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Leaders today and tomorrow

 

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"Challenge yourself. That's how you can improve your community," Sen. Jonathon Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, told students at Rocky Boy High School Monday, while urging them to become involved in their families and communities. It was a message members of the newly appointed Chippewa Cree Tribal Youth Council echoed throughout their presentation to their peers who they will be representing. Once a month, the council's 13 members will share suggestions with the Chippewa Cree Tribal Council, which voted to approve the youth council's creation in January to provide an avenue for the youth population's voices to be heard and give them a chance to develop as leaders. Similar listening sessions will be held at Box Elder and Havre high schools to let students know that they now have representation and where suggestion boxes will be. The members, under the supervision of the Cultural Re s o u r c e s Department, have been meeting for about four weeks, said Windy Boy, who also is vice chairman of the Tribal Council. The representatives will meet weekly at their schools and meet once monthly as a group to gather and discuss suggestions. To make sure that the council is sustainable, it will have its own constitution and bylaws, he said. He's exploring funding options to make sure that there is always money for operations. With a trust fund established, the council would be able to spend the interest and always have funding for the following year, he said. Five teenagers from Rocky Boy, four from Box Elder High School and four from Havre High School have agreed to be role models for Tribal youth and set good examples said Kristine Eagleman, a representative of Rocky Boy. "And it's up to you guys to follow them," she told Rocky Boy students. Windy Boy said that he often hears youth complain about a lack of things To do. Some ideas that were mentioned during the assembly by students and council members include a boxing club, a peewee basketball tournament and paint ball activities. The student council will work to raise funds which will be used to make some of the ideas realities. Members also have pledged to be involved in cultural, community and school events and activities. They will strive to preserve the Tribe's culture, including the native language and ceremonies. "I think we have to hold culture in one hand and education in the other," Rose Saddler, who is coordinating the youth council, told students. It takes respect to hold those two things in high regard, she said. The Tribe has a constitutional obligation to foster its culture and heritage, Windy Boy said. But it's important in its own right to preserve its aspects that have been around since the beginning of time, he said. "And it's very important for not only our younger generation, but for our future, to keep alive," he said. Eventually, he'd like to have other cultural resources, like an alternative school to offer more bilingual courses. In April, the council members will attend a youth summit in conjunction with adult Tribal leaders gathering from Montana and Wyoming. There, they will be able to share ideas and tips with other people, Windy Boy said. The Tribe is seeking to form an elders council that would serve a similar purpose as the youth council, he said. The two would connect and would provide an avenue for the wisdom of the elders to be handed down to the younger generation. If the students join their voices together, they can accomplish great things, Saddler said. Students learning how to be involved now means that their lessons will carry into the future. "Just think how strong our tribe would be," she said. Approximately 60 percent of the 4,000 Tribal members who live on Rocky Boy are 25 years old or younger, Windy Boy said. "And the Chippewa Cree Tribe recognizes that you have a voice." The melding of the youth voices with the elders' is a chance to come together as a Tribe, he added. The students will be the face of the youths' voices, but the youths themselves have a responsibility to speak. Windy Boy said that he thrived on peer relationships when he was in school, particularly on his champion Box Elder basketball team. He hopes that the council will create more peer relationships and that the youth will challenge each other, he said. Windy Boy told the students that he hopes they learn about the protocols and structures associated with representation and public offices so that one day they can take up the posts their elders now hold. He won't be able to run for re-election in another six years, he said, so someone will have to take his spot. "And hopefully it will be somebody in this room." The change needs to be positive despite communities' tendencies to place negatives before positives, Windy Boy said. "These guys recognize also at an early age that they want to make sure that their voices are heard, and they're tired of all of this bickering," he said. People are interested in Tribal leadership roles, he said. He wants to make sure that the younger generation is tapped into as a source of leadership, he said. It's an opportunity for firsthand experience in government that Eagleman a Rocky Boy senior, is glad to have. The student body needs a voice, she said. "And I'm glad I can do that."

 

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