NLC: Updating Tradition and Working Towards our Best

Posted on

National Leadership Conference Participants perform and scream at Camp Miniwanca

By the NLC Team

My own self, At my very best, All the time is a moving target. Our best self requires a commitment to growth and change as we learn more about who we are, and as we learn more about the people around us. As we continue to do our work, we are also called to listen, to hear feedback and advice, to awaken and not to fall back asleep once an alarm has rung. As the AYF works toward increasing its ability to be inclusive, we have to continually assess practices through a broad approach of cultural humility and commit to taking action and changing for the betterment of all.

Historically, each incoming class of the four year National Leadership Conference has been given a name with both Lakota Sioux and English translations. We have received widespread feedback that the practice of using the Lakota language for class names is harmful and we intend on listening and acting in response to that. This tradition has not only stopped participants from joining us, but it also reinforces a culture of appropriation – reducing the power and identities of Native American people. Moving forward, we will no longer translate English class names into Lakota Sioux.

Although this change may create mixed emotions, as an organization committed to bringing our best to the ever-changing realities of our world we recognize it is both important and necessary. There is a shared belief in the identity-driving practice of giving names to 1st Year classes, with the intent of allowing a group of young people to join together quickly under a title that inspires them to action. That practice will remain, along with the other traditions of class colors, banners, songs, scarfs and presentations. In simply using English language, we can create this identity in a way that honors all moving forward, and we believe this change will create a community within NLC that is more welcoming and inclusive.

Conference, like any AYF program, can and should be a powerful learning opportunity that welcomes, celebrates, and lifts up anybody and everybody in ways that honor all aspects of each of our identities. We will continue to show humility as we move forward, and continue to do our work to be as inclusive and welcoming to all as we can. We will continue to work towards our own self, at our very best, all the time.