Project Venture

Project Venture is the internationally recognized, Evidence-based Flagship program of the National Indian Youth Leadership Project. Project Venture evolved from a dream that our Founder had over 40 years ago. Elders helped translate that dream and offered wisdom and advice that has guided the development of Project Venture and NIYLP’s work over the last three decades. In the National High Risk Youth Study, (2002) Project Venture was identified as the Most Effective program serving American Indian/Alaska Native youth. PV contained all eight components, identified by the Director of the study, Dr. Fred Springer, as the Characteristics of the Most Effective programs in the study. From there, Project Venture went on to receive the Exemplary, Promising, Effective and finally, in 2005, the Model Program designation.

Project Venture is a Positive Youth Development approach, with a unique culturally-based group development process and does not focus on deficits, but on the positive behaviors and healthy lifestyles that we want young people to choose. Project Venture is a year long sequence of challenges and growth opportunities, implemented in-school, out of school, weekends, multi-day trips and summer camps. NIYLP has a curriculum, with lesson plans and learning outcomes identified.

Project Venture incorporates the best of the values and customs common to indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, as well as the most effective ideas from the science-based world of prevention research and youth development. Project Venture represents our best effort to strike a balance between traditional wisdom and research and prevention practice. Our work incorporates outdoor adventure and challenge, actively engaging youth in developing life skills, while reinforcing traditional indigenous values regarding family, community, service and appreciation for the magic of the natural world.

Project Venture is recognized by the National Registery of Effective Programs and Practices (NREPP) and Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).

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Adaptations of Project Venture

Walking In Beauty


Walking in Beauty is designed to support adolescent Native girls in the transition to womanhood. Based on the concepts of the traditional Navajo puberty ceremony (Kinaalda) and practices from other tribal traditions, Walking in Beauty encourages girls to embrace their traditions, while assisting them in developing resiliency, inner strength and life skills, through a unique experiential process. Walking in Beauty signifies the qualities of successful young adults, who demonstrate a sense of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual balance, being in a state of Hozho (well being) and being prepared to embrace the transition to maturity. The concept of Walking in Beauty emphasizes a positive attitude and behavior necessary for young women to successfully navigate this transitional stage of life. Concepts of this program are integrated into every NIYLP camp program, where time is set aside every evening for the adult female staff to talk with the girls about aspects of this topic.

"Women in Leadership roles can help restore balance and wholenss to our communities." Wilma Mankiller

Tacheeh Project

Tacheeh is the male counterpart to Walking in Beauty and is designed for adolescent males to assist them in their successful transition to manhood. The name comes from the traditional Navajo male rite of passage ceremony, but the content is taken from many traditions. The process is an important part of Native culture, promoting both a traditional symbolic cleansing as well as an opportunity for wisdom to be shared between adult, elders and youth. The teachings address the developmental cycle from birth to adolescence, covering topics such as abstinence, self control and respect for females, as well as strength and endurance, becoming a positive and productive male member of the family and community. Respect for nature is emphasized. Teachings from the male passage ceremonies are shared during NIYLP camps, as part of our evening activities, where the men spend time with the young males sharing teachings.

“As a young boy, he takes directions from the old ones. He runs errands and performs small tasks for them. In turn, the elders tell him stories of the beginnings of his people. The morals of these stories help to shape his character.” Laine Thom, Shoshone, Goshiut, & Paiute.

Therapeautic Adventures for Native American Youth

This Project Venture adaptation was designed for Native youth who are at higher risk, who find themselves in substance abuse treatment, juvenile detention, diversion programs, alternative school and other settings. The emphasis of the TANAY program is two-fold: to restore a sense of identity, purpose, efficacy and health, and, to take advantage of the natural risk-taking tendencies to introduce healthier ways of managing risk. TANAY goes a step beyond Project Venture, while introducing the concept of wholistic health, the interaction of emotional, mental, spiritual and physical attributes. While PV is focused on prevention and learning, TANAY emphasizes intervention and well-being. TANAY strives to create an avenue for healing, whole minimizing the stigma of the intervention setting.

The Web of Life

Web of Life is an adaptation of the Project Venture model that focuses on healthy relationships between adolescent males and females and helps Native youth respect their changing bodies, develop healthy boundaries with the opposite gender, while exploring the teachings from traditional Rites of Passage ceremonies. Web of Life was a five year grant funded by the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Adolescent Health, as part of a national search for best practices in the prevention of teen pregnancy. The program helps participants to communicate effectively, to solve problems together, to develop leadership skills, to challenge themselves wisely, incrementally, through a thoughtful, experiential process.

Want to Implement Project Venture in your community? Want to see how Positive Youth Development will change your community? To learn more about how to bring Project Venture into your community click Ready!Ready!