Apr 09, 2024 | John W. Coleman

The Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) invites all to its annual spring gathering at Innabah Camp & Retreat Center in Spring City, on Sunday, April 14, at 2:30 p.m., to meet a young, dynamic change-maker, Nathan Solorio (Ojibwa), 16, of Mechanicsburg, PA. RSVP to vmcolliver@gmail.com.  

CONAM donated Native American Ministries Sunday offering funds to help Nathan attend the National Congress of American Indians’ Native Youth Leadership Summit in Washington D. C., in February.   “With no federally recognized tribes in PA to sponsor youth like Nathan, it is a significant opportunity for CoNAM to honor and support a talented Native youth who is destined to become an effective advocate for Native rights,” said CONAM co-chairwoman Barbara Revere.  

Nathan and his mother Misty Solorio

The high school student, who lives in Mechanicsburg in Central PA, has Anishinabe and Brokenhead Ojibway tribal ancestry in Canada. He plans to major in social work in college.

School has not always been a safe space for Nathan, who routinely faced bullying on school bus rides because of his long hair. Other students would pull on his long braids and call him names. “Growing up Native, you get picked on for the way you look,” he said.

“I wear my hair long because my ancestors weren’t allowed to when they were forced to go to residential schools.” He recalled often abusive Indian boarding schools of the 19th and 20th centuries—some run by Methodists and other church groups—that took Indigenous children from their homes and their cultures to indoctrinate them into Western society.

Nathan’s mother, Misty Solorio, would drive him to school to lessen his suffering. But having to learn virtually at home due to the COVID pandemic helped relieve him partially of constant abuse.

Helping Native youth heal via online Heart Medicine

Then he took the virtual learning experience a step further by creating Heart Medicine, an initially online support platform to help other Indigenous teens who also experience bullying, isolation and other hardships. It’s a virtual space for young people to gather and share their feelings, mostly via Zoom video chats.

Nathan launched Heart Medicine in 2022 during the United National Indian Tribal Youth’s (UNITY) national conference, along with 28 young people, ages 14 to 24. Now they and others connect also at powwows and retreats to talk about their feelings and experiences, while leaning on each for support and developing pride in their culture.

“Nathan doesn’t realize how impactful it is,” his mother Misty Solorio told one reporter. “He’s very humble in his idea of the impact it will have…(but) he genuinely has the heart to help others.”

Nathan was named one of UNITY’s “25 Under 25 Native Youth Leaders” and received a small grant to fund his platform. He also was elected a Northeast regional representative on the National UNITY Council.

“I’m so proud that our CoNAM supports and values the efforts of young Nathan, as he explores the best way he can be a valuable asset to Indian Country,” said Sandi Cianciulli, who co-chairs the Eastern PA Conference CoNAM.

Untied Methodist churches are encouraged to celebrate Native American Ministries Sunday and receive the Special Sunday offering April 14. Our gifts support both EPA’s CoNAM and other Native American ministries in urban, rural and reservation communities around the U.S., plus provide much-needed scholarships for Native seminary students preparing to serve their churches.