to R) Back Row: Jacob Hugs, Darius Redstar, Jordan Matt, Willie
Stevens, Vance Home Gun, and Rosie Matt. (L to R: Front Row:
Lene Trahan, Jon Matt, ArriAnna Matt, Audra Home Gun, Patty
Stevens, Naomi Plant, and Frankie Wright. (Courtesy photo)
DENVER A Flathead Reservation youth group was selected
as the Tribal Youth Council of The Year at the UNITY (United National
Indian Tribal Youth) Conference in Denver last week.
Last spring, a group of Arlee and St. Ignatius students formed
The NkWucin One Voice Youth Council as a support entity for each
other and the youth community. Tribal youth develop leadership skills
as part of the councils promotion of a drug- and alcohol-free
Youth council members include: ArriAnna Matt, president; Frankie
Wright, vice-president; Jacob Hugs, treasurer; Darius Red Star,
secretary; and, Jon Matt, Jordan Matt, Lene Trahan, Darius Red Star,
Naomi Plant, Vance Home Gun and Audra Home Gun.
It was a complete surprise to us ... We were not expecting
this award, Vance Home Gun said. We have only been an
official UNITY youth council a little over a year now. But I can
most definitely say our UNITY youth here in Flathead do their best
in any project we tackle.
During the time the NkWucin Council formed, members participated
in tribal events such as the: Return to the Homeland, Hunting Camp,
Coyote Storytelling Camp, Bitterroot Dig and Horse Camp. Council
members also helped in workshop activities and presentations at
the 2017 Celebrating Salish Language Conference Youth Track Leadership
Workshop, and participated in the Special Olympics Torch Run, community
cleanups, recycling and community garden projects.
The young adults say they cant do the work alone and appreciate
the guidance and mentorship of the NkWucin Youth Council advisors,
Rosie Matt, and Willie and Patty Stevens.
According to NkWucin Youth Council President, ArriAnna Matt,
the advisors strongly support the Youth Council. Their contributions
and time are keys to making the groups goals a reality.
Matt became involved with the Flathead Reservation Youth Council
in response to the growing concern communities faced after several
suicides, as well as the problems related to drug and alcohol use
With a dozen suicides in a six-month span, Matt felt it was
clearly a state of emergency. The Arlee High School senior took
matters in her own hands and organized a student assembly to discuss
the issue and give students a chance to let out their emotions.
Matt said she felt the teachers didnt understand what kids
were going through or even how to help. They (teachers) werent
supportive, she said. I wanted them to see (the tragedies)
Students broke into groups at the assembly to discuss the challenges
they faced and brainstormed to come up with ideas for positive change.
Each group presented their challenges and strengths,
Matt said. The main concerns were suicides, drugs and alcohol addiction,
racism and poverty.
The group talks resulted in teachers taking a suicide training
to help students if needed in the coming year, Matt said.
It has been an absolute honor to watch my fellow young
people grow and become outstanding young leaders for their peers
and tribes, said Vance Home Gun. He says he is constantly
inspired by his peers passion to serve tribal youth with real
This was the most successful and memorable national UNITY
Conference Ive attended, said Jacob Hugs, NkWucin treasurer
and 2017 UNITY Rocky Mountain Regional representative.
UNITY has a saying that the organization has been changing young
lives since 1976. Matt says her life has definitely been one that
has changed because of the powerful conference gatherings.
(Youth) struggle constantly, even adults do, she
said. We do our best to guide and help people.
Home Gun said a goal for the group is to help other communities
build their own UNITY youth chapter within the Flathead Indian Reservation.
However, its not easy he said. It takes a lot of perseverance.
Building a youth based group takes time and dedication,
from the youth to parents and advisors, Home Gun said. UNITY
holds a very high honor code for youth who are selected to lead
their peers. This includes being drug- and alcohol-free, no negative
social media and things of that nature.
Fundraising, communication, organizing events and leading by
example are a few of the principles members must commit to throughout
the year. "I believe in making our young Native people work
hard for their opportunities, to strive for perfection through passion
and dedication, Home Gun said. I know the Creator and
our ancestors are with us in this journey we call life. Our history
as Indian people only makes us stronger. It's a warrior thing.