Keanu, a high school senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, said this about the his filmmaking experience:
After making this film, it opened my eyes to what I was capable of doing as a young Navajo individual. For a Navajo youth, it is an obligation to my grandmother, elders in my community, and younger generations, that we know water is a precious resource we want to understand how to utilize. Not only to exist, but to become part of us, spiritually. I am not only speaking on my behalf, but for my ancestors and future generations to come. This is my way of giving back to the Navajo people.
Keanu is a great inspiration to us at Our Amazing World and everyone in the United States. His story has extra meaning, given the fact that young Native Americans take their own lives at 3 times the national average and up to 10 times greater on some reservations. High rates of violence, substance abuse, and health issues like diabetes leave many young people on reservations feeling hopeless.
Thankfully, people have noticed. The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence and the Center for Native American Youth were formed to identify unmet needs and develop programs that will create meaningful, lasting improvements for affected children.
Family Spirit, an "evidence-based, culturally tailored home-visiting program" of Johns Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health, recently released a three-year outcomes publication that confirmed the program's impact on American Indian mothers and children. Mothers who received Family Spirit were "less likely to use illegal drugs, be depressed, or experience behavior problems compared with those who did not receive Family Spirit. Children whose mothers received Family Spirit were less likely to show early behaviors known to signal future conduct problems, anxiety, and depression. The children were easier to soothe, had better sleeping and eating patterns, and were more likely to meet emotional and behavioral milestones than those in the control group." Read more about the NIDA-funded Family Spirit Program.
We hope that this and similar programs are replicated to help all American Indian families, as well as underserved, low-income, and rural populations across the United States. The benefit of direct and culturally-sensitive human connection in treating mental illness, behavioral disorders, and everyday stress is often lost in pharmacotherapy-focused Western culture.
Keanu, congratulations on your White House visit and thank you for informing our country and the world about current issues faced by Navajo communities.
Keanu's featured film "Walking on Water"
Here is "Giving Back the Navajo Way," a
short film about his life and community
White House with ASU's Cronkite News