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(Many Paths)
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Fields Attends White House Tribal Youth Gathering
by Brittney Bennett - Intern, Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields attends the White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C. She was invited after completing two challenges involving her efforts for lobbying of cancer prevention and ending sexual assault. (courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields recently attended the inaugural White House Tribal Youth Gathering after undertaking two Generation Indigenous challenges.

“I was lucky that I was one of the people who was accepted for it,” Fields said. “It was such an experience. We learned a lot about our government and what they’re doing for Native people.”

The gathering brought together Native American youths and members of the U.S. government to discuss the Generation Indigenous initiative, a project with the Native Youth Network working to improve the lives of Native youths and cultivate the next generation of Native leaders.

The first challenge Fields submitted was her lobbying efforts about cancer at the Oklahoma Capitol in March, in which she encouraged people to wear sneakers with the intention of promoting healthy lifestyles to reduce the risk of developing cancer.

As a 2014-15 CN Tribal Youth Councilor, Fields was also allowed to submit the Cherokee Language 2020 Challenge, which asks community members to use simple Cherokee phrases daily for the next five years.

“It was pretty cool being able to go there because there are so many other Native kids, and you got to learn about what they did to get to the (summit), all their challenges and what was going on with their tribe,” she said.

In addition to the challenge requirement, Fields was required to submit a letter of recommendation, a release form and a short essay about how she would use her voice to help Native youths succeed.

First lady Michelle Obama also spoke at the event.

“Each of you has something that you’re destined to do, whether that’s raising a beautiful family, whether that’s succeeding in a profession or leading your community into a better future. You all have a role to play and we need you,” Obama said.

The gathering also discussed topics such as violence against women and sexual assault, which is a personal mission for Fields after being sexually assaulted in 2014.

“They really focused on the Violence Against Women Act and what they had been doing and the fact that things might be getting done slowly, but changes are happening for Native people and that they really did care about what was happening to us and were trying to change it,” she said.

Fields has been vocal about her assault to help others. She lobbied Cherokee Nation officials to change its sexual consent law, raising it from 14 to 16, and has drafted a national survey to compile information that can be used to help victims from all tribes. She also credits the CN One Fire Center for helping her through the traumatic experience.

Fields wrote a letter to President Barack Obama in April expressing the need for youth to instill a “warrior mentality” among Native American men to protect children, elders and women from rape and abuse.

She received a response letter from Obama in June along with her acceptance to the gathering. In the letter, he writes: “As long as I hold this Office, I will do everything I can to address these crimes no matter where they occur–from our neighborhoods and college campuses to military bases and tribal lands.”

In addition to attending the summit, Fields spoke about how social media can be used to create positive change in Indian Country at the Native American Journalists Association’s annual conference.

Fields finished the week by presenting with the We R Native organization at the United National Indian Tribal Youth Conference about mental and physical health.

Fields said with each conference, she gained more confidence about what the Obama administration is doing for all tribes.

“My biggest takeaway is that they’re proud of Native youth, that we’re not forgotten, that they’re not just waiting for us to die off,” she said. “They do want to help change things, they just might need a little help once in a while. They need to hear our voices.”

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