When Tanaya Winder took an overseas semester from Stanford University to study at Oxford University in England, she received news that one of her best friends at Stanford had died of suicide. Her world shattered, and she had trouble continuing her studies.
“I was so sad,” she said. “I’d never been that sad.” Later that summer, she got involved with University of Colorado Upward Bound (CUUB), a program that she had attended while in high school. CUUB works with indigenous youth from eight different reservations. Tanaya is an enrolled member of the Duckwater Shoshone tribe. She grew up on the Southern Ute Reservation in southern Colorado.
“At the beginning, a lot of working with UB was that I couldn’t save my friend, but I could work with these kids and explore their passions and dreams,” Winder remembered. “I don’t ever want anyone to feel that they have nothing left.
“My work gives me insight into what Native youth struggle with but also what they hope for – and how important they are, and how many amazing things they have inside of them,” Winder continued. “Through Dream Warriors, we create more paths of possibility. Youth begin to see, maybe I can be a hip-hop writer. Maybe I can be a role model.”
Resilience, empowerment and healing
Dream Warriors is a collective of North American Indigenous artists who believe in uplifting others through storytelling, poetry, music, workshops and performance. They present culturally appropriate suicide and substance abuse prevention workshops, free concerts, linkages to mental health services, and instruction in writing and creative expression.
In January 2019, the United Methodist Committee on Relief partnered with Dream Warriors to support the “Heal It” Project, which the group developed to harness art’s power to transform, heal and connect individuals, families, communities and society. They seek to reach youth in schools with predominantly Native American enrollment. Last year, they visited schools in Oklahoma. This year, with UMCOR’s support, they were able to reach reservation schools in South Dakota.
The “Heal It” Project encourages students to use poems and songs to find their dreams and create their own definition of success. Dream Warriors perform hip-hop songs and then tell the stories behind the songs – stories that resonate with the youth. They talk about growing up on a reservation, coming from a single-parent household, experiencing physical abuse or drug addiction and they share other stories of struggle and resilience.
When Native youth realize they are not alone in what they are feeling, a door opens. They can choose to walk through it to find a path to healing alongside others who celebrate and embrace their Indigenous heritage.
excerpt from a story by Christie R. House, senior writer/editor for Global Ministries.
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God’s love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.
When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.