12th Annual Youth Conference Held at Red Lake

Red Lake Spirit Project: Miikawaadizi “Be Beautiful” Fashion Show

Published May 19, 2017

RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION – Hundreds of young people descended on Red Lake High School for the 12th Annual Red Lake Nation Youth Leadership Conference held Wednesday thru Friday, May 10 to 12, 2017, at Red Lake High School in Red Lake Minnesota. The conference theme this year was “Leaders of Today.”

Workshops and presentations were held from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM each day, with a shorter day Friday. As usual, several workshops occurred simultaneously. Topics of the three-day conference included workshops on cultural identity, motivation, leadership, path of purpose, self-esteem, complacency and being self-driven.

Several Social Activities were scheduled in addition to the workshops. On Wednesday afternoon Red Lake’s Youth Council along with America’s Next Top Model contestant Mariah Watchman, led an initiation walk against meth and heroin.

Beginning at 6 pm Wednesday evening, a variety of entertainment at the Red Lake Humanities Center featured a fashion show, music comedy and a hypnotist. It was standing room only as community members joined the youth…perhaps for the ever entertaining Robert Johnston’s hypnotism show. A banquet was held Thursday evening at Seven Clans Casino Event Center at 5 p.m. capped with valuable door prizes.

And finally, Friday thru Sunday, May 12-14, featured the Red Lake Warrior Challenge Youth Baskleball Tournament at Red Lake’s High School, Middle School, Elementary School, Boys & Girls Club, and Humanities Center. There were three categories of both and girls; 6th grade and under, 7th to 9th grade, and 10th to 12th grade.

This is the twelfth year that the Red Lake Tribal Council, High School, tribal programs and other organizations have sponsored this great event for the youth of Red Lake Nation and others. A host of Red Lake member professionals, and well known guest speakers and performers from across Indian Country, joined together to share their knowledge in leadership skills to motivate youth, and to promote native values, tradition, and culture.

Day One Highlights: Wednesday, May 10, 2017
At 9:00 a.m., after having their fill of fruit and pastry, students filled up the stands in the high school gymnasium.

An Opening Prayer was followed by a song by Little Bear Drum Group at the beginning of each days’ activities. An Introduction and Welcome Address was presented by Chance Rush on the first day. Rush also acted as the conference facilitator.

Li’l Mike and Funny Bone did some rapping and dancing as part of the keynote speech on Day One

On the first day, as part of his welcome address, Rush set the pace for the conference by encouraging youth to pursue their dreams, to value education, to share what they learn with others, and even to vote. “This is your community, your home and your story,” said Rush to those assembled. “We’re all gathered here today to celebrate the lives of Native American youth.” Chance closed by asking for a moment of silence for victims of suicide, illness, accidents, or old age.

Opening ceremonies continued with facilitator Rush introducing Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Red Lake Nation Tribal Chairman who provided a welcoming address. Seki spoke first in his first language Ojibwemowin as is his manner, then in English about the importance of education and the social ills that sometimes get in the way of success such as drugs, alcohol, and suicide. “Be respectful and remember that education is very important,” said Seki. “Say no to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and bullying. Be particularly wary of alcohol, it is a depressant and can lead to suicide.”

Seki was followed by the Red Lake Nation Youth Council who introduced themselves. Youth Council Chairman Matthew Antone gave a short introduction, followed by recognition of Vice-chairman, Larry Van Wert, Treasurer, Brandon Howard, and Secretary, DeAnthony Gonzalez. The Youth Council, formed in 2006 with more than a dozen members, are key players in the organization of the three day Youth Leadership Conference.

Next Rush introduced the local and guest presenters for the conference who all gave a short introduction of themselves and the workshops they would conduct.                                    

Keynote Address 

After a rousing “ice breaker” by facilitator Rush, he introduced the keynote Speakers Li’l Mike and Funny Bone known collectively as Mike Bone.

Mike Bone or Mike and Bone are (Pawnee) brothers and “little rappers” from Oklahoma City OK. Apparently they like to pull people’s legs a bit and at different times give different answers to their height. They have said they are between 52 and 55 inches tall, or about four and a half feet. “We’re not legally midgets or dwarves,” noted Funny Bone. Short size however is not a factor when they hit the mark. They rap, they sing, they dance and they are funny. They always leave lasting impression, and this event was no different.

In between jokes and rap songs, Mike Bone told their story as victims of abusive father homelessness and poverty. But they were driven to overcome. They are using their gifts and sharing it as we all should do. They also advised students to stay away from drugs and gave advice on how to deal with bullies.

The pair has done radio and TV, and were popular contestants on “NBC’s America’s Got Talent.” They also star in an award winning short film documentary entitled, “Looked Over but Never Overlooked.”

See what all the fuss is about, see Lil Mike and Funny Bone perform “Do the Rain Dance” on “America’s Got Talent.”


During the afternoon following lunch, two sessions of a half dozen assorted workshops were held at 1 pm and 2 pm most to be replicated the following day. Most sessions were repeated several times so that participants could be involved with most if not all sessions.

At the end of the day, the Red Lake Youth Council sponsored an initiation walk against meth and heroin beginning at 3:30 pm.

