The American Indian Graduate Magazine Fall 2021

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the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |



the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |

The American Indian Graduate Volume 20, Number 2, Fall 2021

Message from the Board President ..................................................... 4

The American Indian Gradate Volume 20, Number 2

Message from the Chief Executive Officer ........................................ 5

A Publication of American Indian Graduate Center 3701 San Mateo Blvd. NE, Suite 200 Albuquerque, NM 87110 Phone: (505) 881-4584 Fax: (505) 884-0427 Website:

Our Collective Story: Digitizing the Indigenous Narrative ������������ 8 by Niya DeGroat Native Representation on a National Stage ......................................14 by Lindsay Mahaney Erazo

Publisher Angelique Albert CEO

Preserving the Language, Preserving the Culture ..........................20 by Toya Stewart Downey

Editor in Chief Sara Shawanokasic

Building a Sustainable Future.......................................................................24 by Brandon Barela The Future is Indigenous Women...............................................................28 by Sara Shawanokasic Healing Through Art........................................................................................30 by Alexis Estes 2021 Students of the Year.............................................................................34 Inspired Podcast................................................................................................38 2021 Students of the Month.........................................................................43

Managing Editor Lindsay Mahaney Erazo Graphic Designer Warren Pemberton

Board of Directors Holly Cook Macarro President Red Lake Band of Ojibwe Walter Lamar Vice President Blackfeet & Wichita Aurene M. Martin Secretary & Treasurer Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Stacy Leeds Cherokee Nation Ernie Stevens, Jr. Oneida Nation of Wisconsin Hud Oberly Comanche, Osage, & Caddo Richard Williams Oglala Lakota & Northern Cheyenne

Contact Us

Amber Garrison Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Board Emeritus Dana Arviso Navajo Nation

American Indian Graduate Center 3701 San Mateo Blvd. NE Suite 200 Albuquerque, NM 87110 Phone: (505) 881-4584 Fax: (505) 884-0427

Steve Stallings Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians

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Cover Image: Native Women Lead Photographed by: Shayla Blatchford

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MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT A warm welcome to the Fall 2021 edition of The American

Indian Graduate Magazine, where we will share the brilliant, rich, and inspiring stories of Native scholars and alumni that comprise Our Collective Story. American Indian Graduate Center was initially born out of the self-determination era and created to empower Native students pursuing law degrees to protect our Tribal communities and address disparities in accessing higher education. But what started as a movement toward self-governance has grown into American Indian Graduate Center becoming The Center for Native Scholarships.


Over the past 50 years we have grown and blossomed into one of the largest Native scholarship providers in the U.S., and now empower Native students to pursue undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in any field at any accredited institution of their choosing. We are proud to have supported more than 16,000 scholars representing over 500 Tribes in all 50 states, each with their own unique journey that tells a piece of our beautiful story.

We are witnessing a critical moment in history as our stories are elevated to a national stage. This year we’ve seen the birth of the nationally renowned television show Reservation Dogs that features honest and accurate Native characters and stories. Just a few short weeks ago, one of the show’s Executive Producers Sterlin Harjo, along with cast members D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, and Lane Factor, had the opportunity to discuss inclusivity in the entertainment industry while presenting an award at the Emmys. During their speech, Woon-A-Tai shared: “Thankfully, networks and streamers are now — now — beginning to produce and develop shows created by and starring Indigenous people.” Our stories are finally being shared across the United States, and they are catapulting our fight for visibility and representation forward. For the first time in history, our communities see themselves authentically represented in mainstream media. In the pages of this magazine, you’ll find some of the narratives of our own incredible scholars and alumni. Alumni Brett Isaac and Tyson Jeannotte share how our traditional knowledge is shaping the fields of clean energy and resource preservation. Scholar Alexis Estes writes of the healing power of art and the impact it’s created, both for her personally and in her community. Alumni Dr. Linda Oxendine and Jermayne Tuckta, as well as Scholar Mosiah Bluecloud, speak on the critical need to preserve our languages for generations to come. Serving as Board President for American Indian Graduate Center and witnessing these incredible stories being elevated brings me immense joy. As our organization continues working to achieve our mission and vision to fulfill the unmet need of all Native students pursuing higher education, we also continue working to elevate Native voices and stories across the U.S. Thank you for joining us as we share Our Collective Story. Chi Miigwech (Thank You)!

Holly Cook Macarro President, Board of Directors 4

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MESSAGE FROM THE CEO Xẹst Sx̣lx̣alt (Good Day)! Welcome to the Fall 2021 edition

of The American Indian Graduate Magazine. In this magazine, we focus our thoughts on Our Collective Story. For thousands of years, storytelling has been an intrinsic part of our identity as Native people. Oral tradition has served to pass our knowledge and history across generations and has empowered our communities. But for far too long, our stories have been erased and obscured. The Boarding School Era, which began as a result of the Civilization Fund Act in 1819, attempted to assimilate our communities under the directive, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Today many of our relatives are facing the impossible task and emotional responsibility of identifying and bringing home over 6,000 of our children who were left in unmarked and mass graves at these institutions. As a granddaughter of survivors of these, I recognize this is only the beginning of this difficult journey. I send my love and prayers to all our communities, as we face this traumatic time together.


