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Native youth report places spotlight on young leaders, issues

The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) released its unique annual report Nov. 16. CNAY is an initiative of the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute.

The 2018 “State of Native Youth Report – Generation Indigenous,” is meant to highlight young Native leaders who are working on programs and initiatives across the country for their respective tribal nations.

The report also seeks to focus on policy issues that impact their lives individually, as well as their families and community – like climate change.

“From Barrow, Alaska, to the Everglades in Florida, indigenous communities have experienced climate change,” the report states. “Seasons are coming at different dates, often lasting longer and creating harsher elements. These changes impact plants, when and if they will grow, as well as animal migration, mating, and hibernation seasons.”

Health and wellness topics as it relates to Native youth are also a big focus of the report. For example, the report states that Native adolescents are 30 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be obese.

Citing the Indian Health Services Special Diabetes Program for Indians report to Congress, the data states that the implications of obesity include high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – the leading cause of death among Native American populations and a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Other health and wellness topics are covered, too, including substance abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault, and behavioral health.

The report also provides a compilation of information from community meetings that took place throughout the year with youth and service providers about priorities and solutions on a host of other issues affecting Native youth.

The theme of the 2018 report is “Generation Indigenous,” or “Gen-I.” Gen-I was an initiative launched in 2014 by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

As part of the initiative, CNAY then launched the Gen-I “National Native Youth Network,” a growing national platform to “connect and amplify Native youth leaders and their movements for positive change.”

There are about 2,000 Native youth who are involved in Gen-I, including from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The initiative has also launched its first “Gen-I Creative Native art competition” this year.

“As Native youth promote wellness in their communities and tackle serious disparities in health, education, and economic opportunity, they continue to affirm the resilience of indigenous peoples and their communities,” organizers said in a statement.

“We’re proud to present the State of Native Youth report as a resource and roadmap to help decrease barriers and increase opportunity for Native youth,” the statement concluded.

Those who are interested in learning more can access the full report online at or by emailing Aaron Slate of the Aspen Institute at


Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at

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