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History of the North Dakota Indian Youth Leadership Conference:

In the early and mid 1980’s, Jim Davis, Ph. D was the Director of Indian Education within the ND Department of Public Instruction.  With the assistance of the Department of Public Instruction, he designed, planned, and implemented the week long North Dakota Indian Youth Leadership conference that was held annually for 10 years on the campuses of the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, and United Tribes Technical College.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s the conference continued under the Jim’s successor, Cheryl Kulas.

The conference attracted over 100 native youth, grades 7-12, from throughout the state.  While most attendees came from our four Indian Reservation communities in ND, some students did attend from non-reservation communities.  Many of these students had never been off the reservation for this length of time and the conference allowed students to experience college campuses and build peer relationships across the state. 

Many of these students went on to receive advanced degrees and they attribute a large part of their success to their attendance of these conferences.  Many of these former attendees are now architects, educators, doctors, as well as other professionals, living in the State of North Dakota.


The North Dakota Indian Youth Leadership Academy (NDIYLA) creates and fosters an environment for native youth to learn and enhance leadership skills and create opportunities that are used in their respective local communities, throughout the State of North Dakota, and the nation.


The Mission of NDIYLA is to design, develop, and implement a wide range of leadership programs, opportunities that will advance one’s spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical attributes.


  • To begin and sustain a process of developing future leaders amongst Indian youth in North Dakota.  

  • To build positive interaction between students to experience and learn from each other, as well as learn about various tribal cultures.

  • To build knowledge regarding Tribal issues and topics covered during the week-long session including, education, environmental issues, water, land and realty, tribal constitutions, the ND constitution, public speaking, participation in plays, group dynamics, leadership, teamwork, cultural events participation and much more. 

  • To invite NDIYLA alumni and Native American speakers to mentor youth and serve as role models for developing future Native American Leaders for tomorrow.

Volunteer Today

The 2023 ND Indian Youth Leadership Academy

When: July 10-14
Where: Bismarck State College Bismarck, ND

Join us July 9-14, 2023 in Bismarck for the NDIYLA.  This leadership academy offers opportunities that will advance one’s spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical attributes. This conference is for Native American youth, grades 9-12, from throughout the state.

Overview of NDIYLA Topics: 

  • Culture and Wellness

  • College and Career

  • Native American Issues

  • Tribal, State and Federal Relations

Apply Now

2023 NDIYLA Registration Form

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