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Introducing the 2024 Dreamstarter Storytellers

As a follower of Running Strong you likely know the story of our Dreamstarter program; inspired by Billy’s Dream, we created the Dreamstarter program to uplift the next generation of American Indian youth, and help make their dreams come true through a combination of financial support, hands-on mentorship, networking, and communications training.

Since 2015,  Running Strong has cultivated a network of 80 Native youth leaders who are part of the Dreamstarter Academy. Each year, Running Strong awards Dreamstarter grants to 10 Native youth and their non-profit Mentor organizations each year to implement a project inspired by a dream they have for their community. Today, we welcome 10 more amazing youth into the Dreamstarter family, that are ready to share their stories.

For the ninth year of this initiative, we are focused on Storytelling. 2024 Dreamstarters will use visual, oral, written, or digital storytelling to undertake projects that will help uplift Native voices and allow Native perspectives and stories to be heard. They are using storytelling to bring awareness to issues in Indian Country and celebrate the beauty of Indigenous people and culture.

Welcome 2024 Dreamstarter Storytellers!

Carrie Johnson

Carrie’s dream is to tell the story of basketball in Native communities and highlight the reclamation of a sport that was once used to erase culture. She will create a 20-minute documentary that explores the role of basketball in Native communities and how, despite a darker history, it now fuels resilience. She will highlight the stories of Indigenous athletes and celebrate how basketball has impacted Native culture.

Devyn Kazhe

Following the successes of Native American Para athletes and telling their stories through the lens of her own personal story of paraplegia and rehabilitation, Devyn’s 20-minute documentary will examine the importance of traditional cultural values in transitioning from an able-bodied athlete to a disabled athlete, begin to change the story and language around disability, and help Native youth develop a better understanding of disability.

Dowawisnima Groves

Through a series of regalia-making, beadwork, and music workshops for Native youth, Dowawisnima is creating opportunities for youth to discover what it means to be Indigenous. Youth will explore personal storytelling through art projects and learn cultural values through mentorship and will gain a greater understanding of their cultural identity.

Hannah-Rose Waller

Through a 30-minute short film, Pretty Hair Camp, Hannah aims to help her community continue to build a sense of identity outside the narrative of tragedy. The film, about one generation of Osage people fearing the eventual loss of their culture and community while two young Osages fall in love, will explore themes of identity, community, and coming to terms with the differences between a life envisioned and a life lived. By telling this story, Hannah is telling the world that the modern lives of Osage people are rich in perspective and meaning and are shaped by their community and the generations that came before.

Jacob Grignon

Through relationship-building and interviews with Native elders, Jacob will create an audio and video archive of Traditional Teachings, giving elders the opportunity to share their stories and giving Native youth moderated access to their lessons. Jacob wants to give all Native people a voice. When Native elders share their stories, they are teaching valuable lessons. When youth listen, they are learning, developing cultural identity, and helping to preserve traditional lifeways.

Jarrette Werk

Committed to centering Native voices and reclaiming the Indigenous narrative, Jarrette will produce a series of stories celebrating Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest through compelling written narratives and beautiful photography and compile these stories into a limited-edition book.

KamiJo Whiteclay

In supporting her community, KamiJo is working to strengthen one way that helps youth in her community heal and find their place: art. The Daasawuuá Kuulushbíoo (To Create Within the Heart) Project focuses on uplifting Apsáalooke youth by encouraging creativity in the arts and inspiring fearless storytelling in the next generation. Through Creative Labs, youth will engage and learn from artists, storytellers, and elders and foster a deeper sense of community.

Kuliamai Aveiro-Kalaniopio

Through Na leo o Kohala (Kohala Voices), Kuliamai will capture and share the diverse experiences and perspectives of elders within the Kohala community. He will engage the youth in conducting interviews and conversations with elders, fostering a deeper understanding of their own community’s roots and history, and he will create a multimedia archive that reflects the cultural richness and wisdom of Kohala’s knowledge keepers. He hopes for a world in which Native youth can use traditional stories to strengthen their cultural identities, empowering them and their ability to make a difference in their communities.

Shace Duncan

With an identity deeply rooted in storytelling and driven by the responsibility to preserve oral traditions, Shace will launch “The Honoring Our Peoples Existence” podcast that centers on narrating the poignant story of the Cherokee removal and highlighting Cherokee resilience.

Shace is on a journey to address inaccurate and incomplete histories and stories perpetuated by the education system by amplifying Native voices and perspectives.

Souksavanh Keovorabouth

Souksavahn is committed to amplifying Indigenous Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit voices authentically, on their own terms, and within their own communities. Over the next year, Souksavahn will conduct research around Indigenous Queer storytelling and delve into their lived experiences in the urban areas of Arizona. They will compile their work into an academic manuscript that will illuminate the narratives, obstacles, and triumphs experienced by the Indigenous Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit community.

Click here to learn more about each Dreamstarter:  indianyouth.org/2024-dreamstarters/

Watch the announcement video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nev_doezYbY

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