Shannon Douma: Cultivating Good Leadership: The Santa Fe Indian School's Summer Policy Academy

Native Nations Institute

Shannon Douma (Pueblo of Laguna) provides a detailed overview of how the Santa Fe Indian School's Summer Policy Academy works to develop Pueblo youth to ably take the leadership reins of their nations through a rigorous curriculum designed to build up their sense of cultural identity and personal self-confidence and self-esteem.

Resource Type

Douma, Shannon. "Cultivating Good Leadership: The Santa Fe Indian School's Summer Policy Academy." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2014. Presentation.

"Good morning everyone. My name is Shannon Douma. I'm from the Pueblo of Laguna -- I'm also Hopi/Tiwa -- and for the past couple years I've been serving as the Director of the Summer Policy Academy, which is a program out of the Santa Fe Indian School. I also serve as the... I share a couple hats at the Native American Community Academy. It's an urban charter school in Albuquerque, New Mexico; it's our eighth year as a school and we serve primarily urban Native students in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I serve as the Enrollment Director, Out of School Time Learning Director.

Today I wanted to share with you though a program that has been in existence for...since 1997 called the Summer Policy Academy. So there are some key questions that I wanted to touch upon in my slide in reference to some of the things that'll want to consider in your constitutions, consider when working with young people. This is a program, it's for Pueblo students and I wanted to draw your attention to how we start our program. We select about 25 Pueblo students from across New Mexico and one of the of our key components of our program is really focused on identity development, understanding self as an individual. We have students that come in from many different parts of our communities, some students that live in urban settings, some students that are born and raised on the reservation. It's important that we identify the students that our Pueblo communities represent, but I wanted to draw your attention to this.

When we work with our students, we start off with an understanding of self, their core values, how they relate to the world. So in terms of who am I as an individual, my inherent qualities, the skills that I have and all of us possess these qualities whether it's our personality, the skills that we posses, our ability to live those core values, the ability to get along with people. In terms of if you think about this as you as a whole person, all of us are individuals that come from families, whether we're a sister, a brother, uncle, auntie, there are very important roles that we have in our communities and how we interact with each other, but also our young people. And so in terms of as individuals, how we live out these responsibilities as brothers and sisters or aunties and uncles is a really important thing that we share with our students because we want to know their role in preserving families within their own communities.

Then, if you think about our self in relation to our communities, how we...what are our roles and responsibilities in our communities? Think community, we have very specific roles and responsibilities that we have as community members and how we live together in our village. In terms of myself, I've been raised as the oldest daughter; I have a lot of responsibilities when it comes to things that happen in our communities around our feast days, around our ceremonies. Being the oldest daughter, I was taught at a very young age to learn how to cook, to clean, to take care of my family. So those are things that have been instilled in me that I now possess and now am passing onto my children.

So in terms of our self in relation to the global world, we want our students to understand that when they leave our communities, they go outside of our communities, they're interacting with people who know little about them, little about who we are as Native people and sometimes there are stereotypes, sometimes there's misperceptions about who we are and it's important that our students know how they relate to the world outside their communities, how does the world see them and how do they maneuver in and out of that world as they go to college, as they seek work in the workforce outside of our communities and then as they come back home.

So all of us possess an understanding of ourselves in many different ways based on our experiences, our backgrounds, our relationships with our families, how we grow as individuals into adulthood. And so this is where...when we talk with our students, this is where we start; it's from an understanding of their core and who they are and how they relate to every aspect of their lives. When we start our work with our students, we start from our core values. Our core's not...all of us have these core values that we possess, that we learned from our families, from our communities –- love -- being able to show the love and compassion to each other and it's something that we want to model to our students when they come and they work with us throughout the time that they're with us how we want to relate to one another. If you think about respect, sometimes respect in a sense is we have an understanding of it, but how do we practice it? Do our students understand what respect is and how they live that through their daily lives? Of course there's a lot of core values that I think resonate with all of us and we possess all those core values and this is a foundation, this is how we advocate for a better future, a desirable future for our students.

And then if you think about...the other side is our...the gifts of our Creator: the ability to learn, our education, the ability to think forwardly, the ability to be innovative and creative and all of these things on the other side are basically things that are inherently given to us by the Creator, whether it's the land, our culture and resources, our families and how we take care of them. And then also governance: how we live our lives and how we govern ourselves, what are those specific responsibilities that we have within our own villages is really important as to how we raise our children, how we develop their most desirable future for our communities.

So when we work with our students, this is the foundation that we start from. We start from our core values. It's a really important place and I think all of us can see that this is what drives how we want to create a better community for our communities. And so this is what we start off with our students. When I move forward, I'm talking about our Summer Policy Academy. So the Summer Policy Academy is a project out of the Leadership Institute of the Santa Fe Indian School and we have 12 programs under that program. And I want to acknowledge my colleagues that have been working on this, the leadership Institute for the past probably 15 years plus.

