The 2023 Native Youth Grantmakers' first gathering was a celebration of unity, resilience, and the power of youth leadership. Our newest participants of the Native Youth Grantmakers program gathered this past July in Los Angeles for a week that was designed to become a memorable chapter in their personal and professional lives. However, the gathering wasn't just about personal growth and professional development; it revealed the ambitions and futures that these dynamic youth leaders envision for their communities. 

Investing In Youth Leadership

At Native Americans in Philanthropy, we strongly believe that Native youth bring a critical perspective to the world of philanthropy and deserve decision-making power when it comes to the issues that impact us all.  

The Native Youth Grantmakers (NYG) program was founded to introduce Native youth to the flourishing community of Native-led philanthropy organizations and Indigenous philanthropy professionals, educate them about the sector at large, develop their leadership skills, and actively include them in a participatory grantmaking process through the Native Voices Rising grantmaking collaborative.  

The gathering in Los Angeles was the first of many gatherings, both virtual and in-person, that prepare them for the hands-on grantmaking experience they’ll receive as grant reviewers for the Native Voices Rising grant applications.  

Inspirational Collaborations 

The participants are immersed in a curriculum that educates them about the diverse range of Indigenous communities and their specific concerns, and about the practices of both mainstream and Native-led philanthropy.  

One of the highlights of the gathering was the opportunity for the Native Youth Grantmakers to engage with the California Wellness Foundation, known for its commitment to promoting health and wellness in underserved communities, including Native populations. The parti engaged in insightful discussions with representatives from the foundation, exploring strategies for addressing the unique challenges faced by Native communities and learning about funding practices.  

A vital aspect of the Native Youth Grantmakers' gathering was the opportunity to connect with the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the Tongva culture and ancestral lands. The grantmakers engaged in experiential learning activities, such as land-based teachings and storytelling sessions, guided by Tongva community leaders. These experiences deepened the participants' understanding of how philanthropy can support the preservation of Indigenous knowledge for future generations. 

Celebration of Identity 

Amidst the serious work and learning, the gathering also celebrated the rich cultural heritage of the participants. The gathering began with an introduction exercise where the participants presented family history presentations, illustrating how closely their own personal narratives are intertwined with those of their home communities and Tribes.  

The participants also enjoyed an evening mixer of local Native and philanthropic leaders featuring cultural performances from pow wow dancers, a reminder that even in urban landscapes, traditions can survive, thrive, and inspire. 

Exploring the City of Angels 

The week wasn't solely confined to meeting rooms and workshops. The participants had the opportunity to explore the city of Los Angeles. A visit to the iconic Santa Monica Pier allowed them to soak in the coastal beauty and one of Southern California’s most well-known landmarks. A walk on the beach allowed many of the participants to step into the Pacific Ocean for the first time in their lives before they enjoyed a few of the pier’s amusement park rides.  

A Farewell to Remember 

The culmination of this transformative week was a farewell dinner hosted at a breathtaking rooftop restaurant overlooking downtown LA. Against the backdrop of a sprawling cityscape, these young minds shared their reflections, hopes, and aspirations. This final evening was not just an end; it marked the beginning of a new chapter as these participants returned to their communities with renewed energy and purpose. 

Advocates for Change 

The gathering of Native Youth Grantmakers in Los Angeles was more than an event; it was a statement of intent, a proclamation that the youth are invested in the betterment of their communities. These emerging leaders are not waiting for change to happen; they are actively creating it. Their determination to uplift their people, coupled with the skills and knowledge gained during this week, makes them a force to be reckoned with. 

As the participants departed, they carried with them a renewed sense of purpose, empowered to drive positive change within their communities and for all of Indian Country. By amplifying the voices and visions of Native youth, these inspiring leaders are forging a brighter future for generations to come, rooted in cultural resilience, community empowerment, and sustainable grantmaking practices.

Post by NAP Staff
September 13, 2023


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