Red Lake Hosts 14th Annual Youth Leadership Conference

After teaching the origins of Hoop Dancing, the Sampson brothers had no trouble finding volunteers to learn the basics of hoop dancing. Photographs by Michael Meuers

Published June 3, 2019

Theme is “Indigenous Power” 

RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION — The 13th Annual Red Lake Nation Youth Leadership Conference was held Wednesday thru Friday, May 29-31, 2019, at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, MN. The conference theme this year was “Indigenous Power.” The conference featured national and local speakers, presenters and performers, as well as youth activities and a banquet.

Things started off Wednesday evening from 6 to 9 pm at Red Lake Nation College with a Miikawaadizi “Be Beautiful” Fashion Show, emceed by Chance Rush. According to Karen Barrett, participation grew by 50% (60 vs 40 last year) and participants included models from ages six months to Elder. The models were photographed by a professional from Minneapolis

Later came comedy with Jonny R “Indian Outlaw,” and a Becca Lynn & Thomas X Performance. A banquet was held Thursday evening also at the College with entertainment by Supaman (hip-hop and comedy with a message) and the Sampson Brothers (hoop dancing) from 6 to 9 p.m.

Workshops and presentations were held from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM on Thursday and Friday. As usual, several workshops occurred simultaneously. Topics included; powwow Zumba, Indigenous hip-hop, natural skin care products, self-care, healing through culture, hand drum making, moccasin making, moccasin game teachings, keeping tobacco sacred, and story of hoop dancing.

his is the ancient Moccasin Game, marbles are hid under covers and the opposing team must guess where the marble is while flipping the cover with a thin stick. There is a constant beat of the drum while in action.

This is the fourteenth year that Red Lake Chemical Heath Programs and Indian & Free, along with the support of the Red Lake Tribal Council, High School, tribal programs and other organizations, have sponsored this teaching event for the youth of Red Lake Nation. 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 Two Highlights: Thursday, May 30, 2019
At 9:00 a.m., after registration and having their fill of fruit and pastry, students filled up the stands in the high school gymnasium for the Opening Ceremony.

A prayer and smudge offered by Ponemah elder Frances “Frannie” Miller was followed by a song by Little Bear Drum Singers at the beginning of each days’ activities. The first day included a grand entry by Red Lake royalty.

After the song by Little Bear Drum, Red Lake Chairman, Darrell G. Seki, Sr., gave 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. I like your theme of Indigenous Power. Know who you are, be proud of who you are, you are Red Lake Anishinaabe.”

Seki was followed by representatives of the Red Lake Chemical Health Programs and its director, Tom Barrett. Reyna Lussier, Project Director & Jessica Urrutia-Cook, Supervisor Indian & Free Program then welcomed the crowd and gave a synopsis of the agenda and workshops that would be held. The Chemical Health Programs are the major sponsor of the Youth Leadership Conference each year.

Next up the Red Lake Nation Youth Council introduced themselves. The Youth Council Chairman gave a short introduction. 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.

At 10 am, a Keynote Speech was given by NAMMY Winner (Native American Music Awards) from Apsaalooke Nation, “Supaman.” Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, known professionally as Supaman is an Apsáalooke Nation rapper, fancy dancer and sometime comedian who was born in Seattle Washington and grew up in Crow AgencyMontana. His serious message was punctuated with humor and music. Getting the audience to participate was among his skills as a speaker.

Superman is featured, with MAG7, in the Taboo video “Stand Up/Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” which won an award for MTV Video Music Award for Best Video with a Social Message. He has also been nominated for and received multiple awards for his work as a DJ, singer, and rapper, and a fancy dancer including the Tuney Award which he won seven times, the Aboriginal Peoples Music Choice Award, and the North America Indigenous Music Award.


Two sessions of workshops were held before a late lunch at 12:45 pm, and one during the afternoon on both Thursday and Friday. Sessions of 6 to 8 assorted workshops were held each day. Most sessions were repeated two or three times so that participants could be involved with all workshops that were of interest.

As usual, several workshops occurred simultaneously. Sessions included: “Pow-wow Zumba” with Athena Cloud showing some fancy steps for the next powwow; “Natural Skin Care Products” that are natural and eco-friendly with Veronica Bratvold & Nicole Buckanaga; “Self-care” with Becca Kirk & Dyami Thomas; “Words of Life” with Supaman; and “I am who you are” presented by Renee Van Nett.

Susan Ninham speaks on “Keeping Tobacco Sacred.” She spoke on the four sacred medicine, also speaking on the culture and history of Asemaa. (Tobacco) Here she prepares a smudge made up of several medicines.

Day 3 workshops included” Indigenous Hip Hop” with Thomas X; “Culture is Prevention” with Ruben Crowfeather; “Keeping Tobacco Sacred” with Susan Ninham; “Well for Culture” with Chelsey Luger who spoke of historic trauma and taking risks; “Minanjgewin” was presented by Veronica Bratvold & Vince Johnson; Indigenous “Digital Storytelling” by Kailee Fretland;

and the “Story of Hoop Dancing” with the Sampson Brothers.

Ojibwe crafts and games were on the agenda as well, they included: “Hand Drum Making” with Larry Vanwert Sr.; “Moccasin Making” with Wenona Kingbird; and “Moccasin Game Teachings” with Travis Owens in the library.

A general assembly was held at the end of the day.

After a couple hour break, the students of Red Lake High School gathered at Red Lake Nation College for the Youth Conference Banquet from 6 to 9 pm. Included was entertainment by Supaman and a performance by the Sampson Brothers.

Day Three Highlights: Thursday, May 4, 2018 

After a prayer and smudge by Frances Miller, a hand drum song by Brendan Strong, and Welcome by Red Lake Tribal Secretary Samuel Strong, the opening ceremony finished with Miikawaadizi “Be Beautiful” Fashion Show.

Guest Keynote Speaker for the morning on Day 2 was Chelsey Legera. Chelsey grew up in North Dakota (Turtle Mountain Chippewa/Standing Rock Sioux) and is now based in Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives with her partner and daughter. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, where she designed a concentration of study based on comparative histories of Indigenous peoples.

She then earned her M.S. in journalism at Columbia U’s Graduate School of Journalism where she concentrated on broadcast and digital media. Chelsey is the co-founder and content editor of Well For Culture: a grassroots initiative which takes proactive approaches toward addressing health concerns for Native American people while sharing and promoting holistic Indigenous wellness knowledge for all.

Workshops completed, at 2:15 all gathered again in the High School Gym for a concert performance by Lady Midnight along with 7th grade youth. And finally, the 2019 Youth Conference Closing Circle. Drawings were held and the students were dismissed to the warm spring weather.

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