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Young River People’s Council Hosts First-Ever Native Youth Legislative Day

Young River People's Council, Akimel O'odham/Pee Posh Youth Council, Tohono O'odham Nation Youth Council, Ak-Chin Youth Council, Morning Star Leaders Youth Council and Red Mountain Eagle Pow-Wow Princess.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Young River People’s Council hosted its first-ever Native Youth Legislative Day at the Arizona State Capitol on January 3.

Members of the four O’odham sister tribes’ youth councils were present, along with the Morning Star Leaders Youth Council. The day was packed with workshops presented by Arizona legislators that catered to issues affecting the Native youth and their respective communities.

State Senator Juan Mendez welcomed the youth and shared words of encouragement.

“What we are doing here today is really special and important,” Mendez said. “It is the first time we are doing this. I hope this is really successful for you, that you are able to get something out of this. But really we just want to give you experience and put you in this place so that you can see where the power in the state is, you can see where decisions are made. I want you to be able to see yourself here, practice negotiation and communication, and maybe we can all talk about some really good ideas while we’re here.”

Members are paired up to do a small exercise on how to tell their story. Describing a time in their life they've faced a obstacle and what they did to overcome it.
The youth divided into groups and set off to attend their workshops. One workshop focused on how to create a bill. Presenter Shaun Rieve asked the students what kind of bill would they like to pass. The YRPC members asked for a bill to increase the age requirement for purchasing CO2 cartridges, often known as “whippits,” which are used to get high. It was an interesting topic to talk about among the sister tribes. It gave them a chance to hear about problems they didn’t know were occurring in other communities.

At the end of each workshop session, YRPC gifted the presenter with a small gift as a token of their gratitude. State Reps. Athena Salman and Isela Blanc also presented workshops.

After the workshops were completed, the councils gathered on the Senate floor to share some of what they learned. Youth council member Sommer Lopez spoke about a workshop that particularly affected her. Lopez was sworn in as the new YRPC president on January 6.

Youth council member speaks on the Senate floor to her peers about what she has learned from attending the workshops.
“I just came back from the workshop with Senator Mendez,” Lopez said. “It was about environmentalism. He taught us a lot about how to respect the environment and not treat it like some supply that we just throw away after we’re done with it. [We have to treat the environment] more like it’s a community, like a person; we need to respect it with the same quality a person has, and he introduced us to this new group that helps protect the environment.”

The events concluded with lunch on the Capitol lawn. The four sister tribes participated in a social song and dance to close Native Youth Legislative Day.