These institutions were our first interactions with western education systems, which has resulted in a traumatic and oppressive relationship with the U.S. education system. Inaccurate portrayals and false narratives of our history continue to be taught across K-12 and higher education. American Indian Graduate Center, among other Native organizations, was created to address these false narratives. Our organization specifically advocates for substantive changes in higher education to promote inclusion, visibility, and achievement of Native scholars. For the first time in U.S. history, we are beginning to witness a critical narrative shift for our communities. Madame Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), American Indian Graduate Center Alumna, has inspired both Native and non-Native people across the United States and beyond. The production of series like Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls are bringing authentic representation of our people to national television. The Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Guardians have changed their names. Each of these narrative shifts are paving the way for Native voices and creating seats at the table for our people to share our knowledge, stories, and tradition. Our stories have the power to fuel a movement and create an immense impact. American Indian Graduate Center is proud to contribute to this movement as the largest national Native scholarship provider in the U.S. For more than 50 years, American Indian Graduate Center has empowered the next generation of Native leaders through national scholarship funding and student services. When we support our students in their pursuit of higher education, not only are we empowering them to achieve their educational goals, we are empowering them to contribute to our collective story as cabinet level political leaders, film makers, educators and so much more. Thank you for joining us as we continue elevating our stories for future generations. Lemlmtš (Thank You),

Angelique Albert CEO

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Brandon Barela - Navajo Nation, is American Indian Graduate Center’s Major Gift Officer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Mexico. As a member of the Strategic Partnership Team, he is responsible for developing and implementing strategies for cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of top donors, which will provide support for the organization and help fulfill our mission of empowering Native scholars. Niya DeGroat - Diné, American Indian Graduate Center Alumnus, is a fashion journalist and multidisciplinary creative committed to elevating the discussion around the emerging field of Indigenous fashion and storytelling in the Americas and beyond. He obtained his master’s degree in fashion journalism from the Academy of Art University in May 2020. He is also the former Director of Multimedia for Phoenix Fashion Week with years of fashion show production experience including mentoring up-andcoming designers and models. He is a citizen of the Diné Nation originally from Mariano Lake, New Mexico. Toya Stewart Downey - Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, American Indian Graduate Center Alumna, is an award-winning journalist who has worked at major newspapers across the country including, The Dallas Morning News. In 2006 she was the recipient of a scholarship from American Indian Graduate Center. She attended the University of Minnesota and earned a Master of Arts Degree in Health Journalism, with a minor in Public Health. After graduating, Toya transitioned from a career in journalism to work in communications, public relations, and media relations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. She is currently the Executive Director of Strategic Communications, Equity, and Inclusion at Robbinsdale Area Schools in Minneapolis. Lindsay Mahaney Erazo is a Marketing & Communications Specialist at American Indian Graduate Center, who is responsible for strengthening the organization’s national narrative through external communications. Lindsay holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications focusing in Public Relations from the University of Toledo. Previously, she worked for a non-profit in Peru that promoted equitable access to medicine, education, and development in communities across Latin America and Africa.

Alexis Estes - Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, American Indian Graduate Center Scholar, is pursuing her master’s degree in counseling and art theory from Wayne State University. Alexis seeks to share the practices of art, art therapy, and yoga to help other Native American women and adolescents heal through the arts. Her art experience is primarily as a mural artist and screenprinter. Her Lakota culture has influenced her art to contain colorful abstractions of beadwork symbols - a style that was developed during her undergraduate studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Sara Shawanokasic - Menominee Nation, AIGCS Alumna, is passionate about equal access to higher education and has spent much of her career empowering Native students to achieve their educational and career goals. Sara is the Director of Partnerships at American Indian Graduate Center. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Norbert College and a Master of Science in Education in Higher Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin.


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SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR STRATEGIC PARTNERS FOR THEIR CONTINUED SUPPORT: Accenture American Indian Science Engineering Society American Indigenous Business Leaders American Indian College Fund AMERIND Risk APIA Scholars Big Fire Law Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation Blue Stone Strategy Group Bureau Of Indian Education Colorado University Upward Bound CNIGA Edelman FoodCorps Hewlett-Packard Hispanic Scholarship Fund Indigenous Education, Inc. Johnson Scholarship Foundation Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Murdock Charitable Trust NDN Collective Nike N7 Northwestern University Poarch Band Creek Indians REDW LLC Rincon Band Luiseño Indians Salish Kootenai College Sandia National Laboratories San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community UNCF United National Indian Tribal Youth Inc. Urban Native Era Wells Fargo

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Indigenous peoples have always been storytellers: from ancient petroglyphs to the social media-driven, grassroots reporting of the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Standing Rock. For many Indigenous communities, oral tradition serves as the vehicle to pass on cultural knowledge and history from one generation to the next – storytelling is embedded in the land, in our songs and prayers and in our dances.


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are the “physical evidence of farflung social and economic ties and they undoubtedly played a crucial role in the spread of a wide variety of beliefs, ideas, behaviors, art styles and more.”


With the advent of digital

media and new technology, today’s storytellers are modernizing the ways in which they narrate and distribute their stories to reach a wider audience. In the olden days, the role of the storyteller was limited to community healers and elders. Today, it has evolved to include scholars, activists and artists who are using storytelling to reclaim cultural identity and to self-determine their existence in a post-colonial world.


“I like to say that the Pueblos invented the internet,” says Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock), Editor at Indian Country Today, referring to the intricatelydesigned thoroughfares created by the Ancestral Puebloans a thousand years ago. According to the Society of Architectural Historians, these communication roadways that branched out of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico,


“The villages were connected by light, and the roads were incredibly straight and backed by satellite. Today, you can still see how straight they were, but that was so that light can transmit,” says Trahant. “And if you think about a light communicating from one village to another, that’s one comma zero. That means light on – light off, and that is the internet. And so, the technology has always changed, but the ability to communicate and tell stories hasn’t.” When he is not teaching journalism courses at Arizona State University, the 64-yearold news veteran, manages an independent, Indigenousfocused communication enterprise of his own. Back in 2018, as print newspapers struggled to stay relevant, Indian Country Today decided to go digital with social media at the forefront of its operations. “I like innovation, and unlike a lot of print journalists, I’m not afraid of the change going on in our readership and culture.” “For journalists, our storytelling is a little bit different than traditional storytelling. We deal with the world as we see it and we try to relay that to people so that they stay informed.” Stories in the publication range

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from breaking news in politics to small town events such as the annual “Rez Dog of the Year” contest in Fort Hall, Idaho. “This recent contest story isn’t really significant – it’s not important from a citizen pointof-view, but it’s a great story,” Trahant says enthusiastically. “Even though we work in nonfiction, there are so many good stories to tell.” On the contrary, in mainstream media, stories about Indigenous peoples are almost nonexistent, so through this Indigenousdriven platform, Trahant hopes to improve Native visibility by continuing to cover stories from around the world. “Indian Country Today, and this generation of it, is really an alternative view of the world. Our view is indigenous, and ultimately, it’s about serving our readers.”


