The White Mountain Apache Tribe Education Department hosted the 2nd Annual White Mountain Apache Youth Conference July 20-23 at Theodore Roosevelt School. This year’s conference promoted pride and identity in being White Mountain Apache.
The four-day conference brought more than 2,000 Apache youth, 8 thru 18, together to address the pillars of Apache identity including food culture and sovereignty, Apache language, White Mountain Apache history and cultural identity. Workshops were led by Apache elders and members of the White Mountain Apache Youth Council.
“Everyone is feeling the hardships that our Tribe is enduring at the moment. As leaders, we reference our youth as leaders of tomorrow. My philosophy is that we are the leaders of today, and as the leaders of today, we have to foster and develop our leaders of tomorrow. Our Apache kids need to understand the importance of language and history and the cultural identity and traditions of our people in order to be responsible leaders for tomorrow. It is amazing that we brought together more than 2,000 Apache youth, who all left the Conference with pride in being White Mountain Apache,” stated Kasey Velasquez, Vice Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
The Conference structure was consistent throughout the week, with each day beginning with registration and breakfast that lead into a series of three (3) general assemblies throughout the day. General assemblies were led by Brian Friejo and Pearl Yellowman. Both Frejo and Yellowman work throughout Indian country with Tribes and tribal youth. Each day, Pearl worked with the White Mountain Apache Youth Council and provided mentorship on workshop instruction.
Between general assembly’s, youth attended each of the four (4) pillar workshops on food culture and sovereignty, language, history and identity.
This year’s food culture workshop was provided by renowned Apache chef Nephi Craig and Clayton Harvey of the People’s Farm in Whiteriver. The workshop informed youth about the traditional foods of the White Mountain Apache and how to incorporate the traditional produce from crops into the everyday diet. Chef Nephi Craig provided food demonstrations on a variety of ways to use traditional foods in the home.
The Apache language workshop was led by Youth Council President Ivan Walker, 16 years old of Whiteriver and fluent speaker of the Apache language, as well as Hedy Kelewood Apache elder and language teacher at Dishchii’bikoh Community School, and Mona Eleando Apache elder and language teacher at Seven Mile Elementary School. The language workshop focused on basic vocabulary, introductions, social songs and the Apache clan system.
White Mountain Apache history workshops were led by Ramon Riley and Denise Lupe, who shared with youth the history of the White Mountain Apache people. Youth were provided information on the pre reservation era, the history of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the time immemorial lifespan of the White Mountain Apache.
Cultural identity was led by Youth Councilmembers Shasta Dazen, DeAndra Antonio, Makanalani Pike, and Blake Lupe who is a Alchesay High School basketball all-star, and UNITY Advisor Eileen Pike who was joined by renowned hand drum artists Butchie Eastman and Antoine Edwards. The group leaders collaborated and discussed with youth the importance of having cultural identity, how to incorporate the identity of being White Mountain Apache into everyday life and the reasons each of them promote their culture through their identity.
Harrisen DeClay, Education Director for White Mountain Apache said, “I am thankful for all of the volunteers and presenters who assisted with this Conference. It’s amazing that over the course of four days, we hosted more than 2,000 Apache youth. We have to always plant the seed of thought for education in the minds of our youth, but we also have to provide a sense of hope that as a people our future is strong and bright. This year’s Conference provided our Apache youth with that hope and I am confident that our continued efforts will develop strong Apache leaders and families.”
The final day of the Conference featured the annual Back to School Bash. Students received back to school supplies, backpacks, and lunch and were provided with entertainment by Butch and Antoine, comedian Mylo Smith, the Duncan Brothers Hoop Dancers, Redgy Rustin former Miss WMAT Princess, Makana Pike, DJ NDN, the Pine Tree Clan Crown Dancers, Running with Arrows, J-Stylez, Brian Friejo and Christian Parrish aka “Supaman.” Prior to the Back to School Bash, the Education Department hosted an Apache Youth Basketball Clinic featuring instruction by White Mountain Apache student athletes including: Marie Lupe alumni of Alchesay and played at the collegiate level Olds College of Alberta, Canada, Darius Stover of Alchesay High School, Angie Andreas of Top Ranked Arizona Division III Valley Christian, Michael Massey of the Division IV State Champions Arizona Lutheran, Christopher Williams alumni of the Division III Section Champions Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets, Antwaan Antonio who will be in his senior year at Division I Desert Mountain High School, Alchesay Falcon alumni Rashaan Stover, Arizona Heat All Star Blake Lupe who will be leading the Falcons this winter at Alchesay High School and guest Winslow Lady Bulldog alumni Kaelyn Bitsoi (Navajo).
The White Mountain Apache Youth Council held its annual officer elections during the 2nd Annual Youth Conference. Election results are as follows:
Co-Presidents: Ivan Walker and Maria Walker
Vice President: Rylan Johnson
Secretary/Treasurer: Rosella Altaha
Public Relations: Chance Hill
District Representatives: District I Keegan Bonito and Edith Gatewood, DistrictII Manuel Dazen and Tamika Palmer, District III Monica Cosay and Tanisha Cosay and District IV Ignatius Lupe Jr., Eric Mitchell and Leona Tate.
“As the Education Director, I have the opportunity to attend many conferences and events and speak with other Tribes about their education and youth initiatives. I am confident that the White Mountain Apache Tribe is elevating the expectation on youth events and initiatives. The early mornings, the late nights, the long days during the week for myself and team of volunteers was worth it knowing that we had the opportunity to create a positive impact on a few thousand Apache youth,” stated DeClay.
The White Mountain Apache Education Department would like to thank all of the volunteers and tribal programs and departments who sponsored and contributed to the 2nd Annual White Mountain Apache Youth Conference.