Tribes Urge Youth to Step Up as Leaders


Indian country leaders, like former Navajo Nation president Peterson Zah, worry about Native American youth leading the next generation into modern times, reported The Arizona Republic.

Tribal leaders across Indian reservations are mired in corruption charges as they push for greater sovereignty, backed by the U.S. government.

Zah worries how Native Americans can groom youth leaders and instill qualities of “civility, service and integrity” without positive role models.

On the Navajo reservation, the tribal government is mired in corruption charges. The tribe’s next president, Ben Shelly faces accusations of conspiracy, fraud and theft, according to USA Today. If current Vice President Shelly is convicted after the Jan. 11 inauguration, he could be removed as chief executive. In such an event, Shelly’s next in line, vice presidential running-mate Rex Lee Jim, would oversee the Dine government. But Jim’s charges in the theft of tribal discretionary funds likely bars him, upon conviction, from assuming the position.

"I was just agonizing over this," said Zah, 73, who retired last month to advocate youth leadership on the Navajo reservation. "The only thing you can say is, 'That's one example of what we need to correct. We're training you to be different.' "

McClellan "Mac" Hall, director and founder of the New Mexico-based National Indian Youth Leadership Project, thinks indigenous teens can overcome “historical trauma” and socio-economic barriers like poverty, drug abuse and crime.

"We're trying to look past that and make a more positive future,” Hall told The Arizona Republic.

Dwayne Lopez, 25, youth council manager on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona, blames dysfunctional homes. Youth repeat the failures of parents, he told USA Today. He wants to break the pattern.

“I want to become chairman of my reservation one day,” he told USA Today. “Always remember who you are and keep your himdag—what we call culture—within you.”