Two members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Young River Peoples Council, Isaiah Wateuma and Damian Escovedo, attended the 79th Annual Convention of the National Congress of American Indians in Sacramento, California, which took place October 30 through November 4.
Wateuma and Escovedo attended both the youth and tribal leader sessions. They attended a workshop with the National Science Foundation, general assemblies, and regional caucus meetings alongside SRPMIC President Martin Harvier, where they heard other tribes’ requests for support of their resolutions. The main topics that were discussed were the Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta case and the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Wateuma and Escovedo also had the opportunity to chat with PaaWee Rivera, who serves as a senior advisor to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and director of Tribal Affairs for the Biden-Harris administration. Rivera was there to give an update on the White House’s activities and relationship with Indian Country.
Wateuma was given the exciting opportunity to run for the NCAI Youth Commission, as it was an election year for the Commission.
“Upon our arrival, we were approached by their advisor there, and she was really pushing our youth to run,” said YRPC advisor Janyse Salinas. “He thought about it overnight and decided the next day that he was going to do it. He had to give a three-minute speech on his policy platform as well as why he would be a good candidate. Then he was asked a few questions by the panel, which consisted of the outgoing NCAI Youth Commission members and their advisors and a current or former tribal leader. He gave his speech and then he was named the male co–vice president.”
Former YRPC member Caleb Dash was also in attendance and was elected to the co-president position.
Another highlight of the trip for the youth was a tour of an olive factory operated by the Strawberry Valley Rancheria.
“They got to tour the facility and see the process from the harvest to the table, so that was actually pretty cool,” said Salinas.