Publish date:

'UNITY is magical'

Mary Kim Titla talks about UNITY, INC's 45 years of service to Native youth. And Mary Annette Pember shows us what it's like at sugarbush camp. Plus Richard Walker has more on a change the name effort in Washington state.

UNITY turns 45 this year. United National Indian Tribal Youth began in 1976 in Southwestern Oklahoma. J.R. Cook started with a handful of youth. It now has 325 local youth councils in 36 states. He retired in 2013. Joining us today is its executive director, Mary Kim Titla. She’s San Carlos Apache and a former journalist. 

The Ojibwe are rekindling the sugarbush as a means to not only collect healthy traditional food but also as a way to reconnect with the healing properties of subsistence activities. Our national correspondent, Mary Annette Pember went to two sugarbush camps this month to see the process. 

U.S. Army General William S. Harney led the killings of Sicangu Lakota men, women and children in Nebraska. Now there’s a movement to change the name of Harney Channel. Richard Walker, who is Mexican and Yaqui, joins us to talk about the effort to change the name. Read Richard’s story 'A bridge between cultures' on indiancountrytoday.com

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council says construction can not go ahead without the people’s consent.
  • Rick Santorum and CNN are coming under fire for racist and inaccurate comments made by Santorum. 
  • A health clinic is opening on the tribal lands of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians in Michigan.
  • A tremendous loss for the Tongva tribe in California with the death of an elder. 
  • Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk is helping build a skatepark for Tohono O'odham kids.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast

Some quotes from today's show.

Mary Kim Titla:

"It's quite amazing, we've had prominent people who have jobs now that are remarkable and I'm just going to name a few, Chaske Spencer, the actor and we're pretty proud of him for of course everyone knows him from the Twilight series. We have Arvo Mikkanen who is a US attorney in Oklahoma. And also in Oklahoma, Dr. Darrell Mease, Cherokee, who is a medical doctor and has his own family practice."

"We've had lots of tribal leaders Temet Aguilar, who is chairman of the Pauma band of Luiseno Indians in California. Vivian Juan-Saunders, who is in the Tohono O'odham Nation also on her tribal council. So yes, we have an amazing alumni, Dr. Pearl Yellowman who works for the Navajo Nation and has been a very prominent figure in their fight against COVID-19 this past year."

"Absolutely UNITY is magical. And I tell this story all the time. I tell people it's hard to describe UNITY because it's like going to Disneyland. You can talk to people all day long about Disneyland, but until they go there, they won't experience that magic. And that's exactly what UNITY is. It inspires hope and changes lives. And we have heard time and time again from people all over the country who say UNITY changed my life."

For more information, visit https://unityinc.org/

Richard Walker: 

"I don't believe that this specific channel has been the subject of an effort to change the name, but there have been several name changes in the region within the last 10, 20 years. The most recent being the name of a Bay on Shaw Island. One of the San Juan islands." 

"The name was changed from Squaw Bay to Reef Net Bay, which seemed to be more appropriate and more immediately relevant as well because it refers to a form of traditional fishing that originated in the San Juan islands and was actually considered a gift from the creator to the first people of the islands, which were the Lummi and Samish the Songish and others."

"My understanding is the proponents have placed a petition on change.org. And the last I looked, I think they had over 500 signatures. They got those in pretty short order in about a week. The proposal's going before the board of County commissioners in San Juan County for approval or support. And then it's on the agenda, I believe in May or June before the state committee on geographic names. If it's approved by the state committee on geographic names, that will go before the state board geographic names for approval. And then the name change, I believe, would take effect."

ICT logo bridge

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Mary Annette Pember, citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is national correspondent for Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @mapember. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.