Washington, DC – Today, as part of a White House initiative, the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute held a forum to discuss “Generation Indigenous: Elevating Young Native American Leaders” in Washington, DC. The event, held in conjunction with National Native American Heritage Month and webcast live, was to raise awareness of Native American issues through dialogue with youth leaders from across the country. The conversation was co-moderated by CNAY chairman and founder, US Senator Byron Dorgan (ret.), and Patty Talahongva, award-winning journalist and CNAY board member. The event featured closing remarks by US Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

Center for Native American Youth  Generation Indigenous   YouTub1eResponding to President Obama’s call to action for Native youth to engage in their community, each of the youth panelists have taken steps to create positive change in their community and serve as representatives of Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) to their peers on a local level. The youth panelists included: Darius Sparks, 21, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; SuSun Fisher, 16, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; and Keith Martinez, 21, Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. During the forum, the youth panelists shared their experiences and thoughts about the unique challenges Native youth face, as well as successful youth-led efforts.

“The aim of this event is simple – elevate amazing people who are changing lives. The Native American youth who will join us today have initiated projects, started campaigns, and completed countless other activities to address challenges they see their peers and communities facing,” said Erin Bailey, Executive Director of the CNAY. “This is the focus of CNAY and our work on Gen-I: create platforms for youth to tell their story and raise awareness to Native youth priorities so as to compel more resources and create more equitable opportunity.”

As part of President Obama’s Gen-I initiative, CNAY launched the National Native Youth Network to provide educational, leadership, and funding opportunities to Native youth across the US. The Network includes a community service project program known as the Gen-I Challenge, an interactive map of programs and youth leaders, the Gen-I Youth Ambassadors leadership program, as well as opportunities for youth to engage with each other through in-person and virtual meetings. To date, more than 2,000 youth have taken the Gen-I Challenge and 250 youth are currently serving as Gen-I Youth Ambassadors, working closely with CNAY to advance the mission to create more opportunity for Native youth.

If you missed the live webcast, you can watch it here:


The Center for Native American Youth is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy. Founded by former US Senator Byron Dorgan in February 2011, CNAY is a policy program within the Aspen Institute, headquartered in Washington, DC. CNAY works to strengthen and create new connections, as well as exchange resources and best practices that address the challenges facing Native youth. Visit CNAY’s website for a comprehensive list of resources available to young Native Americans, tribes and the general public. For more information, visit www.cnay.org.


The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.