The program started in 1997 and it was a forum to bring Pueblo people together to talk about important issues like education, like family, like law, health, these important issues that are impacting our communities. This is a picture of our students that have participated in our program. Our Summer Policy Academy is for incoming juniors and seniors representing the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico. Our mission is to grow leaders, youth as critical thinkers, conscious critical thinkers. Just sitting here this past couple of days, a lot of these issues that we talk about, whether it's law, governance, education, health, they're very challenging issues, issues that impact our communities. And so throughout this process that our students are going through, through a two-week process we're engaging them in critical thinking, asking those critical questions of each other, but also our leaders, our faculty that serve in our program. We want students to understand public policy.

And this program began and also our Leadership Institute began because we saw the need to have more people represented in our state government, to be people who are making laws, people who are advocating on behalf of our communities. At that time, there was less people that were representing our communities, our Pueblo communities, so we wanted to advocate and start early to get students to start thinking about these tough issues that sometimes we don't know about until we're in tribal leadership positions and we're in places of leadership in our communities where we start learning about governance, start learning about family issues, about all of the public policies that have been developed over time that have impacted our communities and specifically our Pueblo communities.

Also our program focuses a lot on community and service. We want students to give back, we want students to contribute back to our community, we want students to come back home to our Pueblo communities and serve in key roles in our communities, whether it's program planners, program developers, village roles, tribal leadership. And then of course leadership is an important skill for anyone to have, the ability to problem solve, the ability to speak in public, the ability to problem solve and make decisions so those are all key areas that we focus on with our program.

Our curriculum is designed so that students consider Indigenous issues from a world perspective. I'm going to start from the local tribal perspective. There's issues in our community that our students are studying, in our villages, things that come to the table when it comes to, for instance, health. What's the status of health in our communities? What's the status of health among our Pueblo communities in regards to Native youth? And then looking at our state and tribal governmental relations, we take our students to the New Mexico "Roundhouse," the legislature. They participate in a mock legislative session with our co-director, Mr. Regis Pecos.

And we also study national issues. What is our relationship with the federal government? And so that's important for our students to understand the relationship and how when we advocate and we go to Washington, D.C. We're going to learn about our programs that we have an understanding of what those national issues are and how they impact our communities.

And then globally, what are those Indigenous issues that are happening in places like New Zealand, in Africa, in Australia. We have a key area that we focus on with our students when it comes to understanding that there's communities across the world that are experiencing the same issues that we are as Native people here in the United States.

So our program is a four-week program. It's two weeks on campus at the Santa Fe Indian School. Our students stay in the dormitory there. And our topics focus around those 10 areas that I mentioned in the couple of slides, the gifts of the Creator. And those topics came about through the community institutes that have been happening since 1997, Pueblo people saying health is an important issue, education is an important issue. So those topics are areas that we focus on with our program.

Another part of our program focuses on health and wellness. We want students to know that being healthy and well is important. So part of that part of it is starting every morning with positive affirmations, taking care of their body physically, understanding emotional health, social and emotional health and wellness.

And one part that we do is a talking circle that happens in the evening time where students are pretty much talking about issues that are important to them. What's, maybe, their own personal issues that they want to bring to the table?

Another part is project planning. We want our students to know the essential ingredients to put together a plan and a project when they go home so that they have something to go off when they're implementing their projects.

Team building is important. We have our students for two weeks so we want them to know one another; we want them to reinforce the core values of family, of brothers and sisters. And so that's a key component of our program is being able to be together when it comes to living together and growing together throughout the two weeks that they're with us.

A creative writing component: our students are developing creative writing, free verse poetry, and so we have individuals that come in and share with our students how to do that. And then art is a piece that we just added to our program. We spend a couple days with Pueblo artists. This past year we spent...the past two years, we've spent the week with Robert Tenorio who's a Pueblo potter from Kewa Pueblo. And so he's really instrumental in reinforcing and encouraging students to be involved grow their interest in art and to also display their art and be advocates for people in the community that are wanting to be artists.

Following our program, we have a two-week timeframe where students go back home to their communities, they initiate a service project, and then after the two weeks they come back and they present it at a graduation banquet that they share their project with their peers, their family, the community, tribal leaders.

How do we choose our leaders? Basically, it's a reflection of our community in our communities and our Pueblo communities, any of us can be called upon to serve in key roles in our communities, and so we want our students to reflect our communities. So we don't choose students who are doing well academically only. We want our students who have that leadership potential and so how we recruit students is by recommendation.

I, for the last, since I started the program have served as a recruiter, and so I seek recommendations from our faculty, from community leaders, people that know the students in the schools that can recommend those students, and then understanding that we have different leadership styles and that we...

