Native Youth Giving Back
by Chuck Harper
One of the networks I work alongside of in my role as the national coordinator for Native American youth ministry was recently featured in the Navajo Times.
'A Group with a Heart'
Northern youth organize to improve their communities
By Cindy Yurth
SHIPROCK, Dec. 3, 2010
(Times photo - Cindy Yurth)
The Northern Diné Youth Committee puts together Navajo tacos Tuesday for a food sale to raise money to send representatives to the New Mexico Youth Practitioner Summit this weekend.
While the Navajo Nation has been agonizing endlessly about what to do for its youth, the youth, it seems, have been quietly organizing themselves.
And guess what? They want to know what THEY can do for YOU.
Meet the Northern Diné Youth Committee, 20-plus teens and 20-somethings who have one common goal: to make Northern Navajo a better place to live.
Since this spring, they've been meeting twice a week and organizing activities like woodcutting for the elderly, which will continue throughout the winter, and talking circles for teens.
"We started out as the Shiprock Youth Committee," explained Graham Beyale, one of the founding members. "But we started to realize the people who were coming were from all over - as far away as Teec Nos Pos and Red Valley."
On the agenda for this month: Elect officers for each of the five regions they've divided the agency into, and send representatives to the 2010 New Mexico Youth Practitioner Summit in Albuquerque.
Next month: Write a resolution naming the committee as a resource for the chapters, and circulate it to all 20 chapters in the agency.
The NDYC gets a lot done, but its main focus, Beyale said, is to be "a group with a heart."
"When we have our meetings, we don't just rush through the agenda," Beyale said. "We start every meeting with a question, to make sure we don't lose our focus."
This week's question, for example, was, "What do you expect from NDYC?"
The group is also developing a mission statement.
"At our last meeting, we spent about two hours discussing it," Beyale said. "And - this is not religious or anything - the bottom line we came up with is, 'We love each other.'
"I know it sounds cheesy. Even me, if I were to hear someone say that, I'd think, 'That's really cheesy.' But that's what we came up with. And we really mean it. That's the base of all our community service."
To the adults who have worked with and observed the group, it doesn't sound cheesy at all.
"They're impressive," said Dwayne Manus, who runs the Healing Circle Drop-In Center where the NDYC meets. "I'm a believer in historical trauma as something that is holding our people and our youth back.
Historical trauma leaves many people paralyzed by despair, unable to initiate the steps needed to better life for themselves or even their loved ones, "so for Diné kids to say, 'This is our voice, these are our concerns, these are our wishes and wants,' it's jaw-dropping," Manus said.