Since 2012, multimedia artist, Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes of Washington) has been scouring the nation, in her RV truck, to photograph and document the stories of Native people representing over 562 Tribes in the United States. Her ongoing visual body of work, known as “Project 562,” is being turned into a book and has one goal: to change the way society views Native America. “My photography provides a glimpse into a moment. It’s one

frame, so it forces the audience to use their imagination to piece together what happened before and what happened afterwards,” Wilbur says.

employs a team of 12. Now in its third season, discussions for the podcast center around female empowerment from Indigenous feminism to Indigenous matriarchy.

Her travels over the years have given her solace and a deep appreciation for the people she gets to interview – the moments they share and the environments they welcome her into.

“I’m reminded of this storyteller I met in Alaska, who I didn’t get to photograph because he refused to be photographed, who said, ‘Good technology creates

“When I think of storytelling, I am immediately taken back to the traditional spaces in which our stories are told,” she says. “For me, that happens in a longhouse, or in other traditional spaces, such as the teepee, the wigwam and the hogan; spaces where our knowledge is transferred. Storytelling is the way in which we hold space.” In recent years, Wilbur has turned her sights to the digital space of podcasting where her advocacy continues to be amplified. In 2019, with the help of her friend, Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), known for her “Native Appropriations” blog, Wilbur launched the “All My Relations” podcast. “We thought it would be cool to do a podcast that discussed representation and allowed us to take some of the conversations we had in private and make them public,” says Wilbur. “We thought it would be easier to do a podcast than to write about it. We were so wrong,” she confesses with a chuckle. What started out as a conversation between friends blossomed into a major production that

Oral History Revitalization Project at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson. “But for Indian people, when you hear someone’s going to tell you a story, you change your attitude, you get ready to listen, because you know that it’s going to be important. Our stories have significance for how we live our lives, what it means to be of a certain tribe, and where we come from.” In 1966, and over the course of nine years, billionaire tobacco heiress and philanthropist, Doris Duke, provided charitable funding to seven universities, including the University of Arizona, to collect nearly 6,500 oral histories from Tribes across the United States.


community,’” recalls Wilbur. “We want to come together; we want to feel connected. That’s what good storytelling does, it brings out our humanity, so that years from now, our future generations can see themselves clearly and intelligently.”


“For non-Indigenous communities, when they think of stories, they immediately think of bedtime stories, or Aesop’s fables, or fairy tales. They’re not real, they’re for children,” says Alyce Sadongei (Kiowa & Tohono O’odham), codirector of the Doris Duke Native

According to the foundation, a team of “48 graduate students and anthropologists (some who were Native American) conducted interviews with 417 people across 55 cultural groups.” The collection at the Arizona State Museum includes 617 sound recordings of “meetings, classes, music and cultural events.” In February, Sadongei was tapped by the foundation to spearhead the revitalization efforts by digitizing these recordings so that they can be returned to the participating Tribes. The project also plans to store these digital materials on a free, online platform called Murkutu, an app that will allow Indigenous

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“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” - Native American Proverb researchers set out to interview them.


communities to manage and share these recordings. “It’s been a slow process,” says Sadongei. “I work with the Tribes directly. I’ve been setting up consultations and working with them just to make sure that they get access to these recordings.” For Sadongei, listening to these recordings has been a heartwarming experience because she gets to hear Indigenous voices from the past. “I hear memories of battle stories and how they used to work through conflict with other Tribes, even white people,” 12

she recounts. “Some of the recordings are in the language, so they have to be translated and transcribed.” “Most of the languages heard in the recordings use certain words or phrases that are no longer used today, so it’s been exciting to hear those words. Maybe, this work will assist Tribes with language revitalization work.” However, listening to these recordings hasn’t always been smooth sailing or pleasurable. Sadongei questions whether the Tribes were given free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) when

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“You can tell that some of the students lacked the sensitivity in how they asked their questions,” she says. “It seems like they were given free rein to ask whatever they want or capture anything they needed without any kind of proper training.” Still, Sadongei remains optimistic. Once the project is complete, she hopes that these digital recordings will provide the Tribes with a renewed sense of pride and ownership. “If anything, these oral histories will be under their control. They will get to decide how it is used and how it is shared.” Indigenous storytelling is as resilient as the people who tell them. Throughout history, our stories have kept our traditions alive, our ceremonies intact, and our collective hearts beating – all for the sake of our future ancestors. As the anonymous Native American proverb goes: “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

Working for Generations Our future is shaped by the decisions we make today. That’s why we’ve invested $50 million to serve the needs of Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native communities, from housing affordability and financial health to scholarships and small business support. For over 60 years, we’ve been providing capital and financial services to Native communities and businesses and we’ll continue to work together to make better tomorrows for generations to come. Find out more at ©2021 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved.

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the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |



On March 15, 2021, history was made. Madam Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), American Indian Graduate Center Alumna, was appointed Secretary of the Interior — the first Native American to hold a cabinet position in the history of the United States. This year has been marked sovereignty by many firsts, which are cause for celebration across Indian Country: “So many things have come together leading up to what I think we will all look back on as a momentous time for Natives in America,” said Holly Cook Macarro (Red Lake Band of Ojibwe), President of American Indian Graduate Center’s Board of Directors. “We’ve seen the long-sought name changes of professional sports teams, continued growth of the numbers of Natives in Congress, and the appointment of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. In addition to these concrete examples of increased visibility and representation, the continued evolution of Tribal political strength, both in voting and influence, have ensured the inclusion of Tribes and Tribal

as policy legislation are developed.”



With over 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill, Cook Macarro is no stranger to advocating for Native representation in Washington D.C. As a federal

lobbyist and partner at Spirit Rock Consulting, she has successfully secured client appropriations for Tribal-specific projects, secured legislation protecting culturally significant Tribal lands from development by a major energy company, secured legislation transferring BLM lands to Tribal trust lands, and played a key role in the landmark reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Previously, Cook Macarro also served as the Director of the Office of Native American Affairs at the Democratic National Committee and in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. While at the White House, she focused specifically on Tribal intergovernmental affairs and policy matters and coordinated the firstever Tribal economic development conference hosted by the White House.

