Sunday, 25 February 2018

A+ R A-

Traditional Youth Leadership Initiative

The Institute’s community-based Traditional Youth Leadership Initiative builds and strengthens the foundations of traditional cultural heritage for the youth.  The essential ingredients of the initiative are traditional Elders, youth, and community.

There is an awakening among Native young people hungry for the old teachings of traditional knowledge. The spiritual ways of knowing don’t come all at once but over many years, from the inside out, after sitting with Elders and listened to their simple teachings over and over again. 

Teachings that in the past went into hiding and were kept in the minds and hearts of the Old Ones for the times to come when the young people would reach out for their return.  The Elders say that the ceremonies are still here, that everything we need is still here; we just need to humble ourselves in order to get back to these things.  Our Youth Initiative helps the Elders and youth return to their teachings - for the benefit of the generations of all races of people yet to come.

Current programs are under way in the Four Directions in the following Native communities:

  • Bitterroot Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai (Flathead Reservation)
  • Northern Cheyenne Nation, Montana
  • Akimel O'otham, Gila River Reservation, Arizona
  • Haudenosaunee Territory, the Six Nations of New York & Canada (Akwesasne & Tuscarora)
  • Miniconjou and Oglala Lakota, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

In 2014 the Initiative provided major administrative and financial support for a growing number of Rites of Passage programs involving hundreds of boys and girls.  The Ohero:kon (a Mohawk phrase meaning “Under the Husk”) Rites of Passage Program at Akwesasne is a ceremonial process to ensure that the needs within the stages of development of Mohawk adolescent youth are being met.  Throughout the winter and spring of 2014, the young participants met every week at the longhouse for instructions by clan mothers and other traditional leaders to prepare them for their coming of age ceremony.




“There is a place over the bridge down near the river, my granddaughter goes there, a place where young people are honored and respected.  They go to this place from other reservations, to learn about the natural world, and learn to live comfortably on Mother Earth.  They are given guidance by their aunts and uncles; they are given challenges, to learn and to grow in the old Indian way; they express love and appreciation for creation.  They sing songs and dance in the firelight.  And they also spend time alone.  They fast while thinking about what they really want out of their lives.  They think about what’s really important to them.”

- Kaniekehaka Mohawk Elder, Akwesasne Reservation