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Native youth leader asks President Obama a tough question






Vance Home Gun, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, asks President Barack Obama about Native youth, language and culture. July 21, 2014

Vance Home Gun, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, has met President Barack Obama three times since 2013 and asked him a rather difficult question at a recent event in Washington, D.C.

"Mr. President, how is the United States government helping American Indian people revitalize their language and culture?" Home Gun said at the July 21 My Brother's Keeper event. "Because so many of our young men and boys don’t know who they are because they’ve lost their culture and language, and the United States government has tried so hard for the past 200 years to destroy that."


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: My Brother's Keeper Town Hall

Home Gun was alluding to federal policies that forced Indian children to attend schools away from their communities. Many weren't allowed to speak their languages or practice their cultures.

Today, the federal government offers grants for Native language programs and encourages tribes to take greater control of their education systems. But Home Gun said Obama missed an opportunity really answer his question.

“It’s hard – it’s the president, and I realize it’s probably not one of the top 10 issues on his plate,” Home Gun, 20, told The Missoulian. “He didn’t really answer it, and I don’t think he knew the answer, but he did give good advice.”


YouTube: Vance Home Gun at My Brother's Keeper Town Hall

Home Gun founded Salish Institute to promote tribal culture and language on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. He was selected as a Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth.

“I made the commitment in sixth grade to be a fluent speaker,” Home Gun told the Missoulian. “Language is our identity. It’s how we define ourselves, and it’s that connection to the past that keeps our bridge strong.”

Home Gun graduated high school in 2012. He'll be attending college in the fall with the goal of earning a degree in linguistics.

Get the Story:
20-year-old master of Salish language a strong proponent of Native language, culture (The Missoulian 8/3)

Relevant Documents:
Remarks by the President at My Brother's Keeper Town Hall | FACT SHEET: President Obama Applauds New Commitments in Support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative