Interdependence has been a value of Native cultures since time immemorial. Today’s tribal leaders were once the children of the community and will be its elders tomorrow. Native youth provide a special perspective on the world, and have a unique power and motivation to make a difference within their communities. While youth are undoubtedly the future of tribal nations, many are already serving as leaders and agents of change in their communities today.
Over one-third of the Native population is under the age of 18 as compared to only 24 percent of the total population who are under the age of 18. There is a large bubble in the 15-19 age group for the American Indian and Alaska Native population, so even more Native young people will be able to vote in the next few years and will likely be headed to college or other advanced education and training pathways.
This sizeable young population represents an unprecedented moment of opportunity. Providing youth with the tools, resources, encouragement, and positive environment they need to thrive is an incredibly important investment tribal leaders have prioritized to ensure a strong future for their community.
Native youth sit at the confluence of where our past joins with present and future; and tribal leaders often work to create experiences for their youth that celebrate Native culture while exposing youth to new knowledge. As essential culture and tradition bearers, preparing youth for the future may not just mean preparing them to walk in two worlds, but preparing them for the “one world” of tomorrow by ensuring that they feel strong in their Native cultures and that they feel confident engaging with other cultures.