On Thursday, November 5, 2015, President Barack Obama will host the 7th 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC. This will provide Tribal leaders and Representatives from 567 federally recognized Tribes the opportunity to interact with high-level federal government officials and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. The Obama Administration has really made an effort to strengthen the relationships between Tribal communities and the U.S. Government with a heavy emphasis on developing more opportunities for our Native youth to be successful.
I have the honor of attending this conference as a Representative for my Tribe, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and as a chaperone to Summer Rose Montileaux, who was selected as a Youth Delegate by the White House. Summer will be sharing her knowledge with other Native youth and participating in roundtables and discussions, on how to better their Tribal communities.
White House Youth Delegate, Summer Montileaux:
Janet Whiting, Summer’s mom (Ina), told her to “find your own circle and create your own unique path.” Motivated by her family and her own ambitions, while overcoming and accomplishing all that she has, Summer has surely made her own path. Summer Rose Montileaux is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She is part of the select few chosen by the White House to be a Youth Delegate. She has done remarkable work in her community back home in South Dakota and has been recognized by the National Indian Health Board at the Native Youth Health Summit back in September 2015 and received the Youth Leadership Award.
Summer previously attended Red Cloud Indian School for 9th and 10th grade. Currently, she is attending Scarsdale High School in New York. She is in the Scarsdale STEP scholarship program that is supported by the community. She is the only 2015 recipient. STEP (Student Transfer Education Plan) is known for its rigorous and progressive curriculum. It serves as a two year college preparatory program for promising students of color.
To give back to her community, Summer has worked with the Porcupine Elderly Meals Program during her summer in 2014. She has also served as a Child Care Provider during her summer of 2013. She has made honor roll, recipient of the Youth Leadership Award from the National Indian Health Board, attended the White House Tribal Youth Gathering in July 2015, and participated at the American Indian Summer Institute at UCLA and College Horizons at Bowdoin College in Maine. She is the winner of the New York Times Op Ed High School Writing Challenge, received a scholarship to attend the Phillips Exeter Academy Summer Program in 2013, completed a six-week program with INMED (Indians into Medicine), and has attended camps at Oglala Lakota College Math Camp and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology twice.
To give back to her community, here is only SOME of what she has done:
- weRnative Youth Ambassador where she received a mini grant
- Volunteer Mentor with Wikoskalaka Yuwita Pi – Lakota Gathering of Young Women
- Generation Indigenous Youth Ambassador
- LCE Youth Advisory Board Booth and Parade Float
- Third Annual Lakota Children’s Enrichment Youth Summit
- Presidential Volunteer Award in Pine Ridge, received bronze on promoting the Gen-I Initiative
- generationON-New York, where she received a grant on addressing hunger issues in her community
- Received Disney Friends for Change Grant to address nutrition and child hunger
- Champions for Change Honorable mention from Center for Native American Youth
- ABC/Disney Summer of Service Award to continue service learning projects
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Representative:
My passion, since freshman year of high school, was to be in Washington, DC, advocating for Indian Country. I graduated from the University of Maine, Orono, majored in Political Science and double minored in Native American Studies and Public Management. I ran cross country and track at a D1 level and served on the Native American Studies Academic Council. After college, I worked locally in Orono at a non-profit with Four Directions Development Corporation where they worked to improve the social and economic conditions for the Tribes in Maine through education and investment in Native entrepreneurship, business investments, and to receive affordable housing.
During college and after, I volunteered with Penobscot Indian Nation in their Children’s Daycare Center, Cultural & Historic Preservation Department, Boys & Girls Club and in Human Resources. From there, I took a leap of faith, and moved to Washington, DC, where I found a job with the National Indian Health Board as a Congressional Relations Policy and Program Associate. In this position, I gained experience on the hill, tribal outreach, recording the stories from members in Diabetes programs and health programs, event/conference planning, and working on the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee under the Indian Health Service and managing and coordinating efforts with the Special Diabetes Program for Indians. From there, I needed more “Hill” experience where I interned for Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives. After my internship, I worked on some consulting work for a couple Tribes to relay information on what their needs were to their Congressional representatives. Finally, after a few months, I landed a job with the Administration for Native Americans through Tribal Tech, LLC as a Program Specialist. Here, I monitor a grant portfolio from across Indian Country on a variety of projects such as language preservation/immersion to economic development. As a Program Specialist, I am able to connect Tribal communities to funding opportunities, ensuring that growth and sustainability continues.
During my time here in DC, I have volunteered for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Center for Native American Youth, Administration for Native Americans and have participated in White House meetings working to increase opportunities for Native youth health and wellness. It’s been a crazy and fun experience, where I have met amazing people who are all doing incredible work for Indian Country. I am honored and excited to learn from the experience at the White House Tribal Nations Conference!
It is vital that our cultural traditions and values continue on for our future generations. The only way for that to happen is with our young leaders now. Having our youth be actively engaged, creating projects, taking the initiative, having the curiosity, and advocating for what they need, will ensure our future to continue. I am truly amazed by Summer and her efforts she’s been making, and I can only imagine how her family and her community feel back home in South Dakota. The youth and young adults I have met across Indian Country, and those who have come to DC to intern and partake in the Native youth focused opportunities are all doing this for one reason, and that is for change. They all want to better their community. They all want to better themselves. And they all have a strong voice. The Obama Administration has taken their voice seriously as with the Native organizations, federal agencies/staff, and Congressional Leaders and Hill staff in Washington, DC. Sure, there’s always more to be done. However, times are changing and I have never seen a stronger Native movement than I have now.
We are both excited to be part of this experience, to meet new people, and to learn from one another! Stay tuned for post-Conference blog!!! Mitakuye Oyasin!