The United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) organization was an early partner in federal efforts to stop bullying. For the past 37 years, our goal has been to foster the spiritual, mental, physical, and social development of American Indian and Alaska Native youth and to help build a strong, unified, and self- reliant Native America through greater youth involvement. Since 2002, we have been working with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help educate American Indian youth on bullying prevention and provide them with the tools to be more than a bystander.
We’ve seen the need for prevention efforts evolve over the past several years, specifically in relation to the mascot issue, as many schools and sports teams may accept native names that are actually considered offensive. Our Youth Councils recognized that bullying was a problem, and with a few pointers from UNITY and in partnership with HRSA, they were able to educate their peers on bullying prevention and why seemingly innocuous labels, such as “Savages,” “Warhawks,” or “Redskins,” can be offensive to American Indian.
What you can do to prevent bullying?
- Demonstrate compassion and always model respect. At UNITY, we’re able to attract youth because of our ability to build trusting relationships.
- Provide training and clear guidelines on bullying prevention. Volunteers must agree to follow UNITY’s Code of Ethics and receive training to strengthen their skills in listening to youth, learning about their concerns, and supporting them to take action.
- Make time to talk about bullying. We work with youth who have experienced bullying and provide resources and training for youth-leaders to become advocates in their community.
Most importantly, empower youth. Tyler Owens, president of the Akimel O'odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council and victim of bullying, shared her story:
“I am the lucky one to have such a supportive community that believes in listening to what the youth have to say … My involvement with the Gila River Indian Community’s youth council for four years now has given me a chance to speak out about bullying and advocate for other youth in situations similar to my own.”
In February 2014, Tyler presented at the UNITY Mid-Year Conference using skits and games to educate elementary students about bullying. She used the StopBullying.gov training center and free webisodes to instruct young children on ways to help those who bully, those who are bullied, and those who witness bullying. Tyler’s council has been invited to speak at high schools and to groups throughout the local community.
Take the First Step
- Learn more about bullying prevention through the Training Module, “Understanding the Roles of Youth Professionals and Youth Mentors in Community-wide Bullying Prevention Efforts User Guide,” and other resources on StopBullying.gov.
- Make your place safe before taking the bully-free message to other locations where bullying may be tolerated. Out-of-school programs and afterschool settings can also implement comprehensive policies and strategies for bullying prevention that have been shown to be effective in schools.
- Look to form partnerships with schools and other youth-serving organizations, launch an awareness campaign and form an alliance – involving kids, parents, schools, faith communities, businesses, and community leaders – to assess and work together in preventing bullying.
From my work with the UNITY Youth Councils, I believe the best thing youth-serving adults and mentors can offer youth is the opportunity to learn about themselves, their abilities, and connections to the world around them. It’s exciting to see youth understand the power that they have to affect positive change – especially when it comes to bullying prevention.