The Sioux YMCA drove over 500 miles to attend and highlight some amazing cultural experiences at the Global Camping Conference located in Estes Park, Colorado. They had Tina Sheilds and Tia Wilson dance to the beat of the Wakíŋyaŋ Máza Hʼokȟá (Iron Lightning Singers) drum group. They were the focus of the Network Evening two weeks ago in Colorado. It was remarkable to watch them perform (at altitude) for over an hour. The event was originally only give 45 minutes, but the conference committee came up to Andy Corley halfway through and whispered “if they need more time let me know.” He responded with telling them good luck trying to stop them.
This event brought tears to many, as they were struck by the power and energy the dancers and drummers possessed. Tina has been a camper for not just the Sioux YMCA, but also TWO other camps in attendance (see photo below). Tina forced the whole group to get in a selfie with her, and they all choked up with pride when they had this 13 year old leading the entire group of 576 YMCA professionals in a dance around the room. She was the epitome of what the conference represented. If you give youth the space and allow them to use their voice (in this case her feet), they will inspire all. Tina led the group that was made up of 38 countries, National General Secretaries, Camp Directors, Board Members, and people of all ages.
The conference was a success in other fashions as well, there are now 8 new YMCAs that want to partner with the Sioux Y and other camps wanting to get Lakota youth to attend their organization across the country. The conference was a four day experience. The main focus for the YMCAs that attended were diversity, inclusion, and infusing trauma informed care approaches in to their organizations.
“It is great to see camps across the world taking a serious and tactful approach to these sensitive issues. Camp is supposed to be a safe place, and everyone should have that feeling of safety.” Andy Corley, Executive Director of the Sioux YMCA remarked. He led a session on upgrading camp language to have a more welcoming atmosphere. There was a general feeling of purpose and people determined to make a change as they departed Colorado that Friday.
The Sioux YMCA was honored to have the Wakiyan Maza group experience this part of the Y world. They want to extend an invite to anyone interested in any conference to reach out to them and they would be more than happy to share their next adventure.