Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation
EAGLE BUTTE –Citizens of Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Great Britain, El Salvador, and the United States attended the Global Indigenous Youth Summit (GIYS) at YMCA Camp Marrowbone in Marksville, SD, near Dupree on August 16 – 19, 2023. The YMCA of the Seven Council Fires (YSCF) in Dupree sponsored the Summit.
According to the YSCF website, “The Global Indigenous Youth Summit is a conference designed to create a safe environment for indigenous and under-represented youth. Founded in understanding, compassion, and trust, it connects and provides youth with a safe place to share their stories. GIYS helps indigenous youth expand their worldview through listening to the success of others, empowers them to develop solution-based approaches to the inequities they face, and builds a community on a global scale.”
Dana Dupris from Red Scaffold, SD, retired Tribal Preservation Officer for the Cheyenne River Lakota, opened sessions with traditional Lakota prayers and taught Lakota language sessions. Campers offered prayers for Indigenous people of Hawaii who have recently been impacted by devastating wildfires.
Ijah Coyle, a Wilmen Nyoongar Man from Western Australia, is the Southwest Program Co-Ordinator for the Stephen Michael Foundation and attended the GIYS. “I would like to again thank the Elders of the Lakota people for inviting and welcoming us onto their land, it is an honor and privilege to sit, listen and learn from them,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time over there. … I think it is important for our youth to learn of and from other countries’ first nation people …. It is powerful to see our future generations grow, and if they can learn from one another then this world is going to continue to grow together.”
Keynote speakers for the Summit included Starr Chief Eagle (Sicangu Lakota), an artist, performer, educator, and cultural interpreter. She conducted interactive sessions teaching campers the traditional Lakota Hoop Dance she learned from her father and her uncle. When she spoke, she challenged common negative stereotypes that harm people with Indigenous heritage.
“I appreciated the opportunity to share my culture and story at the 2023 Global Indigenous Youth Summit,” said Chief Eagle. “This event was a well-needed experience for the youth. It exposed all the participants to world views, stories, and cultures.”
Another keynote speaker was Stephen Michael, an Australian aboriginal sports superstar and founder and patron of the Stephen Michael Foundation, which introduces children of all races and abilities to a wide variety of sport. A member of the Noongar Nation of Australian Aboriginal Peoples, Michael came to the Summit accompanied by his wife Marie, two of the staff of the Foundation, and two of his granddaughters.
After the Summit, Stephen and Marie Michael commented, “What a great experience we had! The location for the summit (Camp Marrowbone) was an excellent one, a natural setting with a beautiful river and the weather was very kind to us. Meeting the Indigenous people was extremely interesting and enjoyable. Learning some of the culture and experiencing the food which was prepared for us was very enjoyable for all. We all commented on the knowledgeable, friendly, and outgoing nature of the people we were with. … thank you to everyone involved in this very successful event…. our Foundation would be more than willing participants (in future Summits).”
A third keynote speaker was Amós Rodriguez, an Indigenous native of El Salvador in Central America. Rodriguez shared his powerful personal story of surviving a civil war in his childhood. This childhood experience, while traumatizing, enhanced his urban and wilderness survival and awareness skills. Rodriguez credits the Sundance Ceremony of the Oglala Lakota Sioux which he says reinforced the pillars in which his spiritual life and practice are based.
Ryan Bean attended the Summit and discussed the complex issue of Indigenous people as sports mascots with implications for the Summit attendees. Bean is the Reference and Outreach Archivist for the Kautz Family YMCA Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries and the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent publication is titled Inappropriation: The Contested Legacy of Y-Indian Guides.
Bean commented, “The presenters generously shared their culture and perspective. It certainly caused me to think about what is possible (for the future of the GIYS).”
Pete Stahlbrand, Family Camp Director for the YSCF, said, “The organization is extremely happy with the way the GIYS went this year. We got another event off the ground.”
According to Stahlbrand, the first GIYS was held in 2019 but was then suspended due to the COVID epidemic. Stahlbrand came to Dupree to be the Family Camp Director at the YSCF in September 2022 after serving for a number of years at other YMCA programs. The Board immediately gave him the task of planning and organizing the second GIYS in August 2023.
Brittany Brooks, the Associate Executive Director at the YSCF, attended the GIYS and said “…I was so amazed at watching different indigenous populations come together and celebrate and learn with each other. The keynote speakers and breakout sessions were top notch and very enjoyable!”
Mark Barron, Chief of Staff of the YSCF, said, “Everyone can contribute to the success of future summits by helping us get the word out (about the Summit) to your friends and family across the globe. We want representation of as many indigenous peoples as possible.” He added that if readers want to contribute to future summits, either by being a part of next year’s planning committee or by donating time or resources to help make the next summit even more impactful, they can contact him at email@example.com.
Stahlbrand says that for the foreseeable future the annual Summit will continue to be located at Camp Marrowbone, although the location of the GIYS may eventually rotate to other venues. The Board is planning to break ground this year for a new Dining Hall at Camp Marrowbone with a capacity to serve up to 200 campers at each meal.
The total cost of providing the GIYS is approximately $300 per camper, but Stahlbrand emphasized that the generosity of donors makes it possible for campers to attend the event whatever their ability to donate. “The cost of providing the GIYS is no barrier to families who do not have the financial means to pay the expenses.” He reported that the YSCF offers many programs and services at no cost to the children, youth and families that participate.
He also stressed that the focus and the target group for the programming of the GIYS is 14 – 25-year-olds, but anyone of any age who wishes to attend and participate is welcome.
The YMCA of the Seven Council Fires is the only YMCA in the United States operating on a Native American reservation and provides many services and events for families on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Its board is majority Lakota.
Personal interview and email correspondence with Pete Stahlbrand
Email correspondence with Ryan Bean, Starr Chief Eagle, Stephen and Marie Michael, Mark Barron, Ijah Coyle
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