Last week, folks from a broad range of diverse backgrounds came together at the White House to discuss a common goal: improving the lives of Native youth. Over a hundred nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, tribal leaders, Native youth, and members of the President’s Cabinet joined the dialogue. We heard devastating stories and statistics from young people and research experts about the high rates of unemployment, domestic violence, and homelessness in many Native communities.
But, we also heard stories of hope. Nonprofit, philanthropic, federal agency, and tribal leaders discussed the work they are doing to create opportunities for Native young people to use their intellect and perseverance to achieve great things. Native youth shared stories about strengthening their communities through public service and community engagement. Members of the President’s Cabinet described the importance of new Federal investments in education, health, and economic development in Indian Country.
The First Lady provided remarks and talked about her visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation last June. She described her visit with the President to Cannon Ball, North Dakota—part of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation—and the pride, courage, determination, and maturity she witnessed there. And, with those ideals in mind, she noted both the urgency and value of investing in Native youth.
“So we all need to work together to invest deeply—and for the long-term—in these young people, both those who are living in their tribal communities like T.C. and those living in urban areas across this country. These kids have so much promise—and we need to ensure that they have every tool, every opportunity they need to fulfill that promise,” the First Lady said.
The First Lady also discussed how she and President Obama invited the kids that they had met on their visit to Cannon Ball to come to the White House. In November of 2014, the President and First Lady brought the kids to Washington, showed them around the White House, and took them out for pizza and burgers. The First Lady recalled that one young female attendee said of her visit to Washington: “This visit saved my life.”
And, that is what First Lady Michelle Obama told those gathered for the convening: Investing in Indian Country will save lives.
“So if we take a chance on these young people, I guarantee you that we will save lives. I guarantee it,” she said.
Though we may be successful separately, we know that we are stronger together. That’s where Generation Indigenous comes in. Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, is a new initiative focused on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed. That’s what the convening was all about. As we look forward, we are excited about the opportunity for young people, tribal leaders, the Federal government, non-profit agencies, and philanthropies to build on the President’s launch of Generation Indigenous.
Check out the rest of the White House Blog to see some of the attendees from the Generation Indigenous who convened at the White House.