.
Rush then introduced guest speakers Jeri Brunoe (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) and Happy Frejo (Seminole/Pawnee) who tag teamed on a presentation entitled "Motivation."
As the 11th Annual Youth Leadership came to an end, a "Closing Circle" large enough to touch all edges of the gymnasium was formed by scores of students. Red Creek drum group played a traveling song while everyone shook hands in the "circle manner."
Following lunch, Red Lake High School Afternoon activities included the Seat Belt Challenge Finals, Skate Park Competition and a 3 on 3-basketball tournament.
Sessions & Guest Speakers
Chance Rush (Three Affiliated Tribes-Hidatsa) aided by Marcus Gwinn held a session billed simply as "Motivation." "As community leaders, we can encourage balance in others by being an example ourselves. Wellness is a gift that needs attention and commitment. It doesn't mean we won't have our frustrating moments, but we can accomplish anything we set our minds to by implementing our social, mental, physical and emotional greatness."
Other sessions by guest speakers included; "Walking the Red Road" with Reuben Crowfeather; "Walking Together in a Good Way," with Robert Johnston; "Cultural Identity," with Kasey Nicholson; "Healthy Relationships with Happy Frejo; "Healing through Art," with Bobby Wilson, and "Building Self-Esteem," with Jeri Brunoe.
Sessions By Red Lake Members/Professionals
"Moccasin Making" with Vickey Fineday and her mother Rose Cloud of Obaashiing, and "Jewelry Making" with Don Ziemann and Patty Stomberg, proved to be two popular workshops.
Other sessions conducted by Red Lake professionals included information on the "Red Lake Youth Council" hosted by Youth Council Members; "Making Good Choices Beyond School," with Rachel Donnell, and "Suicide Effects on Family and Prevention," with Jerome Lebeaux, Michael Peters and Jerald Cobenais. Cobenais, a member of the Red Lake Youth Council shared a very emotional and sad story about his experiences with tragedy, bullying and suicide. Cobenais told how ceremony contributed to his healing. Michael Peters also spoke of the pain of suicide of friends.
The impetus for the Youth Leadership Conference occurred after the formation of the Red Lake Nation Youth Council more than ten years ago. The group began looking for ways to teach leadership skills, and to celebrate the accomplishments of the Nation's youth academically and in other ways.
For More Information
For more information on the Youth Leadership Conference, call Marilyn Mountain: 218-679-1452 or Salena Beasley: 218-679-1543 or Tom Barrett 218-679-1545
The Red Lake Youth Program Says Chi-Miigwech to the following sponsors:
Red Lake Indian & Free Prevention Treatment Program
Red Lake Chemical Health Programs
Red Lake School District