UNITY Partners With Indigenous Youth Council, New Mexico Indian Affairs


MESA, AZ – United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) is partnering with the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department (IAD) to provide resources at no cost to New Mexico Native youth ages 14 to 25 years old. The peer leaders are gearing up for this youth-led Southwest Healing Circle training. Seventeen out of the 23 tribal nations of New Mexico have youth representatives who have signed up to attend on Dec. 10-11, 2022 at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Campus.

“We are grateful for the support of the Indian Affairs Department to be able to bring this opportunity to New Mexico’s youth,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY Executive Director. “UNITY has a long-standing history of empowering New Mexico’s emerging leaders and is eager to continue this partnership through the Healing Circle Initiative.” 

The Healing Circle training will feature informative training sessions and hands-on activities that will inform and empower Native youth attendees to address community concerns in Indian Country. Participants will work in small groups with UNITY trainers to go through the steps of addressing a challenge of their choice. The objective of using a train-the-trainer approach is in hopes that the youth can develop their own community events in the future to increase community safety. The event culminates with a mock tribal council presentation, where youth are able to practice requesting funding for their ideas with real-life feedback from influential stakeholders.

“I am so happy to be able to introduce New Mexico youth from my community to the power of UNITY,” said Chenoa Scippio. “This Healing Circle Initiative is important to me because it inspires hope and changes lives.” Chenoa currently serves as the UNITY Female Co-President of the National UNITY Council’s Executive Committee and is an active New Mexico Indigenous Youth Council (IYC) Representative.

The Indigenous Youth Council was formed in February 2021, following two listening sessions that the IAD held with tribal youth from across the state. Issues discussed ranged from the desire to have access to higher education resources to behavioral and mental health needs for tribal communities. Participants also voiced the desire to have more intertribal connections between the nations, tribes, and Pueblos in the state. The IYC is a group of 21 youth members from the nations, tribes, and Pueblos of New Mexico to engage with the department and help steer the work related to the issues raised at the listening sessions.

During the Healing Circle training, participants will identify ways to rebuild youth councils and build community support after the global pandemic. The youth-informed decision process will allow them to gain feedback on the best ways to remove obstacles to community safety. With four years in the making through the efforts of the Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative (HILI), the peer leaders will teach other youth to utilize community asset mapping as a strength-based approach to reduce risky behaviors and juvenile delinquency. 

“The Indigenous Youth Council is excited to be collaborating with UNITY to provide training to New Mexico’s young leaders,” said Kalee Salazar, IYC Coordinator. “The Healing Circle’s intent is aligned with the IYC goals of engaging in holistic health strategies and elevating youth voices, both of which the Indian Affairs Department and Governor Lujan Grisham remain committed to supporting. The IAD and IYC look forward to furthering our collaboration with UNITY.”