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Throughout her two decades of service, she has witnessed first-hand the fight to get Tribal leaders a seat at the decisionmaking table, and the hard work is finally starting to pay off. “With this new landscape that includes Natives in Congress, extends to Secretary Haaland at the helm of the Department of the Interior, and covers an Administration that is populated with more Natives in positions that are not specifically slotted for Natives, the approach to advocacy by Tribes has shifted as well,” she shared. “Decades of low-profile, grinding work with state parties to do Get Out the Vote on reservations, the work of many to ensure the national parties are engaging with


Indian Country, combined with smart bipartisan political giving and outreach by Tribal leaders has practically turned the tables.” However, this moment in history did not happen overnight. Quite the contrary, it’s been a movement hundreds of years in the making.

to Blansett is Richard Oakes (Akwesasne Mohawk) and the Takeover of Alcatraz.

Dr. Kent Blansett (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Shawnee, & Potawatomi), American Indian Graduate Center Alumnus and the Langston Hughes Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies and History at the University of Kansas, is a 20th century historian. His research focuses on a variety of subjects including Native nationalism, global Indigenous history, urbanism, and pop culture.

On Nov. 20, 1969, a group of 89 Native activists, known as Indians of All Tribes, led by Oakes, occupied the former federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the goal of reclaiming the island in accordance with the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The nonviolent occupation lasted 19 months and would inspire hundreds of other takeovers across the United States, from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to Wrigley Field in Chicago, and Ellis Island in New York, which collectively became known as the Red Power Movement.

However, of particular interest

“This wasn’t about just taking

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over a building,” Blansett said of the takeover. “This was also a movement to begin a conversation about decolonizing who we are, decolonizing our minds, and being able to heal and have reconciliation.”

“American Indian Graduate Center has provided the foundation over the last 50 plus years for hundreds of Native scholars we now see at the pinnacle of both their careers and fields,” said Cook Macarro. “The credentials of law, medical, and graduate degrees supported

The Red Power Movement ushered in the self-determination period and played a key role in overturning destructive federal policies like termination and relocation that were extensions of acculturation and assimilation policies of the past, Blansett shared.

American Indian Graduate Center has supported Native students representing over 500 Tribes in all 50 states, pursuing higher education at more than 1,700 institutions across the United States. Scholars are empowered to pursue degrees in any field at any accredited institution in the United States of their choice. “From pop culture to politics to activism, what we’re beginning to see is a new generation who has been electrified by our past,” Blansett said.

In essence, the occupation ultimately led to 26 pieces of selfdetermination legislation, among which include the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. This legislation in turn would build the framework for hundreds of organizations that are dedicated to promoting Native visibility and representation — like American Indian Graduate Center, which has empowered over 16,000 Native students to pursue higher education since inception, including national leaders Secretary Haaland and National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp (Quinault Nation).

continue to play the critical role of supporting Native scholars.”

by funding from American Indian Graduate Center have propelled Native professionals into the ‘pipeline’ that, over the decades, has given many the experience and knowledge to level the playing field of professional opportunities.” “I’m grateful for the vision and diligence of our founders and the many leaders that have served the organization over the last 50 years and ensured American Indian Graduate Center could

Blansett’s words ring true and can be witnessed through the creation of nationally recognized content, like the hit new show Reservation Dogs. Produced by Sterlin Harjo (Seminole Tribe & Muskogee Creek Nation) and Taika Waititi (Māori), the series is made up of an entirely Indigenous writer’s room and roster of directors. Reservation Dogs is, first and foremost, a comedy series. And through its comedic storytelling, the show combats many harmful tropes directed toward Native communities, showcasing it’s characters in the authentic and honest light that is everyday life. “Isn’t it crazy that it’s 2021 and we’re still talking about how

“This was also a movement to begin a conversation about decolonizing who we are, decolonizing our minds, and being able to heal and have reconciliation.” -Dr. Kent Blansett the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |


“Isn’t it crazy that it’s 2021 and we’re still talking about how great it is that these people are real and have human characteristics?” Harjo said in a New York Times interview. “It shouldn’t be radical to have Indigenous people doing normal stuff.” - Sterlin Harjo great it is that these people are real and have human characteristics?” Harjo said in a New York Times interview. “It shouldn’t be radical to have Indigenous people doing normal stuff.” “These are all things I never had, and I am just a kid in a candy store thinking, ‘Wow, what is this going to mean for our future?’” Blansett added excitedly. Indeed, the incredible events of this year are unprecedented, with Native leaders like Secretary Haaland advocating for Indian Country and the production of Reservation Dogs — but this is just the beginning. “Native Americans and our Tribal communities are still a mystery, or even just a piece of the past, for many in the United States,” said Cook Macarro. “Watching Secretary Haaland move through her first year as Secretary of the Interior has been somewhat surreal, both on a personal level and seeing America see her... beyond the substance she brings to the table, she fully inhabits that space as a Native person.” “The same can be said of Congresswoman Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation), who I’ve witnessed many times school her Congressional colleagues on the finer points of policy. That sort of visibility is invaluable to the youth of Indian Country and also informs the American public about contemporary Native America.”


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There’s an old video that shows two-year-old Mosiah Bluecloud being asked by his mother to wipe his face. The toddler stares blankly until his father tells him to do the same thing. It



Bluecloud (Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma), an American Indian Graduate Center Scholar, was being disobedient. Rather, it was that his mom spoke to him in English, and his father spoke to him using their native Kickapoo language. “I didn’t understand English because Kickapoo was my first language,” said Bluecloud. “I remember, though, that my mom was always hungry for language and asked for words so she could use them to speak to me.”

Bluecloud is currently working with Stonybrook University in New York on its Algonquian Language Revitalization Project. This project is being done through documentation because there haven’t been first speakers in generations. MOSIAH BLUECLOUD KICKAPOO TRIBE OF OKLAHOMA

“For me, it’s been about teaching and bringing language back to my people,” said Bluecloud, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Arizona. “The bulk of my work is teacher training and I love that. Whether or not I take a job in academia, I will always teach my language.”

