Native Youth Leadership Alliance

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Greetings my name is Noelani Villa and a member of the Kaw Nation of Kansas. My passion for Native communities stems from my indigenous roots and the values instilled in me during my attendance at Haskell Indian Nations University.

Haskell taught me about sacrifice and the value of opportunity. Haskell was once a boarding school clouded by injustice and social genocide. In present day the dark cloud that once consumed Haskell has now been lifted. Haskell is now a place founded on the value of cultural revitalization and promoting young Native students to use their gifts to aid Indian Country.

My life is not my opportunity to waste, it is an opportunity forged by the struggle and sacrifice of those who came before me; it is because of their sacrifice I feel the urgency to “pay it forward.”

I am currently a student at Northwest Indian College working toward a bachelor’s degree in Native Environmental Science. I have a passion for environmental justice and the protection of sacred sites. Money comes and goes but, home and land lasts forever. Destruction of traditional lands leads to a loss in culture ultimately destroying our identity.

“To encounter the sacred is to be alive at the deepest center of human existence. Sacred places are the truest definitions of the earth; they stand for the earth immediately and forever; they are its flags and shields. If you would know the earth for what it really is, learn it through its sacred places. At Devil’s Tower or Canyon de Chelly or the Cahokia Mounds, you touch the pulse of the living planet; you feel its breath upon you. You become one with a spirit that pervades geologic time and space.”

― N. Scott Momaday

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Native people have long been stewards of the land. With recent issues involving resource management and climate change it is now critical that we take efforts towards protecting the environment. Caring for the environment is ingrained in our culture in the form of traditional ecological knowledge. The time has come for us to speak up and bridge the gap between culture and science. Perhaps it is time for mainstream society to learn from indigenous people.

I envision a day when indigenous ways of life will no longer be the shadow of an era that has passed, but instead will be viewed as a sensible alternative to the dominant American ideology. The dream of a day when balance is restored among Native people is what fuels my flames of desire, for change.

Summer 2014 Research and Community Engagement with the Quinault Indian Nation:

Starting in July 2014 I have the honor to have the opportunity to partner with the Quinault Department of Natural Resources to work on an independently developed study looking at mercury toxins present in the fish that are consumed by the Quinault people. This project fish is important because currently Washington state standards for mercury are not reflective of tribal fish consumption.  This study is intended to provide a service to the Quinault tribe. Fish tissue samples will be collected in Taholah, WA, mercury content will be processed at Salish Kootenai College, and mentorship will be provided by Northwest Indian College. As a student undergraduate researcher I have always wondered how research can impact a community, often my science seems so intangible to community work. This project is such a blessing because it is the first time I will see a research project that I am working on benefit a community. In addition I also intend to host a few Saturday Science academies in Taholah, WA to engage Quinault youth in science related issues on the reservation. After the Saturday Science academies I also want to bring the Quinault youth to Northwest Indian College to learn about STEM field higher education opportunities based on indigenous values. This project not only provides a service to the Quinault tribe but I am also able to build networks between Salish Kootenai College, Northwest Indian College and Native Youth Leadership Alliance. I am thrilled to see this level of intertribal partnership and research to support the protection of Treaty Rights.