2018 Champ Week in Review

February 11-15, 2018 marked the seventh annual “Champ Week”, a time for the newly-named Champions for Change to join the Center for Native American Youth in Washington, DC for a week of advocacy, action, and celebration.

The week began with a welcome dinner where CNAY staff, Champs, and invited guests got to know one another over a Mediterranean meal at our headquarters. Our partners at WeRNative helped us break the ice and get to know one another by challenging us to participate in the Paper Challengetogether, an activity circulating on social media. It’s not as easy as it looks.

After a good night’s rest, the Champs began their day with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) State of Indian Nations address at the Newseum. Accompanied by their invited guests or “Champerones”, our group heard from NCAI President Jefferson Keel, Executive Director Jackie Pata, and Senator Tom Udall. The group was delighted to see the event opened by two young women from the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe who delivered a prayer in their Native language. After the event, the Champions debriefed to discuss the topics covered at the State of Indian Nations, like food sovereignty, tribal self-determination, protection of sacred sites, economic development, supports for urban Indian communities that lack land bases, and more. Missing during this year’s SOIN was a strong and explicit prioritization of Native youth, which also prompted discussion among the young leaders.

The rest of Day 1 was filled with training sessions. Champions learned to craft their advocacy “elevator pitch” in a way that communicates their work and passions concisely and impactfully. They received intensive communications training from our partners at The Hub Project, including how to use social media as an advocacy tool, how to prepare for a successful interview, and how to keep the attention of journalists and influencers. The night ended with a Champ Week staple: dinner at Fogo de Chao with our partners at Casey Family Programs.

On Tuesday, Champions began with an Advocacy 101 session delivered by Denise Desiderio, former NCAI policy director and current senior policy advisor for Akin Gump LLP. Denise’s presentation gave Champs an overview of the makeup of our current Congress and history of US-tribal relations before diving into targeted, one-on-one guidance on having a successful meeting with your congressional representatives.

Following this session, Champs met with Vice Chief Verlon José and 2017 Champion Nancy Deere-Turney, the two moderators for this year’s panel event at The Aspen Institute, to prepare for their on-stage conversation. The panel was well attended, with over 120 RSVPs. The event was also livestreamed, opening it up to the more than 5,000 unique viewers on Facebook. Those who attended in person were also significantly engaged on Twitter, sharing takeaways and impactful quotes using #CNAYChamps. Click here for social media highlights from the week.

Immediately after the panel, Champions rejoined NCAI’s Executive Council Winter Session, where former Senator and CNAY Founder Byron Dorgan presented them to a room full of tribal leaders during General Assembly. Champions later met with NCAI Youth Commissioners to hear about their work and learn best practices for engaging tribal leaders and other high-level decision-makers.

Finally, on Tuesday evening, Champions mingled with NCAI conference attendees and other stakeholders during CNAY’s seventh anniversary reception. The Champions received medals from CNAY stakeholders, a tradition dating back to the first class of Champions for Change. This year, Executive Director Erik Stegman presented Poarch Band of Creek Indians Vice Chair and CNAY Board Member Robbie McGhee with the “Honorary Champion for Change” award in gratitude for his many contributions and continuous support of our program over the past seven years.

On Wednesday, the Champions took to Capitol Hill to share their stories with their Congressional representatives. Anthony, Damien, EllaMae, Isabel and Shawna put their preparation into practice as they discussed the issues they’re each passionate about, and suggested how their representatives might support them in their efforts.

Finally, on Thursday, the Champions met once again at The Aspen Institute’s headquarters to be interviewed for the 2018 Champions for Change class video. The video gives viewers an inside look at what motivates each Champion to create change for themselves, their peers, and their communities. Look for the video to be released within the next couple of months! Click here for more photos from Champ Week.