“I teach one of the four Warm Springs dialects. Each one has different writing systems,” said Tuckta. “In English, our language is called ‘Sahaptain’ and while we have similar dialects, we have different writing systems.” The Warm Springs Reservation is known for its hot springs, but also because three Tribes live there - sharing the space, but having their own asymmetrical languages. This means that while there are similarities in their languages, they don’t understand each other, Tuckta explained.

It might be because of that memory, or that he feels fortunate to have had direct access to his language, that Bluecloud has devoted himself to teaching the language. In 2016 he created a Kickapoo language department for the Kickapoo Tribe in Oklahoma, and has also done work with Texas and Kansas Tribes. Before then, he taught family members and others their native language.

teaching language through both his Tribe’s museum and its culture and heritage department.

“There are so many tribes that have documentation, and some have first speakers. But some do not have either,” said Bluecloud, adding that the loss of language greatly impacts Native communities. Across the country in Oregon, American Indian Graduate Center Alumnus Jermayne Tuckta (Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation) is also

Though his first language was English, Tuckta listened and tried to pick up words from his maternal grandmother and her siblings. He learned some words and phrases, but started taking classes with a teacher so he could surprise his Elders with his skills. One of the biggest things he learned was that “there were cultural worldviews that are being missed in our current language right now.” For example, he said, the language is very direct and traditionally there weren’t phrases such as, “good

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“Today on the Warm Springs Reservation, there isn’t a teacher who teaches the way I do. I teach this way because that’s what the Elders taught me. But, it’s up to the community if the language continues to evolve.” -Jermayne Tuckta morning, good afternoon and how is the weather.” Instead, those phases have been created to adapt to pleasantries that are common in today’s English speech. “Instead of saying, ‘how are you,’ in our culture you would say, ‘where have you been,’” he said. “I tell students I can teach them the phrases, but traditionally this wasn’t done in our language because we were very straightforward.” Preserving the language though his teaching is very important to him as currently there are only three fluent speakers of the Warm Springs dialect. “I have recordings of some of the Elders who were fluent speakers... some have since died from COVID-19 and aren’t here anymore.” Tuckta, who attended the University of Oregon and has a Master of Arts in Language, is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in language revitalization. He is also working with the University to help create a dictionary of the traditional language. “Today on the Warm Springs Reservation, there isn’t a teacher who teaches the way I do. I teach this way because that’s what the Elders taught me. But, it’s up to 22

the community if the language continues to evolve,” he said. The experience of Dillon Vaughn (Mississippi Band of Choctaw) was different. He knew his Native language first, then began to speak English when he went to school. English became his dominant language.

arts classes available. Then, while attending a networking event, he met the Choctaw language professor who changed the trajectory of his life.

“I was blessed to be around people who only knew Choctaw,” said Vaughn, recalling that his grandfather only knew enough English to get groceries at the store. “Everything else was Choctaw, so that’s what I heard and learned.”

“When he found out I could speak my language, he asked me to come to his class to show the difference between Choctaw in Mississippi and Choctaw in Oklahoma,” said Vaughn, noting that there was a difference in accents and that his Tribe spoke faster and used contractions. By contrast, Oklahoma speakers used full words and spoke more slowly.

“It will be hard for my two-yearold son to find someone who only knows Choctaw or who hardly knows English at all.”

Around this same time, he began sharing an apartment with a Kiowa speaker who taught at the university.

Vaughn said his Tribe, the biggest in Mississippi, was “in their own bubble,” so when he left in 2007 to attend the University of Oklahoma it was a “culture shock.” This was because there were different Native cultures and Native languages everywhere.

“Seeing someone my own age teaching in a college setting was impressive to me because when I was growing up, the language instructors were grandmas and grandpas,” he said. “We talked about language all the time and compared our language.

“There were Native people who were passionate about Native people in general, which is not something I grew up with because we kept to ourselves,” he said.

Upon graduating, Vaughn worked for Oklahoma Public Schools in the Indian Education program as “an uncle to 300 kids.” He then moved back to Mississippi, where he became one of his Tribe’s first certified language instructors.

As a studio arts major after his sophomore year, Vaughn didn’t know there were language

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fluent enough speakers to share and teach the language,” said Vaughn, who after two years was invited back to the University of Oklahoma to work as a language instructor -- a post he has held for the past six years. Though it is commonly understood how significant language is, the impact it has on communities varies by Tribe and by region, according to some experts. Take the Lumbee people, for whom language has never been a focus, said American Indian Graduate Center Alumna Dr. Linda Oxendine (Lumbee Tribe), the retired Chair of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “We were exposed to dialect and it was a part of who we were,” she said. “There were separate communities who had separate dialects, but we don’t know what our language is because the Lumbee people are a result of infusion of other Tribes.” She said by the time her people “were discovered,” they were speaking a broken form of English. Later research would show, however, that some words were distinctly among the Lumbee people. During her time in academia, Oxendine conducted research, explored facets of American Indian history and taught a Lumbee history and culture class. “Language is an important form of transmission in our culture... of the history, values and way of

life,” she said. “Language is a part of culture, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have culture because you don’t have language.” “We have what we have because of our language and culture over time,” said Oxendine, adding that the Lumbee “define our people through kinship, community and the cultural parts of the community.” She notes, though, that knowing more about their first language would help strengthen their culture and knowledge of who they are. “Our languages hold a worldview that is the key to understanding how we should be,” said Bluecloud. “We learn how to be, how to

respect, how to love and how to worship.” “A child who understands that trees are beings is more respectful. We understand our relationship with the land and that we are all related and connected.” Tuckta shares a similar perspective. “It is important to carry the language forward for the children,” he said. “My maternal grandmother, called Kała in my language, told me that without language “if you get buried in this land, the land may not recognize you.”

