Indigenous Youth Making a Difference

Raylen Bark '24 was selected by Teen Vogue as one of 11 Indigenous youth making a difference.

"I want Native youth to feel that they can choose their own paths and still give back to their communities," says Bark, who is one of 11 people named by "Teen Vogue" as an "Indigenous youth making a difference in their communities."


Raylen Bark, 20, Cherokee/Hualapai/MS Choctaw/Hidatsa

When Raylen Bark started looking at colleges, she jokes that law and linguistics were not quite at the top of her family's priorities. She was a basketball star, raised by a young single mother who also loved the sport. She played varsity for four years, making All-Stars while balancing academics. But the older she got, the more she found her passion for linguistics. Working with Cherokee first language speakers through a grant, she realized the importance of creating immersive curriculum for students on her reservation. "We don't know how much time we have left with these speakers, for one," she says. "This is work that should've been done 20 years ago."

Now a junior at Dartmouth College pursuing a career in Federal Indian Law, Bark boasts a diverse list of accomplishments. She works with Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program to advocate for Indigenous environmental issues through storytelling. She was also recently crowned Miss Cherokee, running on a platform of teaching and preserving language. But she's insistent that all of her work is interconnected– and ties back to her community.

"The common theme throughout all of this is sovereignty," she says of law, language, and environmentalism. "I want our children to grow up in a world where they're not seen as 'subjects' because of their intersectional identities."

Read the article here.