Bioneers Indigeneity: Native Youth Leadership Program Wins Prestigious Yawa’ Award


Cara Romero, Indigeneity Program Director, receives the Yawa’ Award alongside San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Chairwoman, Lynn Valbuena.

On Tuesday March 28, the Bioneers Indigeneity Team was presented the prestigious Yawa’ Award from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The award gala, Forging Hope, was held at the National Orange Show in Highland, California and hosting awardees, tribal leaders, and dignitaries including city mayors and heads of Goodwill Industries, the Boys and Girls Club, the Girl Scouts and many more non-profits.

From Left to Right: Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky, Indigeneity Associate; Ernesto Reyes, Bioneers Youth Program Manager; Alexis Bunten, Indigeneity Manager; Cara Romero, Indigeneity Director.

A term meaning, “to act from one’s beliefs,” Yawa’ embodies the giving spirit of the Serrano peoples. The Bioneers Indigeneity Program was recognized in the “special projects” category for its ongoing commitment to provide opportunities for Native youth to participate in, network at, and be empowered by attending the annual Bioneers Conference and world-renowned Indigenous Forum.

Established in 2011, with a cohort of 4 youth, the Native Youth Leadership Program has grown to provide scholarships to over 100 Native youth and their chaperones. 2016 experienced the largest cohort yet, with the most comprehensive programming to make the conference a welcoming and safe space. Attendees represented 44 tribal nations from across Northern and Central America, with 14 California Indian tribes represented.

Native youth leadership program attendee playing music in front of the Native youth art space at the 2016 Bioneers Conference.


We consider the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians a key partner to our work as it grows to impact more Native and non-Native peoples around the world. At the Gala Awards ceremony, we expressed our deep gratitude to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, who have supported the vision of the Bioneers Indigeneity Program’s Native Youth Leadership Program since it first began.

Skip to minute 36 of the awards gala video to see us accept the award.

We finished our speech with a sneak peek of the next stage in the growth and sustainability of the Native Youth Leadership Program. We’re proud to announce our expansion from an event-based program to a year-round resource for Native youth, their parents, and teachers through our social media presence, original curriculum development and special events. Keep an eye out for upcoming announcements.

As ever,


The Indigeneity Team,

Cara Romero and Alexis Bunten



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