Tribal youth learn about democracy during Washington trip

FORT HALL — Four youth from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes recently travelled to Washington, D.C., to voice their environmental concerns at the White House.
Participating in the national high school program were Sequoia Dance and Deryk Broncho from Highland, Cesilio Silveira from Blackfoot and Angel Teton from Shoshone-Bannock Junior/Senior High School. The young people and their chaperones travelled to the East Coast Feb. 12-17 as part of the Close Up High School program, which is designed to give students and educators an inside look at democracy in action.
Tribal Youth Education Coordinator Claudia Washakie, one of the chaperones, said, “This program is part of challenging the students to get involved in their tribal government and [to] address issues that are plaguing their communities; then the students have to research and find solutions to those problems. I am proud of this group’s accomplishments and presentation [on the FMC Superfund], as they made headlines on a national level.”
The youth were approached by a representative from TV's 60 Minutes to conduct an interview for a future documentary on environmental issues. They also had lunch with Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association and notably one of the most influential Hispanic educators. She referred to the four as “Warriors that are saving the lives of children, possibly even their own children.”
The youth and their chaperones Washakie and Lyndon Smith of Shoshone-Bannock High School, met with various delegates throughout the week including Larry Echohawk, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, and Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representative Mike Simpson.
They were particularly impressed with Senator Crapo as he met with the group directly and heard their message loud and clear.
Dance said, “We had a purpose to spread the word of the contamination of our water and land and we were heard!”
After meeting with congressional leaders, the youth presented each of them with a metal water bottle sponsored by the tribes Environmental Waste Management program and the message to think about our contaminated water when you drink from the bottle.
A month after the capitol visit, their message with the water bottle made an impact with tribal leaders at a roundtable forum on Indian Education held in the state of Washington. This proved their action did make a difference as young ‘warriors’ that are paving the way as future leaders.
Among those who helped the youth included Tribal Youth Education program, Pocatello JOM committee, Mary Jane Oatman Wak-Wak, the Fort Hall Business Council, Lily Eskelsen, Larry Echohawk, Mapetsi Policy Group and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Environmental Waste Management Program.