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Protecting First Amendment Rights Critical for Native Youth

ORLANDO, FL – According to Native Public Media, the importance of Native youth’s understanding and awareness of their First Amendment rights is perhaps one of the most important lessons the current generation must have.

The 2019 UNITY national conference, held on the traditional lands of the Seminole People in Orlando, Florida, July 4-8, 2019, brought together youth from American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages between the ages of 14 to 24 and provided sessions that promoted personal development, citizenship, and leadership.

Native Public Media staff Melissa Begay presented First Amendment lessons designed to grow a cohort of First Amendment protectors among Native youth. Armed with an enhanced understanding and awareness of their First Amendment rights, youth shared that the knowledge learned can be used to address epidemics their communities are experiencing.

“Our youth are astute to the fact that they can peaceably assemble to bring light to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and environmental concerns. One youth stated it was eye-opening to understand that freedom of speech also means that we can be held accountable for what we say or do. In todays’ environment, our youth need to learn that just because something is legal to say, does not mean that it is ethically or morally responsible to say, and there may be consequences,” explains Begay.

The NPM First Amendment Protectors curriculum was originally piloted at the Andy Harvey Broadcast Workshop in June 2019 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. NPM’s goal is to train Native youth who in turn will serve as trainers in their community in a broad effort to proliferate awareness across Indian Country about First Amendment rights.

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