“Empowering Our Future” Youth Conference 2017 a success (10.11.17)

On October 10th and 11th, 2017, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation held is 2nd annual youth conference entitled “Empowering Our Future”. Our first day of the youth conference was a good one. In the morning we opened the doors and started registrations. Once registrations was complete, Bill Taylor, our MC started with opening remarks. Rev Greg Miller was offered tobacco as part of Dakota customs to start our morning prayer and local drum group Riverside Dakota sang an encouragement song to begin the day. SVDN Chief Vincent Tacan then delivered his opening remarks and encouragement to the youth in attendance.

Once the morning meet and greets were done we introduced our first keynote speaker, Jace Pratt. Jace Pratt is from our community Wipazoka Wakpa oyate (Sioux Valley). Jace talked about self identity, culture, dealing with depression, and being truly connected to ourselves. He stayed for the remainder of the day and offered some spiritual healing for individuals for those who were interested.

After having a 5 min breaks we did a “team building” exercise by setting up some tipi’s. One of which was donated to our local departments, SVDN Health. The youth were taught the history of the tipi. Every youth participated in one of many steps of setting up a tipi. Koda Tacan was the key person for this particular exercise.

After the tipis were set up completely, Lunch was served and everyone had lunch. Lunch was provided by Ethel Hall.

Once lunch was served we started the afternoon off with one the presenters Rev. Greg Miller. He talked about the residential school travelling display he brought out for our youth conference. His display was a collection images of the Brandon residential school and the children which attended. He, along with several others, collected & preserved data in the best interest of the indigenous peoples’ history.

The next keynote was Corey Bighorn. Corey resides in Winnipeg but is originally from Blood Vein Mb. With guitar in hand, he opened his presentation with a song for the youth. He then his story of being raised in the CFS system, growing up in poverty and neglect. He told of how he was able to overcome all obstacles and become a full time inspirational speaker with several big achievement along the way.

Our final keynote speaker for day 1 was J.R. LaRose. J.R. is a former CFL football champion. He was a very passionate and assertive speaker who was very intuitive in getting his point across. He is from Arrow Lake Saskatchewan and is half Cree. His mother was a residential school survivor. He spoke of coming from poverty, dealing with anger issues, and family problems and flipping it into something positive. After being introduced to football in his early teens, he made that a life goal and found success through hard work and determination. After his presentation, he took time to interact with the youth, sign autographs and take photos. Our youth even had the opportunity to wear his CFL championship ring.

The first Keynote speaker for our day 2 was H’upahu Duta- Redwing Thomas. Redwing is from Santee Nebraska. He came up to share a message of unity and self identity. He did a demonstration with the kids that showed them a different prospective, the importance of keeping our youth protected because they are our future. He talked about the importance of knowing your relatives and being proud of who you are as a Dakota. He did a great job and got the kids to pay attention, participate and say some words in their own native tongue. He is always a captivating speaker.

After a short health break, we proceeded with our next guest speakers, Adele McKay and Austin McKay Jr of SVDN. They came to share a very touchy topic that needs to be talked about in our community, which is suicide awareness. They share their own stories, encourage the youth to talk to someone who is available when they need to talk and not to keep things bottled in. They talked about people you could go to for help, resources they could use. They did an amazing job for a such a hard topic.

We then proceeded to have our lunch which was catered by Lucinda Bunn.

Our afternoon continued at the Sioux Valley bison compound. Sioux Valley Health director Marge Roscelli shared a song with our youth and taught them how to make tobacco ties, and the importance of each tie & prayer. They all had the opportunity to create one leave it tied on the bison compound fence. Once completed, all returned to the SV Veteran’s Hall.

As the conference was coming to an end, it was time to do the draws for the door prizes and t-shirts and the main prize, a PS4 with a controller and headset. Closing remarks marked the end of our 2nd annual SVDN “Empowering Our Future” Youth Conference. We look forward to next year.