All of us possess different styles and so we have our students go through an exercise to understand what their leadership styles are. We've graduated seven to eight classes over the...since 2007. We have 150 youth leadership fellows. We have students that are now entering adulthood and moving toward college and career development. I'm going to go through these slides because my time is almost up.

One of the things I wanted to emphasize is the support from our community institutes. Our adult and Pueblo leaders serve as leaders and mentors to our students and Governor [Richard] Luarkie and my brother, Casey Douma, they serve as our faculty. So Governor Luarkie has shared with our students a presentation on governance and what that means and how it's displayed in our community, how it works in our communities, our Pueblo communities and then also with Casey talking about law and what that means. So it's really, really important that we look to our own people because we're the ones that have the expertise, we're the ones that possess those skills and talent and education. So we rely a lot on our community members to contribute back to the community and to our young people.

We're also encouraging adult and youth partnerships, adult and youth relationships, whether it's a parent and child, teacher and student, advisor and a student. We want to encourage that students can seek out an adult for support. And so throughout our entire time that our students are with us, they have the ability to make contact with an individual that they can rely on and trust. I'm going to finish up with a couple of slides.

We're beginning to have the conversation about role of women in leadership and in April 2012 we had a Pueblo Convocation that brought together about 400 people from all the 19 Pueblo communities to focus on the 10 topic areas that I had mentioned. And from this we started understanding the opportunity to bring in women because for the most part women are not involved with the political aspects of our communities. And so we started having the conversation from the public convocation, which led into a Pueblo Women's Convocation, Pueblo Institute for Women, which came from the Brave Girls Project at the Santa Fe Indian School. And so it's a program that we are focusing on in terms of how do we engage women in dialogue and discourse about key issues with our governance in our communities. So this is a three-year process.

We have our SPA One program we spend at the Santa Fe Indian School. We have SPA Two program where we travel to and study at Princeton University. Our students are matched up with a team leader where they research key issues that are pending legislation in Congress. And so our students are studying these issues at Princeton and then eventually travel to Washington, D.C. where they present these issues. We also have an SPA Three program that's an internship program where the students are actually serving in key roles, whether it's in legislator's office, program offices, libraries. We have students at my school that are serving as interns.

I think it's important to understand that when our students commit to our program, we invest the time in them. We invest the time from the time that we meet them with their families to the time they go through our program. And so time is really important when it comes to young people because their times is valuable and they need that investment.

The communication is building our network. How do we build our network of young people? And we've seen through the experiences of SPA that our network has been growing because our students having a deep interest in these issues, but also having the opportunity to network across the Pueblos with each other. We have a conscious investment in our curriculum. We tweak it; we tailor it to see what's worked.

We've tried many programs, many different I guess opportunities when it comes to partnerships. And so we kind of welcome new opportunities, but we also notice when we need to tailor our program to meet the needs of our new audience of students. I guess an opportunity to be open to partnerships.

We have a lot of partnerships through like UNM [University of New Mexico] law school, UNM medical school where we take our students and expose them to law, to health, just for an example. So we want them to pursue career interests in these areas and come back home and support our people.

We have a key component around youth involvement and contribution. So we have students that are developing service projects over the two week time that they're in their communities. But also we have students that serve as representatives at the United Nations Permanent Forum. So we have students that are participating in the youth caucus there, but also internships, that they...of their interests.

And then lastly -- this is the last slide I want to share with you -- is what we have learned and it's something I wanted to pass on to you because we talk a lot about involving young people, we talk a lot about investing in young people early. There were comments about, 'We need to do this in schools,' and so what we've learned is that we need to value youth voice. And we say that young people are important, that young people are our future, that young people are going to be in positions that we are in, that we have to value their voice, we have to engage them in conversation. And then finding money, channeling money to youth initiatives that are going to benefit young people so that we're putting our money where our mouth is really. We're talking about our future; we have to invest in our young people.

Encouraging collaboration among our community tribal programs to support youth. There's a lot of programs in our communities. How do they collaborate to leverage resources to bring ideas together to support youth? And then also identifying real youth advocates in our communities who are invested in youth and support them. There's a lot of things happen in our tribal communities that we may not know about because there's a lot of grassroots organizing that happens with young people. They see an issue, they want to be involved. How do we get them involved and how do we support them?

So the last thing is we always leave our students with this question. What will be your contribution? What is it that you're going to give back to your community? And so throughout the whole entire process when our students are going through this, we notice that young people are eager to be involved. They want to be involved and so our job is to connect them with the resources. And so I just wanted to leave this question with you all so that you can think about what will be your contribution to your communities, whether it's your individual contribution, your family contribution or your community contribution to what happens in your community. I think that's all the time I have, but if you have any questions I'm here." 

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