Native Youth Rising: Collective Action to Elevate the Next Generation of Indian Leaders and Change Makers

First Kids 1st is a national campaign with the aim of lifting up and supporting Native children and youth so they can achieve their highest potential. Through developing tools and resources that allow Tribal decision makers to better support youth in the areas of education, health, welfare, and governance, partners have started a movement to put first kids first in policy and practice.

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB), along with the support of other First Kids 1st Partners, are highlighting Tribal community members and programmatic leaders at the 2018 NIHB National Tribal Public Health Summit whose work aligns with the spirit and objectives of the First Kids 1st Initiative.

In accordance with the First Kids 1st mission, a cohort of presenters and participants are working to develop data-driven Tribal strategies and policy objectives in order to:

  • Equip decision-makers with strengths-based information to describe Native children and youth;
  • Foster policy change at national, Tribal, and state levels; and
  • Build capacity at the Tribal level for sustainable change making in Indian education, health, child welfare, and governance.

The contributions of these presenters will be highlighted in the conference manual provided to all participants.

If you have any questions about First Kids 1st or would like to know how you can get involved, please visit us on the web or check us out on Facebook or twitter. To learn more about the 2018 NIHB National Tribal Public Health Summit visit the conference website here.

FK1st Launches Website Reboot

The First Kids 1st – Every Child is Sacred Initiative is proud to announce the launch of the www.firstkids1st.org website reboot!

The website reboot is the next step in the development of the First Kids 1st – Every Child is Sacred Initiative (FK1st). Over the past two years, FK1st Partners have developed a broad range of materials and resources that needed room to grow. As such, the FK1st Partners made the decision to develop a more robust platform to serve as a resource to Tribal communities from Alaska to Florida.

Working in tandem with the FK1st Coalition Partners and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the FK1st website will continue to evolve and grow in the coming months. Don’t miss out on our updates! Subscribe to the FK1st mailing list today.

Questions? Send us an email at info@firstkids1st.org.

From Stepping Stones to Milestones: First Kids 1st Founding Partner Reflects & Congratulates Native Graduates!

By Ahniwake Rose, Executive Director National Indian Education Association

My daughter graduated from 5th grade last week. She proudly walked across the stage in her tear dress, listening to her family hoot and holler as she took her place with her fellow graduates. For our family, it wasn’t about the grade level she had completed, it was about her journey- this graduation is a stepping stone, a small part of a longer journey, made even more remarkable as a young Native woman.

Graduation ceremonies are a milestone, they represent different things for each student. For some it fulfills the hope of an entire family, for others it’s an expectation, for many it’s an achievement they’ve been unsure could be accomplished. Hopefully, your newsfeeds are filled with pictures of students in beaded caps and gowns and congratulatory posts of pride and admiration for friends and loved ones.

Students are continuously told that graduation from an institution, high school, or college is a doorway to a world filled with increased opportunities for learning or earning potential. This doorway is often what lifts and shapes a student’s identity, defining not only how the student is perceived by others but how their family and community are viewed as well. No community has been shaped and haunted by ideas of academic success like Indian Country. As the Executive Director of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and one of four founding partners of the First Kids 1st Initiative, I advocate for equitable educational opportunities for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students. My greatest hope is for our students to thrive in the classroom and beyond. Every day, I see the doorway to this world of opportunity become harder and harder to open.

When I’m asked about why graduation rates for Native students continue to lag behind their peers, I vehemently defend the need for increased tribal control of education systems and implore policymakers to remember the importance of culturally responsive teaching. Immersion programs, from Wisconsin to Hawaii, keep Native cultures and traditions alive, and in those capable hands, our students and communities thrive. Policy changes in states like Washington and Oregon demonstrate the value and impact Native history and culture has on Native and non-Native student’s cognitive and social development. Culturally responsive curriculum and teaching strategies are implemented in classrooms to remind educators and students that Native people exist and thrive in the modern era.

