President Nez addresses Indigenous youth issues at the United Nations

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
202-682-7390

For Immediate Release

President Nez addresses Indigenous youth issues at the United Nations

UNITED NATIONS—On April 22, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez spoke about the importance of advancing Indigenous youth issues at the local, national, and international level at the 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The annual forum kicked off on April 22 and will conclude on May 3. This year's theme is "Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission, and protection."

Established in 2000, the UNPFII is a high-level advisory body to the UN’s Economic and Social Council with the mandate to address indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights.

“The Navajo Nation is glad to be part of this event supporting our youth. Our youth are our most precious resource. Our youth is our future. It is critical that we instill hope in our youth who face adversity such as bullying, depression, and suicide,” President Nez said.

“As the President of the Navajo Nation, one of my duties is to protect our youth and that is why I am here to support of our Navajo youth who are here representing the Navajo Youth Council.”

President Nez recognized Navajo Nation Council Delegates Nathaniel Brown, Kee Allen Begay, Jr., and Navajo Nation Youth Advisory Council Chair Niagra Rockbridge, Vice Chair Sunshine Tso, and Treasure Byron James. He also thanked the sponsoring organizations including the First Peoples Investment Engagement Program, Casey Family Programs, Tribal Link Foundation, and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus for their hospitality. “We hope to continue this dialogue with our partners in advancing youth initiatives,” President Nez said. 

President Nez underscored the Navajo Nation’s efforts at the UN including helping draft the UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples and most recently affirming the Navajo Nation’s position on full and regular participation of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous peoples governing institutions within the UN.

“Indigenous nations are often considered as an afterthought on the world stage and within the borders of their home states. Our entire histories and cultural customs are considered quaint and outdated by some. Many consider that we have nothing to contribute to the world beyond our customs, dances, songs, and arts. This thinking is furthest from the truth. We have much to bring to the table as far as the governance of the people and for the people. We bring to the table the concept of shared, collaborative decision making and of always marching further and farther for the betterment of our people and the world we live in. The moment we forget this is the moment we lose our way, our peoples, youth and elders. Always remember to make decisions based on our shared values, our cultures, histories, and youth," President Nez said.

President Nez announced the recent Navajo Háyoolkáál Proclamation also known as the Navajo Sunrise Proclamation. The first of its kind, it lays out the vision for the Navajo Nation to invest in renewable energy solutions. “We are taking control of our own destiny in a way that respects our indigenous knowledge and teachings. However, we are aware this path has many challenges, but we are not going to allow outside interests to dictate our priorities and goals.”

“It is fitting that we are having this discussion on Earth Day and also incidentally Navajo Nation Sovereignty Day as we are exercising our sovereignty and the new direction for many tribes that are fossil fuel rich. We are doing so in a way that respects mother earth and our people. This is also the year of Indigenous language,” President Nez added.

In closing, the president said, “the Navajo Nation has confidence that we will bring about positive changes in the coming years, and it’s through forums such as the United Nations that we bring our vision. It is crucial that we instill hope in our Indigenous relatives. It is said "Our youth are our future leaders," but as I look into your eyes this evening I see the “Youth are leading us today,” President Nez said.

The Navajo delegation also met with representatives from the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to discuss the importance of youth issues and language preservation.

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