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Survey aims to understand resources available to Native youth

The Center for Native American Youth's survey asks Native youth about their access to resources in sectors like education, the environment and health.
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The Center for Native American Youth's survey asks Native young people about their access to resources in sectors like education, the environment and health.

The Center for Native American Youth is collecting data through a survey called Center Us to better understand the lives and needs of American Indian and Alaska Native youth.

“Native youth are in every space,” said Cheyenne Brady, CNAY's associate director of youth programs. “And so for that reason, it was important for us to do really intentional outreach … How can we be working for Native youth if we don't really know what their voice is?”

The national survey is aimed at Indigenous people who are 18 to 24 years old. The center has conducted a few surveys like this in the past, but this one focuses on resources available to Native youth.

It asks questions about education, food security, economic opportunities and other issues. The survey also inquires about cultural practices as well as the lingering effects of COVID-19.

“Access to resources is a very, very prominent part of the survey because we want to see what we're doing good at as a collective, but we also want to see where those gaps are,” Brady said. “Once we find out where those gaps are, how can we then fill those gaps?”

The survey, which closes Friday, has received more than 500 responses. CNAY will analyze the results and then conduct focus groups with some of the respondents to better understand the data.

Preliminary results suggest a shift in cultural identity, Brady said. More than 50% of respondents said they prefer to be identified as Native American, while 30% preferred Indigenous, and less than 10% chose the AIAN label.

“I think that's a generational shift that isn't always talked about,” she said. “Within government documents we’re typically referred to as American Indian or Alaska Native …[but] it shifted, I would say, to Native American. And it looks like we're now shifting into Indigenous.”

Additionally, more than 80% of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that their tribal nation affiliation is a part of their identity.

“When there are potential views that Native Americans are a monolith, through this simple question, Native youth are fighting back and saying, ‘No, my specific individual tribe that I'm a part of, that I identify with, is a very important part of my identity,” Brady said.

The survey is funded by the Urban Indian Health Institute’s Decolonizing Data grant program, which supports projects that improve data collection across Indian Country.

“If we're not creating new data for us and by us, that risks the opportunity for the nation and the world to continue utilizing any data where we're severely underrepresented or any data that is simply inaccurate in regards to our people,” she said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I'm the General Assignment Reporter and Back-Up Host for KUNC, here to keep you up-to-date on news in Northern Colorado — whether I'm out in the field or sitting in the host chair. From city climate policies, to businesses closing, to the creativity of Indigenous people, I'll research what is happening in your backyard and share those stories with you as you go about your day.
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