We have powerful voices and stories that need to be heard. Check out the stories below from youth throughout Indian Country and be sure to share your story today!
Khani Priest SanPoil and Arrow Lakes, age 17, is from Washington .Khani is passionate about supporting her friends. I wanted to share my graduation speech:
Hello good morning, my name is Khani Priest. I am SanPoil and Arrow Lakes. My mom is Khristy Covington. My dad is Monte Priest. My maternal grandpa is Leo Covington. My maternal grandma is Marilyn Denise Covington. My paternal grandpa is Tex Priest. My paternal grandma is Donna Jane. Before I began, are there any kids here who live on the reservation? Lets hear you. Good, now I want to dedicate my speech to you all. So listen carefully.
My life has been full of struggles; since I was born to the present. I have experienced the effects of alcohol on a family. I have experienced the effects of drug abuse on a family. I have survived the violent yelling matches and fights between parents. I was raised by only my mother after age eight. I grew up living in four different houses in four different areas.
I started at Lake Roosevelt High school my ninth grade year. Before that I went to Omak Middle School, and I went to Paschal Sherman Indian School for my elementary years. I went through one of my biggest challenges so far when I lost my grandma towards the end of my eighth grade year and I was never the same. She was my best friend and my greatest role model. My ninth grade year was tough. I was suffering from depression and had no one to lean on. I came really close to committing suicide. I then lost my dad in August of 2017, right before my senior year began. I know many of you including my fellow classmates have faced similar challenges. I am reaching out to all of you today, and I am going to try and make you understand that life is worth living. Your education is worth striving for. Life will get better; the trial will pass, and you will come out on top. I know this from experience. I can assure you, you are not alone. Reach out to me, your family, or friends. Share your story with one person; one single person can make a difference in your life. Know that you're not as weak or timid as you might think. You have had the, strength to survive this long, there is no use to throw that precious time away. You are loved by someone and you have the strength and courage to face all your challenges. We, as Native Americans and young people, are made to persevere.
I am talking to you not only as salutatorian of my class, but also as a Native American student who has carved her own path. Everyone up here, behind me today has gone or is going through their own trials. We are still here, which means we are still fighting. We will continue to fight until we succeed. I, along with the rest of this class, will show you youngsters how it's done and we will set the example and prove anything is possible. I challenge all of you to face down your trials and walk/run/jog your path courageously. I will also leave you with a secret; you are not alone. You have people encouraging you from the sidelines, whether you know it or not and I will be· the first to admit, I am cheering you on.
Thank you for listening. And thank you for coming to celebrate our milestone with us today. Limlimt.
I don't look like a native. So when I tell people I am Cherokee they act surprised. There were alot of people around me that were negative about it. They would wonder why the culture was important to me if i was "barely" Indian. It was starting to get to me. I thought to myself I am Indian. It was the culture I grew up learning about at home, it inspired my personal style and my outlook on life. When I went into college I changed who I surrounded myself with...people who were positive and liked me for who I was. I started to realize that nobody knew myself better than I did, and in my heart I felt Indian; nobody could take that away from me and no one will. I know my family history and I'm proud of it. I am proud to be a part of a culture and a people that has endured so much. "If you have one drop of Indian blood in you, then you are an Indian." Cheif Black Elk.
-Lacey Bowles (Cherokee), age 22, is from Kansas and is passionate about her animals :)
When my grandma makes fry bread and asks me to help her, I go to the big bowl of flour and run my fingers through the soft, silky white flour. I see her
come back with a pot of warm water; I put my hands in, feeling how soft it is one last time until she pours in the water. I start mixing with my hands;
at first it feels almost gooey and slippery. As I keep mixing, it turns really sticky until my grandma has to add some more flour to the mixture. I
look down at it; it looks really soft and a little bit lumpy on the top, and has a very light beige color to it. I’m a little sad I have to take my
hands out…. But I do. My grandma gets a lid from under the sink and lets it sit for about 15 minutes.
When my grandma uncovers it, it smells like dirt after it rains. She takes a small piece, kneading it until it gets a little bigger than her palm.
She then starts flipping it back and forth on her hands in circular motions. I stand next to her watching; every time she flips it, I can still
smell the scent of rain, as a slight breeze goes across my face. As she does that, she asks me to get the lard and a frying pan, and to heat up
the pan with some lard in it. I do as she says; when the dough is ready to be put in, I can hear the crackling sounds of the grease. When she puts
in the dough, she leaves it until the bottom of it turns into a crispy golden brown; as it cooks, I can smell it cooking into perfection. When
it’s done she comes back and slowly flips it on the other side; as she does it, the scent gets stronger.
When it’s done, she takes it out, carefully putting it in a bowl while making some more. I tear off a small piece. I hold it in my hand, feeling the warmth on my skin; I take a bite, feeling how soft it is on the inside and how crispy it is on the outside. When she’s done making all the fry bread, the whole family comes to the table, waiting to be dished out some mutton stew with a piece of fry bread. Everyone is laughing, talking, smiling, and having such a nice time. Even the smallest things like making meals can make everyone so happy.
-Lauralyn (Navajo), age 14, is from Sawmill AZ and is passionate about volleyball, and frybread :) I love BTS. I have a best friend named Maddie.
I go to school at St Michaels Indian School and I have three cats Pepper, JoJo and Bonnie.
The most revolutionary week of my life, the days I grew the most, was at Standing Rock. I had the chance to watch the grandmothers laugh together, the babies run and play around their tipis, and all of our men sing together at the sacred fire. I felt so proud to be indigenous, and I knew that I would do anything to protect and lead my people when it's time. I learned to love my roots and who I am, and I was blessed to have the ability to learn how to act as an integral part of my community.
-Lexine Salazar Tsalagi (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Anikwi Clan), age 18, is from Denver, Colorado and is passionate about being a protector, prayer
woman, and young leader for my people.
Growing up, I was that shy kid who kept to myself and was terrified to speak in front of the class during presentations or to introduce myself. I used to think that I didn't matter or my voice couldn't be heard. But after attending the Futures for Children Youth Leadership Summit in ABQ, New Mexico I learned to break out of my shell, talk more, and find my voice. I had the opportunity to talk with other youth around my age, learn about other cultures besides my own, make new friends, and gain the knowledge on how to become a leader. By listening to the different Native American guest speakers, participating in the workshops, and getting involved, I found that we as native youth did matter, had our own voices, and have the power to make a difference. Seeing all of the problems that go on in my tribe, I want to get my voice heard, along with other youth to help make a change in our communities for the better. If it wasn't for the support and guidance from the staff of the Futures for Children organization, I would probably still be that shy kid who was afraid to get involved and break out of his comfort zone.
-Roger Beyal (Navajo), age 19, is from Brimhall, NM and is passionate about being a voice for Native youth, and teaching others about his culture and traditions.
I really enjoy encouraging others to pursue their dreams and ambitions! I really believe in fighting for what you believe in, no one can tell you that you can't do something! Keep pushing and going till you achieve what you've set your mind to! Over the last Couple of years I have had people tell me, I couldn't go back to school, but I kept fighting and wanting to prove them wrong and January 5, 2017, I will be attending my first semester at Salish-Kootenai College! I have my mind set on becoming the first chair woman of my tribe! Because everything that goes on in my tribe isn't always good so I'd like to go back to my Home Rez and make a difference and become our first chairwoman.
-Saydele Haynes (Colville), age 20, is from Cusick, Washington and is passionate about striving for greatness.