Evening Entertainment

Sponsored by the Red Lake Nation Youth Council a variety show was held that evening at 6 pm at the Red Lake Humanities Center. Entertainment and events of the evening included: Miikawaadizi (Be Beautiful) Fashion Show, and  comedy. A special performance by hypnotist Robert Johnston (Muskogee Creek/Choctaw) capped the evening. The popular and humorous Johnston, a professional hypnotist, had the audience rolling in the aisles as he had a dozen people meeting their favorite celebrities, chasing their noses, imitating monkeys, and other outrageous and comical stunts.

Day Two Highlights: Thursday, May 11, 2017 

After a prayer, a drum song by Little Bear drum group and conference up-dates, Rush introduced Anne Lundquist, Superintendent of Red Lake Schools who gave a welcome address.


Next, Tracy Olson, Red Lake High School Principal, presented a “Recognition of Achievements and Awards,” followed by a report on the History Day Project by Elizabeth Barrett and Quinten Chaboyea.

Keynote Address 

The Keynote Speaker for Day Two was Mariah Watchman. Watchman is an enrolled member with Confederated tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation who lives in Bismarck, ND. She is a nationally know model who competed in “America’s Next Top Model.” She was the show’s first American Indian model.

She shared here experience and has devoted her life to education. She earned a Bachelors degree in education from Florida International University and a Masters in Education from Barry University. She serves on the board of trustees of United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), a national organization which promotes native youth leadership and excellence within their communities.

Lunch was followed by another round of afternoon workshops.

Youth Council Banquet

A Youth Conference Banquet began at 5:00 p.m. Thursday at Seven Clans Casino and Event Center. The banquet was emceed by Chance Rush, who warmed up the audience after dinner before closing out the evening with door prizes won with tickets distributed to conferees who attended the various workshops. The menu included fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, vegetable and dessert.


Day Three Highlights: Friday, May 12, 2017 

The day started at 9 am with a “grab and go” breakfast, followed by a General Assembly in the High School gym.  Facilitator Rush provided a short welcome followed by a prayer and a song by the Little Bear drum group.

Keynote Address

Everett LaFromboise provided the keynote address on the final day.

LaFromboise is an Anishinaabe from Turtle Mountain and living in Cloquet. He lived at Red Lake as a youth for a few years. He follows traditional teachings, participates and studies ceremony including the sweat, Sundance  and tribal conferences. He is a strong believer in the gathering of healers.

Of course then LaFromboise spoke of Anishinaabe culture and traditions. Among the subjects he touched on were the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, which are Love, Wisdom, Truth, Courage, Honesty, Respect and Humility. He says he hopes to share a message that will “ alter your perspective and shift you from surviving to thriving.”

Things lightened up a bit with the Red Lake Spirit Project: Miikawaadizi “Be Beautiful” Fashion Show. Mentors, Chemical Health employee Karen Barrett and Middle School teacher Tami Liberty, introduced several young women who modeled ribbon skirts.

Closing Circle

As the 12th Annual Youth Leadership came to an end, a “Closing Circle” large enough to touch all edges of the gymnasium was formed by scores of students. A pipe ceremony was conducted by LaFromboise and a prayer by Rush. Little Bear drum group played a traveling song while everyone shook hands in the “circle manner.”

Following lunch, Red Lake High School Afternoon activities included a 3 on 3 basketball tournament.

Sessions & Guest Speakers                   

“The Choice is yours: Pick the Path of Purpose,” conducted by Everett LaFromboise was about culture, tradition and the spirituality of the Anishinaabe. He centered on the Seven Grandfathers Teachings with an emphasis on Humility.

Chance Rush held a session billed simply as “Motivation.” “The key to living a ‘well life’ is balance,’” said Rush. “Wellness is a gift that needs attention and commitment. It doesn’t mean we won’t have our frustrating moments, but we can accomplish anything we set our minds to by implementing our social, mental, physical and emotional greatness. As community leaders, we can encourage balance in others by being an example ourselves.”

Kasey Nicholson held a session called “Cultural Identity.” Nicholson, from Billings, MT, is a member of the Ah-ah-nii-nin (White Clay Nation) of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in north central Montana. He is a licensed addiction counselor, comedian, motivational speaker, and wellness educator.

Nicholson’s message focused on self esteem. He displayed his humor throughout the presentation. He spoke of cultural identity issues, educational endeavors, spiritual awareness, cultural understanding, substance abuse awareness, and suicide prevention.

“Walking together in A good Way” was the subject for Robert Johnston. He is a founding member of the Native Wellness Institute, is a motivational speaker, trainer and presenter who entertains as well as enlightens. His mantra is ‘when you hold back you stand behind the mountain, when you step up you stand on top of it. As a hypnotist, he has helped many people reprogram their minds to accept success into their lives.

“Naloxone” was the title of a workshop by  Kaliee Fretland, PharmD (Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose)

Other sessions included; “Complacency and Being Self-driven” by Tyler English Rush; “Growth Mind Set” with Sandy Ketterling; Little Mike & Funny Bonepacked the Culture Room when  they presented a session entitled “Motivational;” “Embrace: The movie,” a film and discussion on self-image, (Ladies only) was conducted by Jody Johnson and Marsha Roline; and the Red Lake youth Council held a session on the groups activities and how to become a member.


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