On Friday, November 16, the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute (CNAY) released its third annual State of Native Youth Report and celebrated Native American Heritage Month with a panel event in Washington, D.C. The 2018 report is the State of Native Youth Report: Generation Indigenous. The report was released at the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C.

This year’s report focused on five areas: Health and Wellness, Systems Involved Youth, Education and Jobs, Sacred Sites, Lands and Waterways, and Citizenship.

The Center for Native American Youth partnered with the White House several years ago to help launch the Gen – I initiative to build a native youth network. The initiative allows young people from across the country to come together in a call to action to design a sustainable national platform. The focus of this 2018 report and the Washington event is on the people, initiatives, and organizations that make up the GEN-I network.

The chapter of the report focusing on system-involved youth discusses child welfare, education and juvenile justice. Authors highlight the over-representation of native youth in foster care pointing out that although native youth represent 1.9% of the foster care population native youth are only 1.3 percent of the general child population. In some states the overrepresentation is dramatic. Alaska and South Dakota, for example, native youth represent nearly half the entire foster care population there. The report points out that the statistics are a legacy of a child welfare system that was designed to intentionally remove Indian children from their families. This part of the report also positively reflects on the Family First Prevention Services Act with the hope that the new funding can provide some services to better address the needs of these children.

The authors also point out that November 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). They also conclude pointing out that well there is been some progress in terms of Child Welfare as far as Indian children there is still much to be done to prevent the unnecessary separation of children and families.

The panel included started with opening remarks by Dan Porterfield, President and CEO, Aspen Institute, and former-Senator Byron Dorgan, Founder and Chair of the Center for Native American Youth. There remarks were followed by a discussion by Isabel Coronado-Jones, Muscogee Creek Nation, 2018 Champion for Change; Trenton Casillas-Bakeberg, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Gen-I Youth Ambassador and Fresh Tracks Trainer; and Darby Raymond-Overstreet, Navajo Nation, Grand Prize Winner of the Gen-I Creative Native Call for Art.

Senator Dorgan, founder of the CNAY, said, “I founded CNAY to shine all the spotlights on the great work that Native American youth are doing in their communities. The young leaders we highlight in this report give me great hope for a strong future for Indian Country.”

Dorgan went on to explain that when he decided not to run for reelection after more than 30 years in the Congress he allocated some of the remaining campaign funds from his previous campaigns to help stabilize the Center. The Center is part of the Aspen Institute.