The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), through a partnership between the Branch of Tribal Climate Resilience and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), collaborates with multiple federal, Tribal, and non-governmental organizations to offer an experiential, youth-driven conservation leadership training for native high school and college-aged youth know as NYCALC.
NYCALC's mission is to develop future conservation leaders with the skills, knowledge, and tools to address environmental change and conservation challenges to better serve their schools and home communities. The USFWS's National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is where the innovation happens.
NYCALC uses Open Space Technology, a facilitation tool that allows participants to chart their agenda and self-identify into teams to work on topics that they are passionate about. In teams, native youth develop solutions and identify actions they can achieve back to their communities, whether urban, rural, or to their reservations. To implement community projects, students may apply for mini grants through NYCALC. Though the students make NYCALC successful, the unmatched power of NYCALC comes from diverse Tribal identities coming together, sharing their culture, and solving the modern problems through collaboration. NYCALC is a not just a training, but a platform for voices to be heard.
For more information about NYCALC, visit the official website.
The National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia is hosting the 8th annual Native Youth Climate Adaptation Leadership Congress from June 26 – June 30, 2022. The mission of the Native Youth Congress is to develop future conservation leaders with skills, knowledge, and tools and address environmental change and conservation to better serve their schools and home communities. While exploring culture, tradition and science to answer a big question posed at the beginning of the week, students will lead the congress and focus on major challenges in their communities. Themes from their answers to the big question will emphasize the importance of language, elders, political involvement, traditional values, cultural preservation, and social-economic and environmental awareness.
Tribal youth groups interested in joining the Native Youth Congress should have between 3-5 students, consist of rising high school seniors, be a part of a federally recognized Native American tribe, and sophomores and juniors will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Read the official USFWS news release.
Applications are now closed, but be on the lookout for more information about the next NYCALC in early 2023.
Collage image of virtual participants
In 2021, NYCALC changed in two significant ways. First, NYCALC engaged a new non-profit partner, the Aspen Institute, to modify the role and responsibilities of the junior faculty. This year select native college-age applicants engaged in culturally sensitive train-the-trainer community leadership programming and gained access to community capacity-building funds. These young leaders also helped deliver NYCALC by co-leading icebreakers, co-facilitating selected workshops, and serving as mentors to the high-school students, especially for any who seek assistance with mini-grant applications.
Second, the NYCALC Core Team adapted the program for online participation, for three afternoons, as NCTC remained closed due to the Covid-virus pandemic. Students learned about leadership and college and career readiness all within the context of climate resiliency. The program featured interactive plenary and break-out group discussions, and live and pre-recorded presentations and cultural sharing. Guest speakers, most of whom are Native American, included Raina Thiele, who is Dena’ina Athabascan/Yup’ik and is the Department of the Interior Senior Advisor to the Secretary, musician Frank Waln, who is Sicangu Lakota, radio personality and podcaster Pete Dominick, film director, actor, and professor Dr. Myrton Running Wolf, who is Blackfeet/Wasco, and National Park Service Alaska Native Tribal Relations Program Manager Maija Katak Lukin, who is Iñupiaq. The Core Team and guests presented workshops on such topics as leadership, entrepreneurship, and interview and resume writing skills.
- NYCALC 2021 Annual Report (Courtesy of USFWS)
Photo Credit: 2019 NYCALC, USFWS & BIA
2019 NYCALC in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
The 2019 Native Youth Congress inspired and empowered future conservation leaders to embrace tradition and honor cultural values when addressing social and environmental concerns today. Students created themes based on their answers to a big question posed at the beginning of the week, and with these themes emphasized the importance of language, elders, political involvement, traditional values, cultural preservation, social, economic, and environmental awareness.
"Each activity fostered culture and opportunities for students to share their thoughts, traditional knowledge and cultural values on conservation. Indigenous knowledge and the native ways of life have helped Tribal communities adapt through countless challenges."
- Jenn Hill, Project Lead Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Participant speaking to the audience
In July 2018, high school Native American students from across Indian Country, the Pacific Islands, and Alaska Native villages gathered at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) to consider the question, "How can we support all generations to engage with the land while honoring and respecting Indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge and the environment?" Over the years, students have come together for a week-long summer event to work on and present a project inspired by this question.
They got the chance to listen to inspiring guest speakers and engage with other young leaders on community projects and build skills that empowered them as future stewards.
The Ancestral Lands Program was honored to be given the opportunity to bring 18 participants to attend this year's NYCALC at NCTC in Shepherdstown, WV. This event brought together Native youth from around Indian Country, Alaska Native villages, Hawai'i, and American Samoa to learn about environmental issues impacting their communities. Students also develop leadership and professional skills, and create projects to address environmental challenges back home.
- Native Youth Community Adaptation & Leadership Congress Report (PDF)
- FWS 2017 NYCALC Highlights (YouTube)
- 2017 Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress River Celebration: Part 1 (YouTube)
- 2017 Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress River Celebration: Part 2 (YouTube)
- Get Inspired and Challenged by Native Youth Congress (National Geographic Explorers Journal, 8/4/17)
- 103 Native Youth Pollinate For The Future (USFWS, 8/30/17)
The USFWS successfully hosted the "Inter-Tribal Climate Leadership Congress" from June 28 - July 3, 2015 at NCTC for 89 high school students and 23 adult chaperones representing 30 Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian communities from across Indian Country, Alaska Native villages, Hawai'i and American Samoa. Students improved their knowledge of climate change and their climate leadership skills, and developed climate change project presentation proposals which are applicable to their home communities. The USFWS was assisted by staff and financial resources from the BIA, NPS, USFS and USGS. Highlights included the student climate presentations, a Shenandoah River boat trip, service projects on the NCTC campus, a performance by musicians Frank Waln and the Sampson Brothers, and a student Pow Wow.
- Climate Change From Inter-Tribal Youth Congress 2015 (YouTube)
- 2015 Inter-Tribal Youth Leadership Congress Summary (NOAA)
- Working with Tribal Youth “To Plant Seeds for a Brighter Future” (USFS, 8/19/2015)
- Cultivating Native Leaders in Conservation (USDA, 7/28/15)
- Video From Inter-Tribal Youth Congress 2015 (Eco-Adapt)
- Mescalero Students Attend Conference on Tribal Youth Leadership (Ruidoso News, 7/28/15)
- Music Video: Nake Nula Waun, Frank Waln, The Sampson Brothers Performance 6/30/15 (YouTube)
- Photos from the 2015 Inter-Tribal Youth Leadership Congress (Flickr)