Champions For Change Changed My Life

By Warren Davis, Navajo Nation, 2020 Champion For Change

My experience in Washington D.C. with the Center for Native American Youth was easily one of the most memorable, meaningful, and empowering experiences in my life. From the workshops and learning opportunities, to the new friendships and perspectives gained, it was all so amazing and beautiful. My time spent with CNAY also happened to be my first time in D.C., which was a really confusing and weird experience for myself. 

There I was, a young Indigenous person, who is active in his communities, yearning to learn his language and play a part in saving his culture, standing in the capital of the country that once vowed, and still makes effort to destroy everything dear to him, the land, the language, the people. Being in that space was at times disheartening, and difficult. Sometimes a sense of uneasiness was felt. These feelings persisted on and off for maybe a couple of days, until I had a really meaningful and heartfelt conversation with another Navajo, and one of the sweetest people I met while in D.C., Angel Benally. 

It was her that reminded and shared with me that our great leaders, our headmen, our ancestors, once stood in the same space we were (Washington D.C), and fought for the rights and well being of our people. Indigenous people in D.C. today are a continuation of that ancestral legacy, protecting and fighting for the rights of the land, the language, and the people. After that conversation, I had instilled in me the most overwhelming sense of purpose, determination, and peace concerning my work and role with CNAY I belonged. This really set the mood for me, and really allowed me to take every bit of information, mentorship, workshop and friendship to heart. The experience was absolutely beautiful. It was a really emotional week, in a good way. 

My greatest takeaways for the entire experience were the relationships and perspectives gained. It was absolutely beautiful to form relationships with these other young Indigenous leaders. We all came from varying backgrounds with different agendas, ideologies, tribal affiliations and communities, yet we all had common goals, similar experiences, and our hearts were all in the same place.

It was a truly empowering experience. It really showed me the power of community action, the power of our young people, and gave me a strong sense of hope. I also really enjoyed gaining new perspectives on historical/intergenerational trauma, and how it has had effects in not only my family, but Indian Country as a whole. The leadership workshops, community action and social media workshops also provided me so many tools and ideas for how I want to move forward with my work in my communities. 

My week as a Champion for Change with the Center for Native American Youth was life changing. It provided me invaluable experiences, opportunities and friendships, as well gifted me with the skills and knowledge on how to make my dreams for my communities become reality.

Warren Davis, 22, Navajo Nation, is a 2020 Champion For Change. Davis works for Title VI Northern Utah Native Connections as a paraprofessional, serving and mentoring Indigenous youth on a daily basis. He served as a leader by organizing cultural activities, cultural education, promoting cultural awareness, and by forming his school’s first Native American Youth Council.