Students participating in team building activities at the Today's Native Leaders Training. (UNITY Inc.)
Students participating in team building activities at the Today's Native Leaders Training.

Native Youth Convene to Plan Community Service Projects with UNITY


Sixty Native youth leaders came together in St. Paul, Minnesota, last month to brainstorm community service projects.

The youth from tribes across the country were joined by their advisors at the Intercontinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel. The occasion was initiated by the nonprofit UNITY, or United National Indian Tribal Youth.

RELATED: YES! National Center Uplifts New Generation of Young Native Entrepreneurs With UNITY

The event, called Today's Native Leaders (TNL), was hosted partnership with the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The free TNL training focused on culturally relevant leadership development, included curriculum promoting team building activities, action planning and event promotion, developing community service projects, and "How to create a UNITY youth council." Several UNITY youth leaders served as youth facilitators and peer trainers.

Navajo students sharing their culture to recognize UNITY's 40th Birthday. (UNITY Inc.)

Tribal groups and individuals represented at the UNITY TNL Training included:

    •    Hardrock Community Youth - Kykotsmovi, Arizona
    •    Ain Dah Yung (Our Home) Center - St. Paul, Minnesota
    •    Native Youth Coalition of Cass Lake-Bena - Cass Lake, Minnesota
    •    Trek North Jr and Sr High School - Bemidji, Minnesota
    •    Little Earth of United Tribes Youth Council - Minneapolis, Minnesota
    •    Lower Sioux - Morton, Minnesota
    •    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe - Various communities, Minnesota
    •    Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, Owyhee, Nevada
    •    Seneca Nation Native Connections - Salamanca, New York
    •    Lac Courte Oreilles Youth Council - Hayward, Wisconsin

The training was led by renowned youth leadership trainers Robert Johnston, Choctaw, and Marcus Guinn, Osage andPotawatomie, and peer facilitators Nataanii Hatathlie, Navajo and Leslie Locklear, Lumbee. "The 'Today's Native Leader's' Program in Minnesota was so much more than a training! It was a breath of fresh air, a re-invigoration! There is nothing more powerful than seeing Native youth on fire to change their communities!” said Locklear.

"The Today's Native Leaders training provided a sense of growth and renewal for our young people to effectively lead their community service projects upon returning home. Leslie and I could not be more impressed with everyone's dedication and effort. The results of the project presentations on the final day showed a shining sense of excitement to take action for change,” said Hatathlie.

Students share their culture at the Today's Native Leaders Training. (UNITY Inc.)

Youth participant Marco Ovando, Shoshone-Paiute, added, ”This past weekend has really opened my eyes to what Native youth can accomplish together. The people were extremely welcoming and helped make this weekend so special to me! The Today’s Native Leaders program, in my opinion, is a program EVERY Native youth should take part in."

Future Trainings

The TNL initiative will offer tribal youth leadership training in other regions over the next year-and-a-half. Future trainings have been scheduled for Alaska and California in 2016; and Massachusetts in 2017. The trainings will expand the number of UNITY youth councils and youth-led community service projects.


Established 40 years ago, UNITY—United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc.—is a national organization promoting personal development, citizenship, and leadership among tribal youth. UNITY is composed of 160 affiliated youth councils in 36 states, sponsored by tribes, Alaska Native villages, high schools, colleges, and urban Native centers.

For more information or an application for future trainings, call Lynnann Yazzie at (480) 718-9793 or email her at [email protected]. For information about UNITY go to

This project was supported by 2013-TY-FX-K008 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page