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Prior to westernization, native communities lived harmoniously with the land. This was due to accumulated knowledge and understandings that were refined over hundreds or thousands of years of experience with the land. Today, AIGCS Alumni Brett Isaac (Navajo Nation) and Tyson Jeannotte (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indian) are incorporating that knowledge and Indigenous tradition in their business practices in an effort to respect and preserve the land while empowering their communities. Now, more than ever, it is pertinent for companies in the energy and resource preservation industries to apply Tribal Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to rebuild the relationship with the land and integrate knowledge that will benefit the environment and population. Irresponsible energy production has impacted the world in a negative way and now industries are looking to backtrack on generations of destruction to restore balance to the environment. Both Isaac and Jeannotte agree traditional practices that 24

have been known in Native communities are now being acknowledged by industries that have exploited or altered our land. Jeannotte has seen it through the alteration of natural rivers that polluted the water while Brett has noticed BRETT ISAAC NAVAJO NATION, AIGCS ALUMNI

Jeannotte’s work focuses on water quality projects and designing mechanisms to trap destructive contaminants, so they won’t have a negative impact on other water sources. He aims to promote solutions to water issues such as the exporting of nutrients and how it affects water quality. Jeannotte shared that nutrients have been exported for agricultural fields and are currently affecting water quality by developing algae. His plan is to restore the water sources back to the natural setting to halt the spread of harmful nutrients, as well possibly preventing natural disasters.

it by the extraction of natural resources on Navajo land and the destruction it has left behind. As a water resource engineer,

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“If farmers never dredged the rivers in the early 1900’s we might not have had the devastating flood of 1997 in Fargo and Grand Forks,” he explained. “Those dredged rivers forced water rapidly into the flooding basin.”



- CITIZEN POTAWATOMI the american indian graduate |DAVID fallANDERSON 2021 | 25

As he pursues a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, Jeannotte said he is working on research on Tribal lands and once the study is complete, he can apply TEK by protecting resources and restoring the land back to what would have been familiar to his ancestors. “We are forced to accept the ways of the western world but we also have to look back at our stories and understand as Native Americans this is how the land used to look, and we need to restore it back to what it once was,” he shared. As the founder and CEO of Navajo Power, Isaac’s goal is to bring energy to citizens of the Navajo Nation in a way

that would not leave a large negative impact behind. He is drawn to alternative energy since it allowed easier access to power while lessening the carbon footprint that is currently contributing to climate change – a critical issue that has been around for decades but is only now being recognized around the world as a serious threat. “Indigenous communities have been sounding the alarm for decades for the need of land preservation and conservation, and now that knowledge is valuable as the impacts of climate change are at our doorsteps,” Isaac said. In order to see the positive impact on his homeland, Isaac

knew that he had to build a clean energy company: “To accelerate a positive transition in industries that are having a negative impact on the environment, you cannot only talk about what you can do as alternatives, but you have to actively participate in it,” he said. Incorporating traditional practices is key to Navajo Power’s success. In addition to corporate advisors, Isaac made sure to bring medicine people to his team to ensure the organization properly acknowledged and respected the land through their work. “Past industries have left ruin; the land needs to be acknowledged before work can be done,” he said. “You must take out the money factor (LEFT) TYSON JEANNOTTE - TURTLE MOUNTAIN BAND OF CHIPPEWA INDIAN (RIGHT) ALEXIS ARCHAMBAULT - STANDING ROCK SIOUX, AIGC SCHOLAR

“We want to interpret and blend these worlds by taking a little bit of Silicon Valley’s aggressive nature to business but applying an indigenous touch to it so it reflects us.” - Tyson Jeannotte 26 26

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“You must take out the money factor and ask what you can do for the land. If you take care of it, it will take of you.” - Brett Isaac and ask what you can do for the land. If you take care of it, it will take of you.” By combining the traditional beliefs he grew up with to a western way of thinking, Isaac knows he can add balance and encourage a more sustainable future for the Navajo Nation. “We want to interpret and blend these worlds by taking a little bit of Silicon Valley’s aggressive nature to business but applying an indigenous touch to it so it reflects us.” Such ideas that would have been dismissed not too long ago are now being heard and taken into consideration. Jeannotte attributes this to younger generations securing more prominent positions in companies. He is seeing it first-hand as his professional opinion is becoming established in the Midwest while publications from his master’s program are being used by other environmental experts in the region. “In today’s world, millennials have a spot at the table where we can speak our opinions and show what we are made of. That’s why more of our ideas are being accepted and adopted into western culture,” he said. Isaac and Jeannotte know that applying TEK with western knowledge to energy production and resource management can benefit the environment and human health. Isaac exclaimed: “We inherited and participate in the western system; we need to apply parts of our knowledge. It’s going to be important for the future.” the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |





Native women are the centering force in their communities, which is why Native Women Lead (NWL) and New Mexico Community Capital (NMCC) joined forces to create The Future is Indigenous Women Initiative for The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge — and they won $10M. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge

is hosted by Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda French Gates investment and incubation company, with additional support provided by MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies in partnership with Lever for Change. NWL and NMCC collaborated to develop a proposal, which seeks to the United States by 2030. Not only are Native women breadwinners, they carry culture, language, families, communities and sometimes their Tribes to THRIVE. Unfortunately, Native women entrepreneurs currently do not enjoy equitable access to capital, business development resources, financial capability or career opportunities. 28

“Native Women Lead’s mission is to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native women in business. We do this by co-creating with and convening our community to build a coalition, while honoring our culture, creativity and connections,” said Alicia Ortega, (Pueblos of Pojoaque and Santa Clara) American Indian Graduate Center Alumna, co-founder and co-director of NWL, as part of The Equity Can’t Wait Challenge video. The work of NWL, coupled with NMCC’s dedication to growing sustainable Native economies through culturally appropriate tools for success to emerging Native-owned companies, families and Tribal enterprises is a recipe for meaningful change.

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Through their collaboration, the coalition will deliver a culturally relevant solution to the gender and racial wealth gap, scaling impactful businesses owned by Native women to create a waterway of investable companies. Their growth will increase power and influence within their families and unlock potential for wealth creation through community employment opportunities. Additionally, the organizations will assess the national investment landscape through an Indigenous lens. These activities will engage investors to remove systemic blocks Indigenous people face. This effort is about catalyzing the investability and economic liberation of Indigenous women while co-creating non-harmful investment mechanisms.

