The following post appears courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary
This week, I was privileged to meet with the more than 200 American Indian and Alaska Native youth and adult leaders from 53 tribal communities across the country at the 2012 National Intertribal Youth Summit. The conference will run through Aug. 2 at the 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and at various locations in Washington, D.C. I was inspired by the enthusiasm of these remarkable young people who are so strongly invested in the future of their communities, and so eager to help bring about positive change.
During the summit, the teens will discuss the critical issues facing them in Indian Country. The participants will have a chance to develop their leadership skills and engage in interactive discussions with tribal elders and leaders, youth advocates, and field experts on cultural values and community-based solutions to these pressing issues. They will talk about their concerns with officials from Congress and the White House, and from the Departments of Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services and Education. And while they are here they will tour our city’s monuments and visit the Capitol and the White House.
The Justice Department launched the Youth Summit initiative to promote long-term improvement in public safety in tribal communities. The Department was responding to requests from tribal leaders for the development of culturally appropriate prevention, treatment and reentry programs for tribal youth and families. The Summit provides an important opportunity for the Department to ask the young people themselves how they perceive the problems and what they recommend in formulating solutions.
As Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West said at the opening ceremony:
“This summit is an opportunity for those of us in Washington to hear directly from youth as representatives of their tribes…The choices that young leaders make will help define the future of their tribal nations. Working together, we can develop solutions to the challenges that they, their families, and their peers face each day.”