Published January 8, 2016
Happy New Year! A new year brings us a crop of new leaders in the Cherokee Nation, in the form of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council. The Youth Council serves a vital role in building the next generation of leaders for our tribe and our people. We recently swore in 17 Cherokee Nation citizens to sit on the 2015-2016 Youth Council. These young men and women accept a major responsibility when serving the one-year volunteer term. They help shape tribal policy and our future as a tribal government.
Participating is an honor, and I respect the commitment these young people have displayed. Their input is something I take seriously. In a few short years, many of these youth will assume their rightful leadership role within the Cherokee Nation.
The Youth Council learns the Cherokee Nation Constitution, our tribal history and our tribal heritage. They represent a resource for our administration and Tribal Council to get a better idea of the concerns important to Cherokee youth. That is significant because they will have a meaningful role in our tribal affairs and share the issues affecting them the most, which means we do not have to assume or even guess how our young people feel.
The Youth Council empowers young Cherokees, gives them an avenue to participate and prepares them for future public service. Since 1989, the Youth Council has been a critical tool in building leadership and teamwork skills for so many Cherokee Nation citizens. Many of the 184 past participants have gone on to work for the tribe or for Indian Country in some capacity.
The 2015-16 Tribal Youth Council members are:
- Taylor Armbrister, of Kansas, Sequoyah High School
- Jori Cowley, of Vinita, Vinita High School
- Bradley Fields, of Locust Grove, Locust Grove High School
- Amy Hembree, of Tahlequah, Stanford University
- Camerin James, of Fort Gibson, Fort Gibson High School
- Austin Jones, of Hulbert, Tahlequah High School
- Destiny Matthews, of Watts, Colcord High School
- Emily Messimore, of Claremore, Verdigris High School
- Treyton Morris, of Salina, Salina High School
- Sarah Pilcher, of Westville, Sequoyah High School
- Sunday Plumb, of Tahlequah, Oral Roberts University
- Laurel Reynolds, of Claremore, Claremore High School
- Abigail Shepherd, of Ochelata, Caney Valley High School
- Julie Thornton, of Gore, Northeastern State University
- Chelbie Turtle of Tahlequah, Briggs School
- Jackson Wells, of Tahlequah, Sequoyah High School
- Sky Wildcat, of Tahlequah, Northeastern State University
These students, all 15- to 22 year-olds, are role models for other Cherokee youth. They maintain high academic standards and organize community service projects. Last year’s Youth Council spearheaded a Cherokee language revitalization effort aimed at young adults. That idea was a five-year program and this new group will carry on that mission by challenging others young adults to speak and learn the Cherokee language.
Time and time again, we have seen young men and women blossom before our eyes when they participate in the Cherokee Nation Youth Council. I know these committed youth will grow and make very real contributions to their community, to the Cherokee Nation and to Indian Country.
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