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Four Community Youth Attend Leadership Camp in Virginia

Photos courtesy of Pathkeeprs for Indigenous Knowledge.

Do you remember your first plane ride? Do you remember the first time you traveled away from home without your parents?

In mid-July, four brave Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community youth between the ages of 11 and 16 stepped out of their comfort zone and took their first plane ride, traveling from Phoenix to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Upon arriving, they traveled another 72 miles to find themselves in Culpeper, Va., for the Fourth Annual Pathkeepers for Indigenous Knowledge, a Native youth leadership camp that took place July 17-24.

The trip started by passing through Sky Harbor Airport’s strict security checkpoint and the nerve-racking plane ride. The campers traveled with a chaperone, Durina Keyonnie, senior Behavioral Health Center Counselor. “The kids were nervous, but they got over it after the plane took off. They were fine after that. I think they were more nervous about having to get out and interact with other campers. In the end, they were OK,” said Keyonnie.

The Native youth were selected through a nationwide application process and came together at a horse farm in Virginia for a week’s worth of adventure and exploration. There were scheduled events for the eight days of the camp.

A typical day at camp included three meals and various classes and activities such as Native horsemanship, musicianship, fishing, singing/drumming, beading, Native logic, a mock hearing and a powwow. Campers were also able to explore nearby Washington, D.C., and learn lacrosse, which many of our youth enjoyed.

The campers happened to be touring the White House as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived with the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. One can imagine the rush these youth must have felt in the White House as they could have met one of these world leaders.

Aside from all the fun, the youth also learned about themselves as Native youth. They left their footprints where most 11-year-olds might never get to go. They stepped out of their comfort zones, and now some of them plan to go back to the camp on their own time and money.

“I have the passion to encourage our Native youth to apply to leadership camps, or just go above and beyond to encourage their careers and their motives,” said Keyonnie. “This [youth leadership camp] was one that was referred to us by Social Services. The camp encourages leadership and encourages the youth to be inspired leaders, focus on cultural identity, and to share that with all other tribes.”

“As far as [the SRPMIC] Circles of Support [program], what we do is provide services to [referred] families as far as behavior coaching, therapy and case management services,” said Keyonnie. The youth who attended the camp are all participants of the COS program here within the SRPMIC.

According to the camp website, “The camp provides Native youth with opportunities to experience traditional and cultural activities, identify healthy and sustainable food and life choices, and understand how environmental and conservation sciences are reflected in our Native cultural knowledge and in our traditional uses of environmental resources.”

For more information about the Pathkeepers for Indigenous Knowledge Camp, visit!youth-camp/f8khx.