GRIC Youth Leaders Attend White House Tribal Youth Forum
Gila River Indian News
Three youth leaders from the Gila River Indian Community attended the third annual White House Tribal Youth Forum, on Nov. 6, in Washington D.C.
Akimel O’odham/Pee Posh Youth Council (AOPPYC) president Junior Pancott – District 2, United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) Earth Ambassador Evelyn Enos – District 4, and UNITY Pacific Area Representative Sineca Jackson – District 3, attended the forum for the first time. Both Pancott and Enos currently serve on the AOPPYC, while Jackson is a former AOPPYC president.
“The forum provided a unique platform for President Biden’s Administration to hear directly from our Gila River youth and 150 plus Native youth about their priorities and the incredible contributions they are making in their tribal communities,” said Greg Mendoza, UNITY Youth Programs Director. Topics discussed included climate resiliency, mental health, cultural preservation, Indian Child Welfare Act and Boarding Schools.
In 2021, the forum began under the Biden-Harris Administration to create dialogue around key policies and issues that Native American youth face in and around their tribal communities. It also features high-level administration officials, special guests and critical discussions among the youth.
“The White House Tribal Youth Forum was definitely such an amazing event to take part in,” said Sineca Jackson, “There was so much discussion from the youth in attendance on topics ranging from climate change to mental health. I really loved the amount of intimate and personal dialogue there was on these topics, not only through the panelist, but also between all of us in attendance.”
The event began with a reception, round dance, and cultural jam to showcase the many traditions, at the National Museum of the American Indian.
“Hearing from Indigenous youth across Turtle Island showed me that there are youth out there looking at the same issues I am, who feel the same way,” said Evelyn Enos. She shared that there were five youth in attendance, who represented their Indigenous communities in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil and Canada, who also shared their experiences with policies of their nations and “how changing attitudes are affecting their futures of protecting their sovereignty,” said Enos.
She added, “The struggles that we all feel when it comes to reflecting on the past traumas that live through us brought to light so many possible solutions that we can help implement in our communities - for example, shifting focus from the current fossil fuels and investing is sustainable energy can further help Indigenous communities to keep our biodiversity and ancestral ecosystem alive.”
“I have not attended this event before, but I have attended many events where I feel so empowered as a young Indigenous woman,” said Jackson, “I feel that events like this are so vital within our Indigenous communities because our youth are our future and from what I have witnessed at the White House Tribal Youth Forum is that the future of our communities are in great hands.”