Published May 4, 2017
By Darren Thompson, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe
STANDING ROCK INDIAN RESERVATION – What started more than 14 years ago as an effort to unite and inspire the youth of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has blossomed into an annual event that now features youth leaders that started the movement that has inspired the world in voicing its opposition against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Hundreds of youth from the Oceti Sakowin—the seven bands of Lakota—gathered for a day of inspirational presenters, events and round table discussions to address community needs.
Those presenting at the youth conference included Bobbi Jean Three Legs, the youth organizer that organized a youth run that eventually ran across the country to Washington, D.C. to voice its opposition against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The youth runners would inspire thousands to travel to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the later part of 2016.
“When we started to run across the reservation, we never thought we would make our way to Washington, D.C.,” said Bobbi Jean Three Legs. “Originally, we intended on running across the reservation to raise awareness and when people started supporting us we kept on running with our original destination to Lincoln, Nebraska to the regional headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
“You’ll never know what you can do until you actually try it,” continued Three Legs. “I’m just like all of you and without the help of the many people who supported us, we would have never made it this far.”
Also presenting at the conference were various elders from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Darius Sparks from Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Miss Teen North Dakota Kilyn Parisien, Love Jefferson, Lori Woodley, Hawaiian Water Protector Malia Hulleman, Native American Flute Player Darren Thompson, and various Standing Rock Sioux Tribal council members.
“The youth conference was started in 2003 to unite our youth,” said Standing Rock Youth Conference Coordinator Nola Taken Alive. “A youth conference had never been done before and it was something our youth voiced they wanted in the community. Making it an annual event is much anticipated and is something our community looks forward to every year.”
The 2-day conference included program booths open to the public from various departments from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a potato dance contest, hand drum contest, kahómni contest, talent showcase, face painting, giveaways, on-site barbers, and an overwhelming guest list of tribal members, visitors and artists.
“It is so inspiring to the many youth wanting to be involved in the annual Standing Rock Youth Wellness Conference,” said Standing Rock Elder Deloris Taken Alive. “To hear our youth wanting to speak Lakota and know their culture makes all of prayers a reality to continue our way of life into the next generation.”
To continue to learn more about the Standing Rock Youth Council, including ways to support their work, please visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StandingRockYouthCouncil/