One America - United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY)

Program: United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY)
Contact(s): J.R. Cook, Executive Director: (405) 424-3010
Purpose: To provide a mechanism for mobilizing American Indian and Alaska Native youth so they can identify and address their concerns and issues at both the local and national levels

United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) was formed in 1976 on the premise that American Indian youth must be provided with opportunities to develop leadership skills and organizational experience. In addition, UNITY provides a positive environment for young people to share their own tribal histories and cultures with other tribal youth to assist in the acceptance of the differences among tribes and other peoples. UNITY's goal is to promote "unity" within individual families and tribes, and also among American Indian tribes and other peoples. There is a vast diversity of cultures, languages and histories among the more than 550 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages, the over 100 state recognized tribes, and the many urban Indian organizations that are located across the country. UNITY respects the diversity of the various tribes and encourages youth to maintain their respective cultures. At the tribal or community level, UNITY assists youth ages 15-24 to create youth councils in their own communities. Currently, there is a network consisting of more than 140 UNITY-affiliated youth councils in 28 states, representing roughly 16,200 young people. These youth councils are sponsored by tribes, Alaska Native villages, high schools, colleges and urban organizations. They create a network through which young people from different councils can interact and learn from each other. Youth council members are also responsible for conducting projects in the areas of community service, environment, cultural heritage and healthy lifestyles. The National UNITY Council, developed in 1992 at the National UNITY Conference in St. Paul, Minn., is the entity through which youth leaders can collectively identify and address common concerns. For example, six representatives of the National UNITY Council testified about the "Challenges Confronting American Indian Youth" in a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February 1995. Each affiliated youth council selects two individuals to serve as representatives on the National Council. Issues currently being addressed by the National UNITY Council include: education, alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancy, cultural heritage, gang violence and the environment.

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