Native Youth Leadership Alliance

(Tiffany Bahnimptewa) My Mentor Barbara Poley! Intergenerational Leadership

NYLA Southwest Visit to the Hopi Foundation

A major part of our strength as young leaders is our relationships with our elders.  We founded NYLA to create the space to lead and create change in our communities from our traditional values.  In our first year of growth, we asked experienced elders from diverse Tribal Nations to join our Advisory Council.  These Advisory Council members have all served as leaders in various movements and share the gift of their experience with us.  They share in our vision for NYLA and help us learn how to sustain our passion to improve our communities.

One of these amazing elders is my mentor, Barbara Poley.  I first met Barbara when I started volunteering for The Hopi Foundation in 2007, I then was encouraged to apply for the Hopi Leadership Program. I am the youngest participant to date for this important program, and so much of my growth is from mentors who believe in me and invest in my growth.  I now work for The Hopi Foundation with Monica Nuvamsa and many other leaders that Barbara has mentored.  

My NYLA Southwest Community and I were fortunate to visit with her in June for our NYLA Southwest Retreat.  Barbara is humble and fearless at the same time.  She is a powerful visionary who sees the true assets of our Hopi communities and builds many diverse partnerships across many cultures to bring about transformational change.  During her leadership as the Executive Director of The Hopi Foundation, she created a hub for young Hopi leaders to contribute their talents to the community and this legacy continues even after she transitioned leadership.  

One key learning from our retreat and time with Barbara that I would like to share is her guidance to keep deep confidence in the strength and true wealth of our cultures.  She said that when she began to travel away from home, that she learned that people considered how she grew up was to be ‘in poverty’ because of her income level.  She said growing up she never felt hungry, sad or deprived, and that she had all the beauty of the teachings of her cultures.  She said to always focus on the beauty of our peoples and communities, and to not adopt an outsiders deficit-only perspective.  We do need financial resources and there are ways we can grow these in partnerships that honor the beauty of our cultures and communities as assets.  

You can learn more about Barbara’s leadership journey at this link!