The Arapaho Youth Exchange was a beautiful experience for the young ambassadors during the 4-day-weekend of June 13-16, 2019. The bonding of the youth participants was endearing; every day the kids were excited to see each other again and to explore the city together. The young group started off their busy weekend with dinner at a local park. It followed by storytelling training with KGNU Community Radio’s staff (Here is the link to the KGNU recording they did together), visiting the Longmont Youth Center, creating tiles at Crackpots, and visiting with the hosting families on Friday. On Saturday, the group went swimming at the Longmont Recreation Center, decorated skateboard decks, and shared a celebration at the Longmont Museum attended by the Sister Cities board, City Council members, Longmont families, Philanthropiece team members, and Arapaho tribe members. At the Longmont Museum, guests were witness to the youth’s celebration of their newly formed friendships by performances, community circles, ritual blessings, and never ending hugs. On Sunday, their final day together, the youth visited Colorado State University in Fort Collins to tour the campus together and say their final good-byes. Each activity was designed to build cultural connections and to inspire the youth participants.
Philanthropiece is overjoyed with the recent outcomes from our ongoing work in Indigenous rights initiatives. To continue the various efforts and collaborations that the group Right Relationship Boulder (RRB) engaged in last year to Welcome the Arapaho People Home and celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, the City of Longmont held a number of delegations to meet with the elders and leaders of the Northern Arapaho Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to continue building the relationships.
Philanthropiece has been a supporting agent since the inception of Right Relationship Boulder, and is proud to be a supporting agent for the first-ever Arapaho Youth Exchange! At the beginning of this year, the City of Longmont decided to engage in a special collaboration with Longmont Sister Cities Association (LSCA) and local supporting organizations to hold a weekend long youth exchange with 7 youth from the Northern Arapaho of Wind River Reservation, an exchange never before performed between a Native Nation and a local Sister City Association in the U.S. LSCA is hoping that this exchange will lead to welcoming its third and newest sister city, which would continue their mission to bridge communities from across the world.
Laura Soto, Philanthropiece’s Operations Manager, and her daughter, Sheccid, were fortunate to participate in the exchange with the Arapaho youth. Sheccid was matched with Miracle, who is a 16 year old triplet, a young woman who is beautiful and proud of who she is, and an exemplary leader! Miracle opened up from the beginning of the exchange, sharing her language, her singing, her nervousness to dance in front of everyone, and her love for her sisters. Nervousness set aside, Miracle led all the attendees at the Longmont museum in a celebratory round dance! We are so proud of the Arapaho youth because for the majority of the kids visiting from Wind River, it was their first time venturing outside the boundaries of their reservation, and they bravely welcomed us into their lives. Thank you to all for including Philanthropiece as a contributing partner to this important event, and we can’t wait for the next exchange!
Laura Soto is Philanthropiece’s Operation Manager. She is an active member of the Parents Involved in Education (PIE) Taskforce, the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition, Community Language Cooperative and is an artist who shares her activism via performance, spoken-word and written poetry.