Olympian Billy Mills honors 10 Native youth $10,000 grantees at Dreamstarters ceremony

Photo: Native youth Dreamstarters Carl Petersen, Cheyenne River Sioux and Kevin Belin, Navajo hold up a prized Pendleton blanket honoring Billy Mills. Mills was speaking in the background and thanking the crowd for honoring Native youth. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)

Vincent Schilling

Mills: ‘On October 14, 1964, I laid footprints on Mother Earth that forever altered my life. That moment was a gift, and Patricia and I wanted to give back.’

Gold medal-winning Olympian Billy Mills, Lakota, hosted his fifth annual Dreamstarters closing ceremony on Tuesday night in Alexandria Virginia just outside of Washington D.C. to wrap up a four-day Dreamstarter Academy in which Native youth — who were awarded 10,000 grants to pursue their dreams — were honored and wrapped with an official Billy Mills-designed Pendleton blanket.

This is the fifth year celebrating dreams and aspirations of 10 Native youth from the ages of 14-30 years-old in the Dreamstarter’s ‘Running Strong for American Indian Youth,’ an organization championed by Billy Mills.

Billy Mills Dreamstarters - Photo Vincent Schilling (4)
The 2018-2019 Dreamstarters: Front row (left to right) Carl Petersen, Cheyenne River Sioux; David Fraser, Oglala Lakota; Hope Gamble, Navajo; Taylor Eddie, Navajo; Joshua Smith, Osage; and Kevin Belin, Navajo. Back row (left to right) Jacob Crane, Tsuut’ina Nation; Aukea Ka’aekuahiwi, Hawaiian; Olympian Billy Mills, Lakota; Parrish Pipestem, Eastern Band of Cherokee; and Freddy Gipp, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)

For the past five years, Native youth have applied annually for the chance to be awarded $10,000 in support of fulfilling their dreams affecting Indian Country. The work does not have to occur within the confines of a reservation and each year the applicants needed to apply while adhering to a theme. This years' 2018-19 theme was entrepreneurship. Each year 10 applicants were awarded grants.

At the event on Tuesday, Mills expressed his reason for contributing to the livelihoods of Native youth and to the Dreamstarters program.

“On October 14, 1964, I laid footprints on Mother Earth that forever altered my life. That moment was a gift, and Patricia and I wanted to give back. We decided to take one of the virtues and values of tribal nations, in this case the Lakota, we took the virtue of the giveaway and made our own life, a lifetime giveaway.”

Billy Mills Dreamstarters - Photo Vincent Schilling (1)
Billy Mills addresses a full room in Alexandria. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)

After prayers, thanks and honor songs, Steve Hill, Tuscarora, sang and offered each of the youth eagle feathers.

Several of the youth offered comments to Indian Country Today about the closing ceremony as well as the four-day academy in which youth learned how to coordinate their efforts, work with mentors, and best practices on moving their dreams forward.

Jacob Crane, Tsuut’ina Nation, said “This was a great honor. It didn’t seem like a conference at all. It was more like a ceremony. It was a good cultural experience mixing tradition and helping us toward our goals. It was like a prayer.”

Freddy Gipp, who in addition to becoming a Dreamstarter was named a “25 Under 25 Native Youth Leaders” by United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) said ‘This was a great experience. I want Indian Country to know how to utilize powwows as economic opportunities… I truly feel this is a dream come true to have this opportunity, I feel fortunate, grateful and blessed.”

Hope Gamble, Dine’, who is seeking to tell Navajo creation stories through comics, said she was also appreciative for the opportunity. “This is such a great way to help publicize what I am doing. If it wasn’t for Dreamstarters, I might only be able to publicize my work to my own school about it. With the grant, it can go out further in the public. My end goal is to teach more of my culture.”

Billy Mills Dreamstarters - Photo Vincent Schilling (3)
Hope Gamble, 14 and Taylor Eddie, 16 both from the Navajo Nation, take a moment for smiles at the Dreamstarters closing ceremony. (Photo: Vincent Schilling) 

At the evenings’ end, Billy Mills draped blankets over the shoulders of the Native youth.

