An Indigenous-led local discussion and community involvement group has been meeting for a little over a year, and on Thursday, May 25, 4Next7 discussed tough topics among group members at the Tahlequah Public Library.

Lily Drywater, director of 4Next7, said one of the goals of 4Next7 is to foster a sense of community by hosting weekly meetings on Thursdays. These can consist of talking circles, potlucks, or just discussions.

“Whenever we first came up with the idea, I thought it was going to be like just a small group of people that meets once or twice a month, writes letters to officials, shows up to council meetings, and just speaks up, especially for the youth. But it’s just turned into this whole thing where we do a lot more to foster community,” said Drywater.

Some of the issues 4Next7 dives into are LGBT+ topics, tribal history, and historical trauma. Kaleb Proctor, a community and 4Next7 member, hopes people will gain more insight into what others go through by taking part in the meetings. Proctor said the group provides members of the community a place to not only be safe, but to be heard in Tahlequah.

“This [talking circle] method is not commonly used,” said Proctor. “With this communication, there is more of a reciprocal nature rather than a competitive nature.”

Proctors hopes to learn more from community members through the talking circles and discussions.

Brian Barlow, the 4Next7 community outreach coordinator, said the group is not trying to make trouble by talking about tough issues, but is instead looking to start conversations to seek solutions.

“Sometimes, I think if we try to talk about the hard stuff it can look like [we’re] shaking the boat. Having difficult conversations can look like trouble, and sometimes this is kind of the burden of the youth,” said Barlow. “That youth can make things uncomfortable by having conversations the older generations aren’t so keen to bring up in public or to talk about forthright.”

Drywater said the group has been dwindling the past few months, but current meetings can have anywhere from three to 15 people show up. Most who have attended have been under 30 years old, but Drywater said she is open to people of any age. Go ramp up membership, Drywater said she will be trying to recruit more people over the summer.

She hopes to encourage people from all political perspectives to join so the group can hear about everyone’s experiences and thoughts on certain issues.

“The hardest part is that we are young and we recognize that we’re young. We need a balance in our community, and we don’t think just through the youth that we have all the answers,” said Barlow. “I think the hardest part is that we want to try to restore balance to an unbalanced system.”

You’re invited

On July 16, 4Next7 will be hosting the Native Pride Art Market at the Armory from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with a drag show taking place around 4 p.m.


Trending Video