As we celebrate the 2017 graduation season, we should celebrate the success of our students as an example of the success of our tribal nations, a victory for tribal sovereignty, and a celebration of the tribes, schools, and communities that have supported our students. Education is the only way to secure the safety and security of Native traditions and cultures. To protect tribal sovereignty and to promote the economic security of our nations, we need the intellectual curiosity of our greatest resource, our youth. Our graduates are an act of resilience: they have overcome tremendous odds, resisting a long history of discriminatory policy against Native students. With their accomplishments, we continue to move forward, step by step, towards a future where our students become the decision makers.

There are some who say we’ve not come far enough and that we must do better. We agree there is still work to be done. There are others who will continue to only focus on statistics, looking at deficiencies rather than accomplishments. Not us, not this time. This success is yours and something to celebrate. Feel pride and hope in your accomplishments. Congratulations graduates, we look forward to seeing where you go next.

About First Kids 1st:
The First Kids 1st – Every Child is Sacred Initiative is a national collaborative effort and is comprised of leading Native American organizations, allies, and partners from all backgrounds, focused on changing national, tribal, and state policy to create conditions in which American Indian and Alaska Native children can thrive. We are working to cultivate and nurture strategies and policies that build and strengthen equitable and local supports for vulnerable Native children in their communities. To learn more visit www.firstkids1st.org.

About The National Indian Education Association (NIEA)
NIEA is the Nation’s most inclusive advocacy organization advancing comprehensive culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on education, NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles- to convene educators to explore ways to improve schools and the educational systems serving Native children; to promote the maintenance and continued development of language and cultural programs; and to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and decision makers. For more information visit www.niea.org.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month 2017 – Building Community, Building Hope

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. In its 34th year, this year’s theme is, “Building Community, Building Hope.”

Child abuse and neglect affects all communities, regardless of social, cultural, or racial differences. In 2012, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children made up a slightly higher percentage of substantiated reports of abuse or neglect (1.2 percent) than their percentage of the general population (1 percent of the total child population in the United States).

“The removal of generations of children over time has disrupted once well-established and venerable parenting practices. To this day, historical trauma continues to intensify contemporary traumatic experiences for Native children and families. Contemporary society creates numerous contexts for exposure to violence by AI/AN children including those who witness domestic violence, those who are victims of child abuse and neglect, and those whose caregivers are debilitated by substance abuse and addiction while living in households that struggle with multigenerational and pervasive poverty.”

Because historical trauma is experienced by so many tribal communities, this month is important to build awareness about abuse, promote prevention, and connect people to essential services which, in turn, support healing and well-being in our children and families.

Many tribal communities hold family and community events during the month of April to share information about the services available to reduce child abuse and neglect; reduce the stigma of poverty; and encourage keeping kids safe, reporting abuse, and reaching out for help for victims of abuse:

  • Community days: Encourage families to come out together, spend time together, and have fun in a safe family-friendly environment and restore connections between the younger generations and our elders.
  • Open houses: For family centers or other community services/facilities.
  • Community walk/jog/run events: To promote healthy lifestyles/family activity.
  • Pinwheel garden dedications: Community members can dedicate a pinwheel, a national symbol for child abuse prevention, and “plant” it to be displayed for the month of April.
  • Family game nights: Share some time together in a healthy fun environment.
  • Family powwow Fitness events: Live fitness instructors or “Powwow Sweat” or other powwow fitness videos are played to promote fun and fitness and help people learn some new dance moves!
  • “Prevent Abuse Door-To-Door Campaigns:” Family services department staff go door-to-door in their neighborhoods to distribute prevention materials. They:
    • Promote community members to take an active part in preventing child abuse by becoming our “brother’s keeper” and reporting any suspected abuse or neglect to the proper authorities, and
    • Ask community members to become a mentor to a child or family who is having difficulty and work together to improve their life.

As we head into Child Abuse Prevention Month, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and our partners in the First Kids 1st initiative urge you to find out about the events and initiatives happening in your communities. If there isn’t an event already planned for your community, consider holding an event, getting involved with a local prevention or support group, or print some resources about child abuse prevention and ask to display them in your community center, health service office, daycare, or workplace. These events are a great way to share successful initiatives for keeping kids free from abuse and neglect. Every child is sacred.

Some resources for finding local events are included here. Get involved! Contact your tribe to find out about events this month, and head out to one or create one!