National Congress of American Indians Youth Commission Hosts Annual Youth Luncheon

Rory Wheeler and Mikah Carlos honored with the NCAI Youth Leadership Award

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., joins the NCAI Youth Ambassadors nominated for the 2018 NCAI Youth Leadership Award. Stevens recognized all with a Chairman's Leadership Award at the annual NCAI Youth Luncheon.

Denver, Colorado – October 23, 2018 – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Youth Commission hosted their annual NCAI Youth Luncheon today as part of the 75th Annual NCAI Convention and Marketplace at the Denver Hyatt Regency Convention Center.

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., presented the NCAI Youth Leadership Awards to Rory Wheeler of the Seneca Nation of New York and Mikah Carlos who is from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona.

Rory currently serves as the Co-Vice President of the NCAI Youth Commission, and he has served his tribe and Indian Country in many capacities. Rory is a community organizer, youth leader, and a firefighter and EMT. He said, “This recognition isn’t for me, it is for those who raised me. This is for those before me, my ancestors, who have done so much for us.” He went on to thank the many people in attendance who supported his path.

Mikah Carlos currently serves as the Co-President of the NCAI Youth Commission. She is working towards the goal of preparing and affirming Native youth to become changemakers through policy development and advocacy. Additionally, as a student officer in Arizona State University’s American Indian Initiatives, Mikah engages her campus community and the 22 local tribal communities surrounding her school. Through her work with ASU’s Tribal Nations Tour project, Mikah promotes higher education among Native youth by helping students with college readiness, career preparation, and recruitment for the university.

Mikah spoke about her role in mentorship with the NCAI Youth Commission, “I like to do this work because it makes me feel good and I have a passion for making sure that the youth coming behind me have the person that I didn’t have when I was growing up. I want to be a person for other people.”

Stevens said, “When we envisioned creating the Youth Commission at NCAI, we focused on the importance of energizing our young Native leaders to be visible, not pushed aside. We want to empower these young people to lead, not as future leaders – but as today’s leaders.” He added, “We have been doing this for more than 20 years, and many have gone on to be prominent leaders in their own right and their communities.”

Chairman Stevens, who has worked closely with NCAI and the Youth Commission in carrying out the Youth leadership recognition honoring luncheon, is a long-time youth advocate and was instrumental in the creation of the NCAI Youth Commission when he served as the first Vice President more than twenty years ago.

The keynote address was provided by Izzy Yasana, Digital Marketing Specialist, N7 Nike, born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon. She is Filipino and of Klamath and Modoc descent. She shared her path to her current tenure at Nike N7 creating special messages for the popular native shoe line. She said, “Representation matters, and it’s important to be proud of who you are and where you come from.” She shared what she called her three pillars, learning about her heritage, being a professional storyteller and investing in future generations. “This has allowed me to follow my passion, which is representing my culture, my background, unapologetically in every space that I show up.” Izzy also received a Chairman’s Leadership Award for her groundbreaking work and service with N7 Nike.

Stevens also presented a Chairman’s Leadership Award to Jeri Bruno, the NCAI Youth Commission advisor for her work with Indian country youth.

While Mikah and Rory were presented the NCAI Youth Leadership Award, Stevens also took the opportunity to recognize all of the young ambassadors nominated for the award, bringing them all on stage to present a Chairman Leadership award for each of them. Those awardees included; Makana Lani Pike, White Mountain Apache/San Carlos Apache, Anissa Garcia, Gila River Indian Community, Brian Barlow, Cherokee Nation, and Lance Sanchez, Tohono O’odham.

The NCAI Youth Commission was established to unite and to develop the youth by sharing their concerns and interests and by enhancing the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being of tribal youth for a better Native America. It is designed specifically for college and high school students ages 16-23 with interest in political science, tribal government and Native American legislative and governmental affairs.