Alaska Native Youth Forums spur discussion

The Alaska Federation of Natives convention began last week but four days before that Alaska Native youth were given a chance to convene.

“Warriors for a New Era: Challenging Alaska Native Youth to Repower Their World,” is a series of five interactive community forums. During each forum Alaska Native youth are given a chance to voice their opinions and seek the advice of elders and Native youth leaders.

The first forum, held Oct. 19, was called “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times: Kickin’ it With the Elders.” Elders were able to speak directly with youth at this forum, giving advice on living in a world threatened by global climate change and economic crisis.

“Young people around the state were able to share problems with elders and ask elders for advice,” said Don Rearden, professor of developmental studies.

Groups were formed, allowing Alaska Native youth the chance to voice their main concerns and problems. Suicide, substance abuse and developing healthy lifestyles emerged as obstacles that many Alaskan Natives are facing today.

“These are problems that Alaska Natives have faced for generations,” said Rearden.

Each of the five forums will address important issues that the Alaska Native peoples are facing today.

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“Kickin’ it With the Elders” focused on gaining wisdom from elders, the forums to come will focus on healing injuries from the past, meeting tribal challenges, protecting subsistence ways of life and learning from the experience of Alaska Native leaders.

The next forum will be held at UAA on Nov. 18. It will be entitled “Healing the Wounded Warrior Spirit: An Interactive Dialogue with Youth.”

Also on Oct. 19 was a forum separate from “Warriors for a New Era.” The Leadership and Asset Youth Coalition led a discussion on belief and making a difference in the community. The discussion was centered on the term “Praxis.” Praxis means putting beliefs into action. With over 100 Native youth in attendance, the circle of chairs had to be expanded at the Denaina center so that discussion could be held and voices could be heard.

“These forums are designed to educate and inform Alaska Native youth and emerging leaders about the most pressing issues facing Alaska Native communities and cultures, offer guidance, wisdom, and information to assist them to survive and thrive in two worlds in 21st century Alaska,” said Larry Merculieff, forum organizer.