Meet Tyler Owens
We are thrilled to introduce our newest Rural Assembly team member, Tyler Owens. Tyler is the new program associate for the Center for Rural Strategies.
Tyler (she/her) is from the Gila River Indian Community in Southern Arizona where she was born and raised. She currently attends Chandler-Gilbert Community College where she is studying Finance. Prior to joining the Rural Assembly, she worked with the National Congress of American Indians where she took on various roles, including Membership Coordinator, Youth Program Associate, and Administrative Assistance. She has had opportunities to grow and learn through internship opportunities with the Department of Justice and the Arizona Coyotes (NHL). As an Afro-Indigenous Latina, she has a strong drive to create a better environment for young people and the communities where she has roots.
We asked Tyler a few questions to introduce her to the Rural Assembly community.
Welcome Tyler! Can you tell us about your connection to rural?
Tyler: I come from the Gila River Indian Community in southern Arizona. The community that I was raised in has prided itself on our heavy agricultural way of life. Growing up, I was surrounded by family members that would go out and take care of their crops year-round. I’m oh so familiar with the canals being my swimming pool and hanging by the interstate to make semis honk for us as entertainment. Tribal communities throughout the country are normally removed from city life but for me, I was a mere 30-minute drive. Yet, the issues my community faces are similar to that of small towns with one local grocery store.
How did you come to work for Rural Strategies and the Rural Assembly?
Tyler: Since a young age, I have had a drive to want to create changes that I know will benefit the communities that I come from. Fortunately, my tribal community had a youth council that provided young people with tools to grow their professional development and introduced us to how our tribal government operates. Through my participation with the youth council, I had worked with national organizations youth programs. One key youth track that I participated in was with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which is also where I held one of my first jobs that worked with directly with Indian Country on important areas of impact. While with NCAI, I was fortunate enough to meet members of the Rural Assembly team at their Big Ideas Forum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You served as Miss Gila River. Tell us about that experience.
The Gila River Indian Community has been a key champion in ensuring that there are ample opportunities to give platforms to young adults. After my time in Washington, DC, working for NCAI, I decided to move home to study finance and work towards obtaining my bachelor’s degree.
While home, I decided to vie for the title of Miss Gila River which serves as a goodwill ambassador to the community during their year of service. I was blessed to have been selected to serve as the 2019-2020 While Miss Gila River. While representing my community, I promoted a platform of “Uplifting others through acceptance and inclusion.”
As a way to keep true to my platform, I work on connecting with community members from all backgrounds, and occasionally, provided remarks on important issue areas, such as, Missing and Murder Indigenous Women and the importance of living life at your own pace. As well as, hosting a “Growing Stronger Together” which was a day-long event that focused on finding ways to ground ourselves and recognize the importance of self-love and helping one another.
What rural/native issues are you most passionate about?
Tyler: Being someone who had resources available for me as a young adult, the issue areas I see as most important are providing services of support for other young people. To me, it is important to give options to all people but when someone is barely starting their life’s journey having more doors open for them is invaluable. It provides a young adult with a certain sense of security and confidence when they know that they have a support system that wants them to be successful in whichever dreams or goals they have for themselves.
What are you listening to/reading these days?
Currently, I am reading Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson which takes a brief but deep dive into the crisis of race relations. As for my playlist, I have been listening to Giveon’s Heartbreak Anniversary. When I need to crack through homework or actual work I will put on a lofi station to help me focus.