Generation Indigenous (Gen-I), a White House initiative geared towards empowering Native youth, began this week. Young Native Americans around the country are jumping into action in order to shine a light on the issues facing their communities.
Problems such as poverty, alcoholism, and slim graduation rates plague Indian Country. Children born into this reality are able to embrace Generation Indigenous as a means of voicing their own ideas about hurdles close to home.
For Janay Jumping Eagle, this means finding ways to alleviate the alarming suicide problem haunting her reservation, Pine Ridge. A recent string of teenage suicides took seven lives, including one of Jumping Eagle’s older cousins.
“I just wanted to at least try to stop [teen suicide] from happening and I’m still trying,” stated Jumping Eagle.
As part of Janay’s Gen-I challenge, she organized a basketball tournament in hopes of uniting her classmates to rally for a common cause. According to her, it was a huge success.
The purpose of Generation Indigenous is to create a national network of Native youth determined to spread awareness and band together for a brighter future.
“This is a community-based, community-driven initiative. It is not something that’s coming from the top down. It’s organic,” said Lillian Sparks Robinson of the Rosebud Sioux, who organized a Generation Indigenous meeting last Thursday.
As Robinson puts it, the ultimate goal of the initiative is to eliminate the obstacles young Natives such as Janay Jumping Eagle have to work against.
Obama addressed the 2015 Gathering of Nations Powwow via video message to give his take on Gen-I, “We are so committed to investing in [Native youth] so that they have the same opportunities as every young American and every chance to prosper and keep their cultures and Native nations strong into the future. We want young leaders to share their stories with our country and to have opportunities to turn their talent and passion into strong leadership for the future of tribal nations and America.”
The President also announced the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering, which will be held on July 9.
The Lakota People’s Law Project commends Generation Indigenous organizers for recognizing the strength that lies in the voices of Native children. Not only are they aware of the detriments facing them, they are prepared to do something about them. We look forward to seeing more Gen-I projects enacted around the country.