“We will focus our solution on dismantling the barriers that hold Indigenous women back, and we’ll actively engage to redefine economics and economic justice that addresses the deep system traumas that Indigenous people have faced,” added Liz Gamboa (Mexican & Apache), Executive Director of NMCC in the video. “No one program exists that addresses the needs to support Indigenous women in business.” From 1997 to 2017, the number of businesses owned by Native women grew 87% faster than the number of businesses owned by women as a whole. As of 2017, Native American and Alaska Natives owned 1.4 percent of all women-owned businesses, employing 61,300 workers and generating $11B in revenue. Yet, Native women continue to face steep pay inequities

in the workplace and do not enjoy equitable access to capital, business development resources, financial capability or financial career pathways. “The cumulative harmful effects of Native women not having access to capital to fully realize their business potential has long been deserving of more than a band-aid approach and this type of investment will be revolutionary in our space,” added Jaime Gloshay (Navajo, White Mountain Apache & Kiowa), co-founder and codirector of Native Women Lead. To address these inequities, the coalition has built a three-pronged strategy to empower Native women entrepreneurs: Community Table Building will provide peer network activities, workshops, training events, fireside chats, presentations

and annual business and wealth summits. A Circle of Support will deliver culturally aligned business readiness and digital media training, as well as provide no charge access to women of color and Indigenous mentors, coaches and consultants. Lastly, the Indigenous Women’s Fund will launch an integrated capital strategy that blends grant and character-based loan products that provide scalable and equitable capital to entrepreneurs. “We can’t wait to get started, co-create with our community and link arms with partners who are committed to the larger rematriation movement,” said Gloshay.

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the american indian graduate | spring 2021 | fall 2021 |

Inside of the West Brule Recreation Center on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation is a colorful mural composed of geometric beadwork symbols and an abstract view of the Missouri River. I painted the mural, titled “WoLakota,” in July 2019 for the youth in my community of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. The Tribal reservation is rural and the youth have a limited amount of local activities and resources available to them. When I learned of the newly renovated West Brule Recreation Center, I jumped at the opportunity to brighten up the space by integrating Lakota culture into a mural painting. Tribal chairman, Clyde Estes, and head of the Tribe’s counseling department, Greg Miller, were in support of my idea to paint a mural for the Tribe, and they were in agreement that the West Brule Recreation Center would be the perfect place for a new mural. The goals of the mural project included creating a youthfriendly and culturally competent environment. As a graduate of Institute of American Indian Arts, I made a good fit for the job as I developed my painting techniques between art courses at one university and two Tribal colleges. I utilized these painting techniques to paint a couple of grand scale murals, including; “Mitakuye Oyasin” at Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and “Conejos” at Ortiz Art Gallery in Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Mexico. Studying and learning the creative arts from an Indigenous perspective has been an important component to my healing journey as I am the

daughter of a boarding school victim. I have sought to revitalize and reclaim Lakota culture, despite colonial efforts to assimilate Indigenous people into holding Western values and into working as laborers to fulfill the status quo of the “American Dream.”


In 1956, an Indian Relocation Act (politically known as Public Law 959) encouraged Native American citizens to move from their traditional homelands into urban areas to assimilate them into American society. While adults were targeted through this act, children were similarly assimilated through boarding schools. In fact, the original Indian boarding school - the Carlisle Indian School - was

created with the intention to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” During the summers of my childhood, I would visit my maternal grandparents in Mitchell, South Dakota, and I occasionally got to visit my Tribal community when extended relatives on my father’s side would pick me up and take me to Lower Brule, South Dakota. I saw beautiful displays of colorful regalia and energizing dance moves when I attended the annual Lower Brule Powwow. It was this event that inspired me to take Traditional Lakota Arts classes at Sinte Gleska University in Summer 2013 so that I could learn to bead and sew regalia. It also influenced me to seek further insight on understanding the meaning of Indigenous art symbols while attending Institute of American Indian Arts between the years of 2014 through 2017. I finally danced Women’s Fancy Shawl this summer 2021 after years of observing and studying regalia creation, and powwow dancing steps. I took 5th place in Women’s Fancy Shawl at the 2021 Annual Lower Brule Powwow. I didn’t grow up around my culture or my extended relatives, but I felt drawn to reconnect with relatives and pursue a degree in Indigenous Liberal Studies. I

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wanted to learn the traditional Lakota arts, and to understand American history from an Indigenous perspective. I find Native American arts and culture to be healing and powerful, but with the cultural experiences also comes the harsh reality that our Indigenous nations are often subject to impoverishment, and we battle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress as a result of surviving years of physical and cultural genocide at the hands of colonial oppressors, and even now lateral oppression exists within our communities.

Indigenous values from the postcolonial values many Indigenous people have adopted as a result of several generations experiencing oppression and genocide. Traditional Indigenous societies would heal, unify, and strengthen a community through shared arts and culture. This healthy Indigenous value system may be observed and experienced today through our contemporary cultural gatherings, including; powwows, Native American art markets, mural paintings, Indigenous knowledge

Throughout the past 10 years that I have grown closer to my Tribal community and made friends with members of other Indigenous nations, I have witnessed and experienced the health and socioeconomic consequences of alcohol abuse, depression, oppression, stereotypes, suicide and domestic violence. In fact, I contributed to these numbers when I became a domestic violence survivor in November 2015, after an abusive relationship. Through my educational pursuits I was able to distinguish traditional 32

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bowls, basketball tournaments and more. Creativity is a positive outlet of energy that validates identity and unifies a group with alike values. Healing through immersion into Lakota arts and culture, and surrounding myself with a community of like-minded individuals, has given more meaning to my life. Becoming aware of the traditional cultural values of our Lakota ancestors and their desires to protect the natural environment for the preservation of generations to come has made me proud to be Lakota. These values offer me the strength and resilience to continue my higher education journey towards a Master of Education in Art Therapy from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. It gives me hope that I may return to my Tribal community of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe to empower other Lakota youth in overcoming traumas they may be experiencing through holistic, creative practices. It gives me hope that they may reclaim and develop their own unique, cultural identities through pursuits of the arts, crafts and communal activities.

