United States Native American Leaders Speak at Festival of the Diaspora in Brazil

February 27, 2024

CONTACT: Harper Estey, Harper@NUNAConsultGroup.com 

U.S. Native American Leaders Speak at Festival of the Diaspora in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO – Last week, Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) Executive Director Nikki Santos (Couer d’Alene) and CNAY Programs Team Member and Chicago District Council Member Anthony Tamez-Pochel (Wuskwi Sipihk First Nations Cree and Sicangu Lakota) participated in the third annual Festival of the Diaspora in Rio de Janeiro. 

Executive Director Santos and Council Member Tamez-Pochel held a discussion on Indigenous leadership and honoring the invaluable insights and stories of Indigenous communities in the Americas.

The two discussed their experiences as Indigenous leaders, emphasizing the need for more than tokenistic gestures towards the Native communities, the importance of Black and Indigenous solidarity, and the power of holding the door open for the next generations.

“We are asking to have Indigenous people ingrained in the fabric of all spaces,” said Executive Director Santos. “We are worth more than giving us a microphone solely during Native American Heritage Month, or a land acknowledgement. That isn’t strengthening the fabric, that’s simply adding pieces. We are asking to dig deep, and have these uncomfortable conversations, that’s when the real solidarity work starts. And when we do that, we take away the tokenism and we bring in humanity and strengthen this collective fabric.”

Anthony is the youngest Native elected official in the country, representing Chicago’s 17th Police District as a First Nations Oji-Cree/Black leader. His work centers on teaching others how to live ethically on Anishinaabek lands and supporting Black Indigenous solidarity in the struggle for collective liberation.

“I talk about one of the things that I view myself as is a doorstop…, that makes our lives very easy,” said Council Member Tamez-Pochel. “But for me being a doorstop is very significant because it allows people behind me to get in that door. And that allows them to have a seat at that table where they’re able to make those decisions. And they’re able to be with people who look like them, and talk like them, and have the same feelings as them and the same experiences as them. Because those are the people that we want to empower in those decision making positions.”

Anthony also participated in the panel Diversity in the Americas,, which focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporate America and the importance of representation in leadership and policy making.

The panel covered each member’s personal experiences and journeys with overcoming obstacles faced by marginalized communities in pursuing opportunities that set the stage for substantial, generational change. 

“I can hold the door open for those other Native youth that want to run for office, for those other Black youth that want to run for office,” Council Member Tamez-Pochel said during the DEI panel. “Just being at the table, and by just allowing others who are like you to be at that very same table, we no longer become an afterthought. We no longer become forgotten.”

This was the third iteration of the Festival of the Diaspora. The first two events took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. More information on the Festival of the Diaspora can be found on their website, here.

The Festival of the Diaspora is an international not-for-profit organization on a mission to create an unparalleled space where leaders from across the Americas come together to learn, celebrate, and collaborate for the greater good.


About CNAY: The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute is a national organization that works alongside Native youth – ages 24 and under – on reservations, in rural villages and urban spaces across the country to improve their health, safety, and overall well- being. Rooted in culture, our vision is for all Native American youth to lead full and healthy lives, be honored for the leaders they are, and have the resources and agency to create the world Native youth are worthy of and deserve.