For more information about Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and Dreamstarters visit http://indianyouth.org/2019dreamstarters.

STAY TUNED: A video interview with gold medal Olympian Billy Mills by Vincent Schilling

The full list of 2018-2019 Dreamstarters as listed on the IndianYouth.org website are as follows:


Kevin Belin, Navajo Nation
29, Crownpoint, NM, Diné Language Teachers Association

Kevin’s dream is to help teachers revitalize and strengthen comprehension and communication of the Navajo language. Through his initiative, Hashké - Hozhó Design & Collaborative, he will create culturally relevant educational materials for the modern classroom and distribute them throughout his nation.

Jacob Crane, Tsuut’ina Nation
29, Provo, UT, Salt Lake City Air Protectors

Jacob’s dream is to empower young Indigenous people through video storytelling. His media production company, Arrow’s Journey Indigenous Initiative, will create a series of videos that inspire Native youth by telling the stories of other young, successful Native people. He will also create an internship opportunity for youth to gain experience in film.

Taylor Eddie, Navajo Nation
16, Spanish Fork, UT, Nebo Title VI Indian Education

Taylor’s dream is to introduce students to agriculture as a business. She plans to expand her farm with gardens and animals, & teach youth in her community about animal husbandry, the basics of business management, and the importance of agriculture to Native communities

David Fraser, Oglala Lakota
25, Kyle, SD, Oyate Teca Project

David’s dream is to build and open his own tire repair business in Kyle, following the footsteps of his great grandfather. His business will make these repair services more accessible in his community.

Hope Gamble, Navajo Nation
14, Nazlini, AZ, Capacity Builders, Inc.

Hope’s dream is to use her artwork to encourage youth and help them understand Navajo culture in a new way. She will create comic strips about Navajo creation stories that address issues faced by youth in her community. She will sell them at local gas stations & grocery stores and will hold art workshops in local elementary schools.

Freddy Gipp, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
25, Lawrence, KS, UNITY (United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc)

Freddy’s dream is to provide communities the opportunity to engage in cultural programming as a means of increasing their economic and social impacts. His business, Lead Horse, LLC, established the Powwow+ program to help communities bring in revenue by hosting powwows. He will use this grant to help launch the 2nd Annual Young Professionals Powwow+ Trade Show and Convention.

Aukea Ka’aekuahiwi, Native Hawaiian
16, Kapaau, HI, Kahua Pa’a Mua, Inc

Aukea’s dream is to bring traditional foods to his community and engage youth in traditional food production. He will expand his business, the Swine Project, by building the infrastructure necessary to produce and sell traditional pork products. He will use and teach youth ancestral methods of meat preservation, and make this infrastructure accessible to youth who have similar interests in animal husbandry and supplying Kohala with traditional foods.

Carl Petersen, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
20, Parade, SD, The Keya Foundation

Carl’s dream is to operate a video game design studio on Cheyenne River and produce video games by and for Native people. They will create a game that allows players to construct a traditional Lakota tipi, with instructions and stories in Lakota. They will provide the game to schools as a tool to engage youth in learning the Lakota language and culture.

Parrish Pipestem, Eastern Band of Cherokee
15, Tulsa, OK, Eastern Band of Cherokee Enterprise Development

Parrish’s dream is to expand his business by investing in infrastructure that will streamline his business process and in social media marketing tools. He will also use his grant to invest in other young entrepreneurs and attend training to further develop his entrepreneurial skills.

Joshua Smith, Osage Nation
29, Portsmouth, VA, Art Maker

Joshua’s dream is to create a Native-owned, socially-conscious coffee roasting company. He will partner with existing Osage Nation organizations to distribute and sell the coffee. He plans to allocate a portion of the gross profits to education, hunger relief, and substance abuse prevention programs within the Osage Nation.

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com