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Visions From the Seventh Generation

Programs in Washington State develop communities and provide creative outlets for Native American youth.

Video produced by Dallas Pinkham, Vision Maker Media Intern, for KCTS 9

The United States is thought of as a melting pot, where people of all backgrounds come together. The result of that melting pot is an ever-growing mix of unifying cultures, which is great for a globalizing world, but makes things difficult for those trying to hold on to their own cultural identity. Native American tribes, especially, have seen their culture pushed to the side for decades. Programs in Washington State are trying to change that by giving Native American youth traditional, indigenous experiences while embracing 21st century technology and skillsets. 

"In the work that we do, we combine culture, the environment and media as a tool for anchoring interested students within their tribal communities," says Tracy Rector, Executive Director of Longhouse Media. "It's a way to encourage dialogue and communication, but also exploration of language, cultural preservation."

Longhouse Media's mission is to encourage indigenous communities and people to use media for their own self-expression, and to not only preserve their heritage, but share that heritage. 

And they're not the only ones. 

"It helps kids so much to engage with community and to feel secure in their identity," says Fern Renville, Executive Director of Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre, a nonprofit theatrical company offering Native American kids, ages 10–19, the opportunity to participate in native and contemporary performing arts. 

"Finding each other; finding our common values that bring us together; learning about them and learning how to express them and how to explore the relevance of our culture right now is what ... traditional native art can do," Renville says. 

Creating communities for kids through Native American traditions, art and media is also a core component of Gen7, a youth development program presented through the Na'ah Illahee Fund

Shawn Peterson, the Gen7 program coordinator, says, "We teach them that technology is a really critical, important tool, and that it can help them express their creativity and their identity and who they are, and that it doesn't have to define them, but they can use it to really define themselves."

Media and art have become creative outlets for the kids involved, and the communities they build in these programs help them connect with their Native American heritage. 

"Even if you're from a different tribe, or even if you live in a different part of the city, or maybe we've never even really met before — it's that because you're a native student I support you and if I can help you, let me know how," says Roger Fernandez, artist, storyteller and Na'ah Illahe Fund Director. "That, to me, is a community: when we care for each other at that level." 


Vision Maker Media is sponsoring paid internships in journalism, media and communications at public television stations around the country for fall, 2015. The purpose of these internships is to increase opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native youth in public media.


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