President Fawn Sharp's Message to Indian Country Spring 2020 Graduates

Published on May 22, 2020


Greetings Indian Country graduates,

As the world comes together to face the COVID-19 pandemic, we now take pause to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of the next generation of leaders: our graduates across Indian Country. This momentous occasion comes at a challenging and unconventional time, which fittingly, serves as a reminder that the challenges of the future will be similarly unconventional.

Your dedication and perseverance have led you to this point in which you prepare to assume the mantle as the next global leaders that will guide us through future obstacles. As ambassadors of Indian Country, you stand as the best and brightest representatives of our tribal nations; shining beacons of hope that show what we are capable of. As such, it is important that even in the unprecedented times that we face, you take the moment to celebrate yourself. Be it by arranging video calls with friends and family, reflecting on your journey so far, or embarking on a new project, take some time to acknowledge and celebrate how far you have come.

The challenges ahead of us may be great, but they pale in comparison to the potential of the new leaders from across Indian Country, who are celebrating this important milestone. Whether it be defending the sovereignty of tribal nations, pioneering efforts to address climate change, or working to improve the lives of tribal citizens across the United States, we look forward to seeing the breakthroughs and achievements that begin with your graduation.

Among the graduates this year will be future doctors, nurses, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, law enforcement officers, legislators, and tribal leaders. I encourage you all to take the unique situation we find ourselves in to serve as inspiration, and as a learning moment, for how we can make this a better world for us, and those that come after. American Indians and Alaska Natives have long served as stewards of protecting and caring for our resources in sustainable, responsible ways that not only ensure our survival, but that of our planet. It is now your opportunity to join these efforts as pioneers of new, unconventional, and transformational efforts that redefine society for the better, in Indian Country, the United States, and across the world.

As you think and reflect on this momentous accomplishment and on how proud you have made your family, friends, and community, I ask that you also acknowledge those who have come before you, leaving a legacy that enables our progress today. Their pioneering efforts have made possible the remarkable inroads Native people have made in many environments, and we ought to recognize and thank them for their efforts. I find no better way to do that than by building on their legacy, continuing to break glass ceilings, finding new pathways, and proving skeptics wrong about the unlimited potential and inherent greatness of Native Americans.

As President of the National Congress of American Indians, I speak on behalf of our members and I believe, on behalf of tribal nations across the country, when I say we are immensely proud of you and your achievements so far. Amidst the difficulties our community faces every day, completing your degree is no small feat, and it should be recognized as such. Even if you do not walk across a stage to celebrate this achievement, know that it is of no less importance, or reason to be proud of yourself for how far you have come and how far you will go.

Today, the entirety of Indian Country stands beaming with pride as our American Indian and Alaska Native students graduate.

Congratulations to you, your families, tribal nations, and communities as you mark this important occasion. Your perseverance inspires us.



Fawn Sharp


National Congress of American Indians

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