Dreamstarter® 2020: Bailey and Clyson look to the example of 2017 Dreamstarter® Gold Riel LaPlant

Running Strong for American Indian Youth® 2020 Dreamstarters Bailey Chalfant, Northern Cheyenne) 22, and Clyson Igarashi-Marquez (Native Hawaiian) 18, are eagerly looking forward to attending virtually attending the Dreamstarter Academy this month after last year’s event had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bailey’s dream, Nehtonetomohtahe — How Are You Feeling?, is to help educate women and girls on her reservation about self defense and caring for themselves in light of the fact that statistically speaking, Native American women go missing at much high rates than any other ethnicity.

“For the 200 years that Native people have interacted with western expansion, murdered and missing women/people have been a dark stain on our histories,” says Bailey. “For most of my life I have been surrounded by strong, independent women, and as Northern Cheyenne we say that women are the backbone of our societies.

“This ideology of caring for women, coupled with the recent media attention MMIW and domestic violence is receiving inspired this Dreamstarter.”

Bailey’s dream is to provide an avenue of wellness for the youth living on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation through a series of weekly meetings offering a creative approach to talking about all aspects of health and a nourishing meal in a safe trusting environment.

Clyson’s dream “Ka Lei Ke’ia ‘Āina Aloha” — Lei From This Loving Land, is to open a nursery for native Hawaiian plants where people can come and pick plants for lei making and other uses and bring back native plants to his community.

“My dream is to bring back native Hawaiian plants by collecting plants that are growing in places where cars cannot go by riding horses, and exploring more land and seeing places that we never get to see and restoring trails,” says Clyson, a high school senior, who learned of the Dreamstarter program from previous Dreamstarter Hokani Maria.

In addition to our Dreamstarter program, initiated in 2014 in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Running Strong which has awarded $10,000 grants to 60 exceptional Native American teens and young adults, last year we announced our Dreamstarter GOLD program, awarding $50,000 grants to five of our most promising Dreamstarters.

Among them is 2017 Dreamstarter Riel LaPlant (Blackfeet), 27, whose GOLD dream is to support salmon and orca conservation in the Salish Sea through the scientific and cultural empowerment of Seattle’s Native youth who will engage in project-based learning to design solutions that support salmon and orca conservation.

“Native elders and artists will help guide the project, which will teach urban Native youth about the significance of indigenous symbols, the environment, community, the healing properties of art and anti-colonial activism behind constructing a lodge within a modern context,” says Riel. “The lodge will be used for a workshop in which youth and the teacher candidates share lived experiences and participate in a sacred tradition for many indigenous people – storytelling. The lodge can be stored and reconstructed, so that future teacher candidates can continue to interact with Native youth, hear their stories, create sustainable relationships and carve more paths towards healing.”

It is with heartfelt appreciation that we thank the supporters of Running Strong for making the Dreamstarter and Dreamstarter GOLD programs possible, enabling 60 Native American young people to realize their dreams — as did Billy when he won his gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and today by giving back through Running Strong and the Dreamstarter programs.

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