Band Members Encouraged to Apply to First Ever Tribal Youth Gathering


Toya Stewart-DowneyMille Lacs Band Member 

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is hosting the state’s first-ever tribal youth gathering, an idea that was presented to the Governor by Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin during one of the summits he holds with tribal leaders each year.

Melanie suggested to the Governor that he model the state event after the national effort that came from President Barack Obama’s initiative, which he started with Native youth during his second term in office. 

To help with the planning, the Governor convened a youth steering committee, which includes two youth ambassadors from the Band – Amanda Leigh Eagle and Roxann Emerson.

Both Amanda and Roxann will help with planning the day-long event, along with about 20 other Native youth delegates representing the 11 Tribal Nations in Minnesota and Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public Schools Youth Councils. State agency leaders and community partners will assist with the efforts of the Youth Steering Committee.

The event, geared toward youth ages 14-24, is designed to focus on community-building and developing leadership skills.

To qualify for the July 27 gathering, the young people must first complete the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Challenge. The Gen-I Challenge is a pledge from Native American youth to make a positive difference in their communities. The deadline to complete the challenge is June 30.

“Working together with tribal, state, civic, and business leaders, we can help prepare the next generation of young leaders to tackle the important challenges facing Native communities in Minnesota,” said Governor Dayton. “I encourage Native American youth from across Minnesota to participate in the Gen-I Native Youth Challenge and Tribal Youth Gathering.”

Besides bringing together youth, tribal and state leaders, civic and business leaders, and educational organizations, the gathering will recognize and amplify the work the youth are already doing in their communities.

“We hope to have 200 to 300 Native youth from all 11 tribes across the state,” said Laura Cederberg, the Governor’s Assistant Chief of Staff. “We wanted to use President Obama’s model and bring it to Minnesota.” 

Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative was created in 2014 to improve the lives of Native American youth through new investments and increased engagement. Known as Gen-I, the initiative promoted a national dialogue and supported programs and policies that both mobilize and cultivate the next generation of Native leaders.

 Some of the topics that will be addressed during the July 27 gathering include culture, education, history, sovereignty, language preservation, engagement, and public leadership development.

The gathering, which will be held at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, is designed to empower youth to help them develop skills and the tools needed to serve as advocates for themselves and their communities.

 Khaloni Freemont, a member of the youth steering committee, said that the youth can be the leaders in breaking barriers and building better futures for their communities. 

“Ojibwe and Dakota communities in Minnesota have long faced persistent disparities in educational, economic, and health outcomes. Overcoming these challenges will require all us to work together and share our best ideas,” Khaloni said.

Take the Challenge

To apply to attend the Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering, follow the steps below:

CHALLENGE – Fill out the form at to tell us what issues you want to address and how you plan to tackle them. Taking the Challenge makes you part of the Gen-I National Native Youth Network and serves as your application for the Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering. Becoming an Ambassador makes you eligible for exclusive leadership opportunities beyond the Tribal Youth Gathering.
Both steps are required to apply for the event and must be completed by June 30, 2018. On the Gen-I Challenge Form, select option C and use invitation code “MTYG” to apply for the event.

ACT – Within 30 days of taking the challenge, youth should work with other youth in their community or at their school to do something positive. Tribal youth councils, urban tribal youth groups, or other Native youth organizations can also be helpful resources to help determine plans.

CAPTURE –Youth should document their Gen-I efforts on the Challenge form, through a short summary. Those youth who have already been part of positive change in their community, can use that activity to take the Challenge. They can share photos or videos of their work. For those who have questions or need inspiration, email The Center for Native American Youth at

SHARE – Youth should share their stories online using #MTYG and #IAmGenI, tagging @genindigenous on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter.

The deadline to complete the challenge is June 30.