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Native American: UNITY wraps up sold out conference in downtown Phoenix

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A record 700 attendees from tribal communities throughout the United States came together to participate in workshops, breakout sessions, and cultural sharing. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress)
UNITY event in Phoenix brings together Native American leaders
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

Hundreds of Native youth from around the country are now armed with advocacy plans to help their tribal communities.

They learned how to advocate for top issues during the UNITY Midyear Conference held Feb. 2-4 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, according to a press release.

A record 700 attendees from tribal communities throughout the United States came together to participate in workshops, breakout sessions, and cultural sharing, the release states.

The star-studded lineup of speakers and presenters includes hip-hop artist Christian “SupaMan” Parrish (Apsáalooke Nation), actor Kiowa Gordon (Hualapai), visual artist Tomás Karmelo Amaya (A:shiwi/Ralámuli/Yoeme), and Netflix star Charley Hogan (Navajo) from the breakout hit “Frybread Face and Me.”

“I am always so inspired by both the speakers and youth attendees at our conferences,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY executive director. “The cultural sharing and education that happens here shows that there’s a bright future ahead for our communities.”

The event opened with a rousing keynote address and performance by Christian “SupaMan” Parrish, who spoke about challenges he overcame as a child while living on the Crow Reservation in Montana. Youth participants spent much of the conference in breakout sessions focusing on environmental, wellness, cultural, and mental health advocacy.

On day two, Shawn “DJ Tribal Touch” Martinez (Diné/Navajo), senior director of live presentation for the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, got the morning started and pumped up the crowd for the keynote presentation by Kiowa Gordon who plays Deputy Jim Chee on AMC’s Dark Winds.

Youth attendees then participated in 40 speed workshops focused on career, education, health, and culture. The popular round dance event — featuring an Intertribal round dance as well as the O’odham Cu:dk round dance — closed the day’s events.

The conference ended with Native youth leaders, elected by their peers, showcasing their advocacy plans to better their communities. One group called on youth and adults to work together to clean up their communities, which can lead to a cleaner environment and cleaner water.

The advocacy breakouts were led by highly skilled trainers well-known in Indian Country, including Lovina Louie (Coeur d’Alene/Colville/Nez Perce), Tommie Ghost Dog (Burns Paiute/Oglala Lakota), Eileen Crocker (White Mountain Apache), and J’Shon Lee (White Mountain Apache).

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