By CHRIS AADLAND
PENDLETON, Ore. – Tribal leaders, mentors and others gathered in the Nixyaawii Governance Center rotunda Thursday morning to recognize the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Youth Leadership Council for their contributions to Indian Country and recent earning of a high-profile award.
In June, Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust named the youth council as one of the recipients of its 2023 Indigenous Leadership Awards. The group was recognized as emerging leaders for their work pushing for solutions to the threats facing salmon and for their work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the youth council and seven other recipients will be recognized for their contributions to the greater community during Ecotrust’s official Indigenous Leadership Awards ceremony in Portland Oct. 18, Thursday’s ceremony was held to give community members, family and friends who won’t be able to travel to the city an opportunity to recognize the youth council’s achievement.
The event included food and refreshments, honor songs, plenty of photo opportunities and remarks from tribal leaders and others about why the youth council was chosen for their award and their contributions to the CTUIR community. It was the first time the organization had recognized a group for the award, though it wasn’t the first time a CTUIR tribal member was named a recipient.
“We will always put our communities first and we will always fight for our own,” said Lindsey Pasena-Littlesky, a former Chair of the youth council, who was recognized on Thursday and is currently enrolled at Whitman College. “We may be facing new challenges from the last generation of leaders, but like the last generations of leaders, we are able to face them and tackle them thanks to the teachings of honor, respect and fight passed on from our ancestors.”