Native Youth


First Kids 1st Initiative

The First Kids 1st initiative is a national collaborative effort comprised of leading American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) organizations, allies, and partners from all backgrounds focused on changing national, tribal, and state policy to create conditions in which AI/AN youth can thrive. The First Kids 1st initiative works to cultivate and nurture strategies and policies that help create and strengthen systems of support for AI/AN youth in their communities.

The First Kids 1st effort is led by four founding partners: the National Congress of American Indians; the National Indian Child Welfare Association; the National Indian Education Association; and the National Indian Health Board.  

For more information, visit:


NCAI Policy Research Center - First Kids 1st Data Resources:


Presentation: Measuring Progress for our Youth: Data for Action. 

First Kids 1st Breakout Session, 14th Annual Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum, NCAI Mid Year Conference, Reno/Sparks NV, June 26, 2019


First Kids 1st Data Resource Book (2019). The purpose of the First Kids 1st Data Resource Book is to provide a resource to tribal nations and others on the latest research and data that can be used to help implement systems of support for Native youth to thrive. The Data Resource Book includes a review of recent literature on protective and risk factors in helping Native youth thrive, and examples of data indicators that can help tribal nations see whether Native youth are thriving in four areas: healthy lifestyles; successful students; supportive environments; and vibrant communities.

First Kids 1st Data Resource Book - Appendix (2019). This document is an appendix to the First Kids 1st Data Resource Book and contains an annotated bibliography of articles from the literature review. Articles included in the literature review are from the last five years in order to highlight recent research.

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Affirming Native Youth Project

Project Aims

In order to strengthen the visibility of American Indian and Alaska Native youth in policy and research contexts and to highlight the value of Native cultures, NCAI hosts a Native Youth Training Collaborative. Through the Affirming Native Youth: Making Visible, Making Valuable Project, the Collaborative has three objectives, namely to: 

  1. Create a space for Native youth leaders to convene, set a national agenda, learn from tribal leaders, and have virtual educational and networking experiences;
  2. Expand partnerships with federal agencies, advocacy organizations, and community partners to ensure the collection and reporting of data on the status and experiences of Native youth; and
  3. Train Native youth, tribal leaders, policymakers, researchers, and others involved with developing policies and practices that affect Native youth to do so in a more coordinated and effective manner.

The outcomes of the Native Youth Training Collaborative are to:

  1. Increase the number of American Indian and Alaska Native youth who are prepared with political knowledge and skills to become national and tribal leaders;
  2. Identify strategies for improving the quality of data collection, analysis, and reporting on issues of significance for American Indian and Alaska Native youth; and
  3. Increase the awareness of researchers and policymakers about American Indian and Alaska Native youth and cultures.

The Project extends from September 2012 through September 2015 and is funded by the Administration for Native Americans.

Project Components
The Project has three key components, including:

1. National Native Youth Cabinet

The National Native Youth Cabinet is the executive and policy training component of NCAI’s National Native Youth Training Collaborative, which also engages youth affiliated with the National Congress of American Indians Youth Commission, the Native Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the U.S. Department of Justice's 2012 National Intertribal Youth Summit.

The National Native Youth Cabinet provides a virtual space for Native youth to meet; share insights based on their local experiences; and engage with federal policy that has importance to them and their communities.  Eight Cabinet Members, ages 17-24, were competitively selected based on applications and tribal recommendations for outstanding leadership and demonstrated commitment to issues affecting Native youth.   Cabinet members represent issues of significance in their tribe and region, and help move a national strategy related to Native youth leadership.

The NCAI National Native Youth Cabinet Members are:

  • Sapphire Carter (Chippewa Cree)
  • Julian Juan (Tohono O’odham)
  • Whitney Sawney (Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma)
  • Alayna Eagle Shield (Standing Rock Sioux Nation)
  • Candice Yazzie (Navajo Nation)
  • Sarah Schilling (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians)
  • Heather Curley (Navajo Nation)
  • Malachi (Kai) Stroud (Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma) 
  • Layha Spoonhunter (Eastern Shoshone/Northern Arapaho/Oglala Lakota)
  • Cierra Fields (Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma)
  • Jaysonha Revey (Lummi Nation)
  • Simon Goldenberg (Mdewakanton Dakota)
  • Dakhota Kicking Bear Brown (Wilton Miwok)
  • Collin Church (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi)
  • Stephanie Lefthand (Taos Pueblo)

Members of the National Native Youth Cabinet participate in training designed to prepare them with political knowledge and skills to further their abilities as national and tribal leaders. The training takes place primarily in virtual space and includes financial literacy, resiliency, community wellness, and policy identification and development. 

At NCAI’s 2013 Mid-year Conference in Reno, NV Cabinet Members worked with other Native youth leaders to identify the following Native youth policy priorities:

  • Education: Funding for tribal colleges and individual funding for higher education
  • Culture:  Protecting and maintaining language, sacred lands, and traditional ways
  • Bullying

The National Native Youth Cabinet will work with NCAI’s Policy Research Center, federal agency partners, researchers, and policy makers to identify, assess, and improve data related to these policy areas.

Finally, the Native Youth Cabinet will lead a national competition for Native youth to envision in virtual space a model reservation or program.

2. Data Institutes

In Year 2, NCAI worked with federal partners and other organizations to plan a series of Data Institutes to bring stakeholders together around federal data on American Indian and Alaska Native youth to discuss data quality, data use, and policy development. 

  • PowerPoint for the Youth Data Institute at the 2014 Mid Year Conference in Anchorage, Alaska
  • Agenda for the Youth Data Institute hosted at the Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington, DC

3. Nations Building Virtual Challenge

Beginning in Year 2, NCAI will work to establish a challenge for Native youth to use technology to address an issue of significance in their community that can also influence policy.

Project Resources

Data: 2011 Native Youth Count

For further information, please contact