Wilton Miwok youth leader, Dahkota Brown, has been an outspoken
activist for Native rights this past year. He gave an especially
articulate interview to MSNBC on Native mascots in August. His non-profit
NERDS (Native Education Raising Dedicated Students) is doing great
Sam White Swan-Perkins (TsaLaGi/Siksika) caught up with Dahkota
to talk about his recent trip to Washington, D.C. for the White
House Tribal Nations Conference. We extend our gratitude to Sam
for his thoughtful and powerful interview with Dakotah, and we congratulate
Dakotah on his leadership and vision for a society without degrading
and racist sport team names.
Dahkota, can you tell us a little
My name is Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown
I am 16 years old and a proud California Miwok enrolled with
the Wilton Rancheria and attend Argonaut High School in Jackson,
CA. I am in the middle of my junior. year. Apart from being an active
student athlete, performing with our advanced drama, maintaining
a 4.1 GPA and working hard as the elected Associated Student Body
Treasurer, I am also the founder and president of my own nonprofit
organization, NERDS! Native Education Raising Dedicated Students
started in 2012 while I was in 8th grade to help a few struggling
friends pass the 8th grade and make our high school football team
by maintaining the required GPA. Please see www.NativeNERDS.org
for more information.
I consider myself an activist in the fight against the use of
Native mascots and love public speaking.
I currently serve on the Center for Native American Youths
executive board after completing a two year term as a Champion for
Change on their youth advisory board. I was named one of UNITYs
25 Under 25 and continue to serve this year as a mentor to others
and I am a member of NCAI Youth Cabinet. I most recently was selected
as one of two to represent my home state of California for the United
States Senate Youth Program this coming March.
I am also a traditional dancer for my tribe and love to hunt
and fish and spend time with my family. I bead for fun and to make
gifts for others. I hope to attend Stanford University, but will
apply to several top colleges all over.
Did you have a particular issue
that you are focusing on?
Through my non-profit organization NERDS, Native Education Raising
Dedicated Students, we focus mainly on the devastating statistics
that follow Native teens and improving them in any way possible.
The biggest issue we focus on is striving for higher education amongst
our Native youth. Native American teens have the highest dropout
rate, the lowest graduation rate, and the least numbers represented
in college. As a peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring program, we
strive to create a safe, healthy, and happy environment for students
while also providing them with a resource in which they can improve
their grades and get on the path for higher education.
What was the purpose of the trip
to Washington, D.C.?
My trip to Washington D.C. in December was for the
annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. The Tribal Nations
Conference is held by President Obama and brings together the tribal
presidents and chairmen/women from all 566 federally recognized
tribes across the nation. This years conference was the first
that youth were incorporated through the Presidents new initiative
Generation Indigenous or Gen-I. I was nominated by my Tribal Chairman
and proudly, named as one of the Youth Ambassadors for the conference
and the inaugural class of Generation Indigenous. We were able to
share our ideas and opinions in various breakout sessions with the
tribal leaders and government officials. We were able to be heard
and give our input to the Tribal Leaders, our Nations leaders and
national organizations that represent or support youth.
Was there a particular moment
from the D.C. trip that stands out in your memory?
Personally, the moment that stands out most for me
during my trip in D.C. as an ambassador was getting to know the
other students who were doing amazing things in their own communities.
It is always encouraging to know that there are other youth out
there improving the communities they live in and creating better
futures for not only themselves, but for others around them. Also,
hearing the Presidents remarks about the conference and his
announcement of a tribal youth conference in the coming year was
very exciting. I struggle to select only one best moment,
since I was also selected as one of two to have MTV World follow
me and do a documentary on our trip and adventure. It was part of
the Rebel Music series and was premiered at the White House Leaders
Conference. To date it has over 1.5 million views. Something about
MTV working with the White House is very cool!!
you feel anything was accomplished by going?
I feel as though a lot was accomplished by having
youth in attendance. I personally believe that the tribal leaders
and government officials who heard us speak and interacted with
the youth, truly listened to what we had to say and have considered
our ideas and opinions. We are all working together on monthly conference
calls to reach other native youth all over and promote the Gen I
Program. I think you will see hundreds of Native Youth working together
this summer at the 1st White House Native Youth Gathering. We all
have something to offer our future, from overcoming racist mascots,
to helping overcome suicide within our communities, to raising awareness
to save our sacred sites or stopping the XL Pipeline to help save
our resources, increasing education and graduation rates while decreasing
the abuse of alcohol and drugs, we each brought something unique
to discuss and a different passion to share.
Are there any politicians that
you were able to network with? Any who might be considered potential
One of the Politicians that I have had the opportunity
to connect with on a personal level and already consider an ally
is former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan. Senator Dorgan is the
founder of the Center for Native American Youth and has been an
advocate for Native youth for many years.
We thank Dahkota for his leadership, and we continue to wish
him well as he fights for civil rights and justice for Native people.
We continue to be amazed by our youth!
~ Native Education Raising Dedicated Students
NERDS was started by Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, enrolled
member of the Wilton Band of Miwok Indians, in 2011/2012 while in
8th grade. He saw his own family and friends falling behind and
withdrawing from school activities as they reached junior high or
high school. He also read despairing facts and statics which prompted