Voices for the Youth
12 Young People Named to Presidential Youth Council
by Nathan J. Tohtsoni Navajo Times Staff Reporter
- At 19, she works for a nonprofit organization that advocates for sacred Indian sites in the Duke City area.
As part of her job, she interacts on a regular basis with politicians on the local, state and tribal levels. But one of the biggest and most exciting challenges lays ahead for Lyn Sharon Bluehouse Wilson.
Wilson, a student at the University of New Mexico, and 11 other talented young people, ranging in ages from 14 to 25, were selected to serve on the Navajo Nation Presidential Youth Council where they will be advocates for their peers.
The development of a youth council was a campaign initiative proposed by President Kelsey Begaye, who said he would eventually like to see the youth have a seat on the Navajo Nation Council.
"Young people have great ideas and age shouldn't matter," said Wilson, a niece of former Navajo Nation Acting President Milton Bluehouse Sr.
She was selected along with Leonard Redhorse III, 21, of Burnham, N.M., to represent the Shiprock Agency.
Representing the Chinle Agency are Kristen Kerrileen Tsinnijinnie, 20, of Rough Rock, Ariz., and Lynnann Yazzie, 21, of Wheatfields, Ariz. From the Crownpoint Agency are Cheryl Lynn Anderson, 16, of Church Rock, N.M., and the youngest councilor, Joshua Ishmael Dennis, 14, of Coyote Canyon, N.M.
LivA'ndrea Knoki, 21, of Ganado, Ariz., and Lamont Lee Yazzie, 24, of Steamboat, Ariz., were selected to represent the Fort Defiance Agency.
Representing the Tuba City Agency are Raini Goldtooth, 21, of Tuba City and Sherrie Stanley, 22, of Kayenta.
Air Force Lt. Lawrence Nahno Yazzie, 23, originally of Tuba City, and John Leonard Tsosie, 25, who is from Mexican Springs, N.M., were selected as at-large urban representatives.
Lt. Yazzie played NCAA Division I basketball at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Saturday, Sept. 9, he was the center of attention during the Navajo Nation Fair parade where he served as a grand marshal.
"I'm just happy to selected - period," he said. "The biggest thing is understanding the generations. There's a gap with our generation and the older generation. For some of us, we don't do a lot of things traditionally.
It's not by choice. It's because of our circumstances and surroundings.
We're forced to leave for education and other opportunities."
Yazzie must serve two years in active service before he pursues a law degree. He eventually would like to serve as a judge advocate general for the military.
Stanley, a senior at the University of Arizona in Tucson, wants to build the self-esteem of young Navajos and create a positive relationship between the youth and elderly.
"My heart is really into helping the Navajo youth realize they have potential," she said. "It's really heartbreaking to see them when they don't realize they have that potential. I want to help them succeed."
Stanley is studying civil engineering and will graduate in the spring.
Wilson of Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., sees her experiences living on the reservation, a border town (Cortez, Colo.) and in Albuquerque as positive in dealing with the "anger" that many young people have inside them, she said.
"They're pretty much my peers, but at the same time, I can lead by example," Wilson said. "I think we've all had those experiences. It's not only racism, but also growing up and trying to fit in your physical surroundings.
"I guess that's how I got into the line of work that I'm in now," she added.
"It's probably one of the best ways for young people (to cope with the anger) is to see one of their peers doing something positive."
She is leaning toward studying journalism and is employed with the Sacred Alliances for Grassroots Equality.
Mellor Willie, an assistant in the president's office, spearheaded the selection of the youth council on behalf of Begaye. He said the representatives were selected because they were the best applicants of their agency.
"It was really tough," he said, "In some agencies there were a few hi-qualified individuals. They will work on projects that best represent their areas they're representing."
The youth council, who will serve one-year terms, will meet in October to develop a plan of operations and bylaws.
They will also define how their relationship with the soon-to-be implemented Navajo Office of Diné Youth will work, Willie said.
Although the youth council is progressive, the concept is not.
During Peter MacDonald's third administration, a youth council was formed that included representatives from all chapters, said Caleb Roanhorse, a former assistant under MacDonald when the youth council was formed in the early 1980s. He said Begaye's initiative is similar in nature.
"It's been done before, so I'm kind of surprise when they say it's the first time ever," said the support services director of the Ganado School District. "It kind of got pretty active there for awhile but it really didn't get to the point where they had any authority. It didn't really go as far as it could have been. It was implemented toward the end of the term.
"But the issues are still similar," he added. "The issue at the time was scholarships and it's still an issue. At least it gave the young people the opportunity to express their concerns."
Roanhorse said the youth council was disbanded when former Chairman Peterson Zah created the Division of Youth Development after he took over the following administration.
However, political insiders say the youth council was disbanded by MacDonald after the young people voted to approve resolutions that were critical of his policies.
The 12 youth council members will be introduced to the Navajo Nation Council during the fall session, which begins Oct. 16 in Window Rock.
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