This guest blog is written by the Indigeneity Program’s 2016–17 Intern, Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky (Tonawanda Band of Seneca). Sedonna will be attending UC Santa Barbara as a 3rd year student in the fall of 2017, where she will be studying anthropology and pursuing her passions in marine science. Over the past year, Sedonna has played a critical role in the success and growth of our award winning Native Youth Leadership Program. Nahannee Schuitmaker (Kanien’kehá:ka) is studying for her PhD in Indigenous Studies at Trent University, and is also helping to advise and program the 2017 Bioneers Native Youth Leadership Program.
This past week, between July 24 and July 29, I presented, alongside Nahannee Schuitmaker, about the Bioneers Native Youth Leadership Program’s efforts to build in year-round educational programming at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education, or WIPCE. Hosted by Six Nations Polytechnic and TAP Resources on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Huron-Wyandot, and the Mississauga’s of the New Credit First Nation, the conference brought together thousands of Indigenous educators from around the world to share their work and experience around Indigenous education.
Nahannee and I shared the Indigeneity Program’s work over the past year to bring important themes and ideas raised at the Bioneers Conference to our Native youth attendees on a more year round basis via our Biowarriors Facebook page, wordpress, and the forthcoming Native American Studies curriculum we have developed based on panels and discussions at Bioneers. (Keep your eye out on the Indigeneity web page for teacher supported lessons on cultural appropriation, Indigenous rising, Standing Rock, and more to be released by the end of the year…)
Much like Bioneers, WIPCE is a place for Indigenous educators of all ages to connect and collaborate on the topic of Indigenous Education, by us and for us. Bioneers Indigeneity gave me a place to learn more about Native histories from people other than my family, which for an “urban” indigenous person can be especially rare given the lack of inclusion of Indigenous histories in most public schools. It was amazing to hear from other people who are working to fill these gaps in education, particularly for Indigenous youth in rural and urban communities worldwide. We were especially inspired by the work being done at Utah Valley University in Cultural Based Learning, which empowers Native youth to use digital storytelling and cultural performances to teach each other about their unique cultures and dance styles, while also educating non-Natives.
At Bioneers 2017, we will feature many panels and events that resonate with the themes of WIPCE — particularly the “Racism in Schools” panel lead by incredible Native youth, including Naelyn Pike, back for her 3rd Bioneers; Chiitaaniba Johnson, who bravely stood up to her professor who refused to acknowledge the real history of California; Dahkota Brown, who helped to introduce an anti-indian mascot bill to the State of California, and Jayden Lim, who was honored at the White House last year for her work with the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center’s Tribal Youth Ambassador program. To learn more about this year’s Indigenous Forum, check out this blog post, written by Indigeneity Program Manager, Alexis Bunten.
One of our major takeaways from the week was that youth-lead educational curriculum — that responds to their needs and speaks to their inherent abilities — is the right way forward. This is something that we have known to be true at Bioneers, which you can see for yourself via our incredible youth program, and we’re keeping that in mind as we plan for future events, at the conference and year round.
If you are passionate about environmental and social justice and are between the ages of 13–23, come join us at Bioneers. We offer scholarships to cover the cost of conference registration through our Youth Leadership and Native Youth Leadership Programs, where over 500 diverse youth activists participate in youth-led programming, as well as attend keynote talks by visionary environmental and social justice leaders, and experience the art exhibits, performances and workshops offered throughout the weekend.