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Youths develop leadership skills at weekend event
The Wind River UNITY council and ESCAPE Native Youth Conference ended June 9 with a relay run and balloon release at St. Stephen's Mission in memory of former council adviser Edward Wadda. Photo by Alejandra Silva

Youths develop leadership skills at weekend event

Jun 17, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Roughly 100 children from the Wind River Indian Reservation and surrounding communities teamed up with older youths recently to receive training, attend workshops and sessions, and participate in fun activities during the Native Youth Conference.

The event, which ran from June 6 to June 9, was hosted by the Wind River UNITY council and held in collaboration with the Eastern Shoshone Cross-Age Peer Education project.

The conference began June 6 with suicide prevention sessions headed by the Fremont County Prevention program.

Leadership training led by the ESCAPE program continued Friday and included workshops that educated youths on the transition to adulthood, life skills, teen pregnancy, and other health issues.

"The kids really opened up," said UNITY council adviser Reinette Tendore.

She, Jay Old Coyote, Jenni Wildcat and Sunny Goggles are the new advisers on the council. The four invited motivational speakers Chance Rush, lawyer and activist Chase Iron Eyes and his wife, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, and community members to share their stories about attending college. The speakers addressed the importance of having a support group and spoke about overcoming obstacles in pursuit of their degrees.

Also participating on that panel were ESCAPE director Clarence Thomas, Andi Clifford, Jenni Wildcat, Reinette Tendore and Fort Washakie teacher and coach George Abeyta.

"You individually are going to have to make a choice on what kind of lifestyle you want to have," Iron Eyes told a group of youths Saturday at St. Stephen's Mission.

He encouraged the children to pursue an education, even if others may not support that plan.

"Things are changing. You guys are part of a great awakening, and you need to become aware of it," he said. "It's another tool you need to adopt to secure a place for our people. I know you're all capable because you come from strong people."

The youths at the conference also participated in many breakout sessions that educated them on sexual assault, social media, multicultural diversity, environmental preservation and youth life management.

Johnna Nunez of the University of Wyoming's Wyo Care program had children put on special goggles that altered their vision to reflect that of a person under the influence of alcohol. After attempting to walk a straight line, they realized it was more difficult than they thought.

The conference ended with a run from Rocky Mountain Hall in Fort Washakie to St. Stephen's Mission in memory of former UNITY council adviser Edward Wadda, who died in a single-car accident in May 2012.

"He was an honorable man, and if I needed help, all I needed was to ask," Thomas said. "He's still around us, and he's still involved with us."

Once all runners arrived, dozens of balloons were released and family members and friends thanked the runners and organizers.

"I know my brother is looking down upon us with his cheesy grin," said Wadda's brother Buddy Large.

Financial support

ESCAPE received funding from the Tribal Youth Program through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention with additional support coming from local and state program sponsors and the motivational speakers.

Other supporters of the event included the Eagle staff runners, the Shoshone Arapaho Tobacco Prevention program, Wyoming Department of Health, Eastern Shoshone Child Support program, and the Juvenile services.

UNITY is seeking additional funding and hosting fundraisers to help pay for a group of youths who will attend the national UNITY conference in Los Angeles in July.

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Wind River Indian Reservation