All About Youth Councils
The following articles provide a general overview of the steps a Native youth group may use to form a youth council. There are also links to documents that contain a more detailed explanation of the process. The documents may be read online or downloaded and stored on a personal computer for quick access.
The National UNITY Council (NUC) was established in 1992 to serve as the representative arm of the UNITY Network. It is made up of a young man and young woman from each Affiliated Youth Council, who represent their respective youth councils on the NUC.
To learn more about the NUC's purposes and structure, refer to the attached Constitution and Bylaws of the National UNITY Council.
WHAT IS A YOUTH COUNCIL?
Native American youth can make a difference, but first they must be organized and prepared for action. An effective way to accomplish this is through a youth council. A youth council represents a practical way of enabling youth to have a meaningful role in helping solve community problems. Types of youth councils include:
- Tribal Youth Councils
- Alaska Native Village Youth Councils
- Urban Youth Councils
- High School Indian Clubs
- College or University Native American Associations
- A Church-sponsored Youth Group
- An Independent Youth Group
Keep in mind that youth councils are just as diverse as Native America itself. Each youth council maintains its own identity and is built upon the needs and values of that particular community.
By being involved with a youth council, young Native Americans can use their combined talents and energy to address major concerns facing them today. Youth design and promote their own programs to fit their needs.
Young people who are involved with youth councils learn to accept responsibility. They grow through achievement and in the knowledge that they are making a real contribution to their community and to Native America.
What does a Youth Council do?
Each youth council determines its activities based on its own needs. Needs can be identified through discussions with members, interviews, surveys, and other types of research. Once needs are determined, youth councils develop their own action plan to implement their activities.
As affiliates of the UNITY Network, youth councils are expected to conduct activities in community service, cultural heritage, environment, and healthy lifestyles.
For example, UNITY Network affiliated youth councils have:
- volunteered to help the elderly or handicapped
- presented workshops on leadership, peer pressure and school participation
- established a college scholarship
- sponsored youth camps and conferences
- started own business
- sponsored food and clothing drives
- conducted bone marrow tissue typing drive
- sponsored health forums and health career day
- raised money for an infant heart transplant
- purchased Christmas toys for less fortunate children
- sponsored trash clean up days
- participated in beading and craft classes
- sponsored alcohol and drug free dances or skate-a-thons
- raised money for a recreation center
- participated in a governor’s page program
The benefits youth gain from participating in a youth council depend on what each member puts into the council. If youth make the most of their opportunities they will:
- learn how to work with other young people
- build strong and lasting friendships
- develop greater self-esteem and self-confidence
- develop communication skills
- develop leadership skills
- develop organizational skills
- gain self-worth and inner-strength to battle negative peer pressure
- develop winning attitudes
- learn how to take responsibility for their actions
- contribute to making a difference in Native America
As a member of the UNITY Network, I
...accept spirituality as an important foundation for a healthy, balanced lifestyle;
...recognize that pride in my culture and preservation of my heritage give me strength and dignity;
...will be honest, understanding and respectful of the diversity and uniqueness of self, others and our environment;
...know the importance of refraining from the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs to maintain physical and mental well-being in order to be a positive role model for present and future generations, and finally
...make a personal commitment to strive toward reaching my full potential.
Organize Youth and Adults
- Youth decide to organize. They sign a petition or letter indicating their interest in and support for a youth council. Petition or letter is presented to tribe or sponsoring organization such as a school.
- A steering committee is formed. Steering committee members include youth and adults.
- Sponsoring organization designates a youth coordinator or advisor. This may be a paid or volunteer position. This individual could be a tribal employee, teacher, parent, or community member.
Form Your Council
- A resolution is drafted and presented to the tribal government or supporting organization for consideration. The resolution is designed to ensure that the youth council is part of the supporting organization’s permanent structure. (A sample resolution is included.)
- The steering committee develops bylaws for the youth council. Keep in mind that the council is tailored to meet the needs of the youth and the values and traditions of the respective tribe or supporting organization. (A sample set of bylaws is included).
- Youth council bylaws are approved by members and then presented to tribal officials or sponsoring organization members for their approval.
- An advisory council is formed. Parents, elders, concerned adults, and representatives of youth-serving organizations may be invited to serve. One or two advisors are selected to serve as primary advisors.
- Elections are conducted for youth council officers.
- Youth conduct meetings and develop their course of direction.
Join the UNITY Network
After your youth council is organized, members vote and join the UNITY Network. Copies of youth council bylaws and resolution need to be on file with the UNITY office. Information on joining the Network and affiliation forms are available on the web site at www.unityinc.org.
A resolution should be submitted to and approved by the sponsoring tribe, village or organization. Adapt the following sample resolution to the particular needs of the organizing group and type on letterhead, fill in the blanks and choose appropriate terms such as reservation, village, or organization. Once the resolution is passed, send a copy to the UNITY office.
Organizing a Youth Council Packet
Download the pdf file linked below for a detailed explanation of how to establish a youth council.
Download the pdf: How to Establish a UNITY Youth Council.