‘CULTURAL COMPETENCY IS A MUST’ Get the support you need to shape the future


tephenie Wescoup came all the way from the Great Plains to New Mexico State University because of her graduate program’s emphasis on multicultural issues and New Mexico’s large Native population. Since then, Stephenie says, “fantastic funding,” plus affordable tuition combined with low cost of living, and supportive faculty have helped her to stay. “The university recognizes that there is more to going to school than attending classes and getting good grades,” Stephenie said. “They know we must have our basic needs met in order to succeed in school and they have those supports in place. I really appreciate that.”

BE BOLD. Shape the Future. Graduate School the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |



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Sierra V. Kaufman (Shinnecock Nation) is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate at Brown University. As a recipient of American Indian Graduate Center’s Science Post Graduate Scholarship Fund, she was able to dedicate herself to research with personal cultural significance where she grew traditional heritage crops in Martian soil to show that those of higher clay contents, which naturally occur on Mars, can host hardy, Indigenous versions of crops. She was able to confirm positive results despite the average Martian soil being extremely hazardous to plants. Sierra Kaufman’s commitment to diversity, community, and equality is shown from her positions as the underrepresented minority representative on the union bargaining committee, union student outreach representative, department steward, Native financial cents ambassador and undergraduate research mentor. Her ultimate goal is to achieve a future academic faculty position will help her continue fullcircle mentorship to diversify the academy and increase the proportion of Natives in STEM. the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |









Jacob Flowers (Nanticoke Indian Association Inc), who was born and raised in North Carolina, is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree biology at Wingate University with hopes of becoming a physician assistant. He has plans to become an EMT and volunteer service in an effort to help as many people as possible and obtain direct patient contact hours for the purpose of being a more competitive applicant for PA school. Jacob Flowers is also a collegiate athlete, playing football at the Division II level at Wingate University. He would like to thank his grandfather Anthony Wright for seving as his cultural guide as a Native American and for giving him the opportunities he has been presented as an undergraduate student. the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |

the american indian graduate | fall 2021 |



For the Inspired Podcast, presented by American Indian Graduate Center, join our host Dr. Corey Still as we share space with community activists, changemakers, scholars and leaders across Indian Country who are dedicated to empowering our communities and uplifting Native voices for generations to come. 38

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This week our host Dr. Corey Still shares space with Hud Oberly (Osage, Caddo, and Comanche) of Urban Native Era and American Indian Graduate Center’s Board of Directors, and Clementine Bordeaux (Rosebud Sioux Tribe), an American Indian Graduate Center doctoral scholar and professional from the University of California Los Angeles to discuss Native representation and visibility on a national scale. Sharing both their professional and personal experiences, our guests will explore the inaccuracies of how our communities are represented in media and pop culture, and advice for Native scholars pursuing higher education who encounter these stereotypes.



Kicking off Season Two of the Inspired Podcast, we are joined by Cecelia Rose LaPointe (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe & Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) of Red Circle Consulting. Drawing on her personal experiences, Cecelia shares words of advice and inspiration to empower scholars, and their communities as they navigate higher education while facing their own intergenerational traumas.

PODCAST HIGHLIGHT EPISODE 3 Bob Miller (Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma) Building Prosperity Across Indian Country

American Indian Graduate Center Alumnus Bob Miller joined Dr. Corey Still for episode three of the Inspired Podcast to discuss the importance of creating private sector economies in our Tribal communities and the value of empowering entrepreneurs throughout Indian Country. Drawing from his own professional experience, Bob Miller shared insights and best practices to bolster Native businesses and ultimately strengthen Tribal economies. Bob Miller is a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and serves as interim Chief Justice for the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Court of Appeals and Appellate Judge for the Courts of Appeals of the Shawnee Tribe, the Grand Ronde Tribe, and Northwest Inter-Tribal Court System. In 2012, he was elected to the American Law Institute and in 2014 he was elected to the prestigious American Philosophical Society. His scholarly works include articles, books and book chapters on a wide array of Federal Indian Law issues and Civil Procedure, and

he speaks regularly on Indian Law issues across the United States.

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EPISODE 6 In this episode of the Inspired Podcast, some of our topics include content related to Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women and violence in our communities. While one of our goals is to empower our communities through healing and open dialogue, we understand that this content may be difficult for some to listen to. Featuring special guest American Indian Graduate Center Alumna Tai Simpson (Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho), join us as we share space to discuss advocating for social justice and using the Indigenous old ways to promote racial and social equity.

PODCAST HIGHLIGHT EPISODE 7 Shandiin Herrera (Navajo Nation) Our Time is Now

AIGCS Alumna Shandiin Herrera also joined the show and shared her experiences representing Indian Country on the national stage through media outlets like Good Morning America and corporate platforms, such as the Verizon commercial that premiered during the 2021 Oscars. ShandiinHerrera recently finished her tenure as a Lead for America Hometown Fellow, where she served for two years as a Policy Analyst and Project Consultant for her home community of Monument Valley, Utah. She is a co-founder of the Navajo Hopi COVID-19 Relief Fund and recently she helped launch the Tse Bii Ndzisgaii Community Center, where she will serve as director. She has been named American Indian Graduate Center’s Undergraduate Student of the Year for 2018 and a 2019 Champion for Change with the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute. She has also been named Duke University’s first Native American Udall Scholar and a Chief Manuelito Scholar. Recently she also received the 2021 Changemaker Award from Duke University.

Be sure to FOLLOW us on Spotify for the upcoming Season Three with all new content! Avaliable on Spotify now! Thanks for Listening!


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EPISODE 8 Sedelta Oosahwee ( Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation & Cherokee Nation) Advocating for Our Communities

For the season finale of American Indian Graduate Center’s Inspired Podcast, special guest AIGCS Alumna Sedelta Oosahwee spoke on the necessity of advocating for our communities. Sedelta Oosahwee shared her vast experience as an advocate, and offered advice and best practices to help organizations and individuals alike better advocate for Native people. Throughout her career, Oosahwee has worked on behalf of Native communities in various capacities at the Tribal, state and national level. She currently serves as a Senior Program Policy Analyst and Specialist (American Indian/Alaska Native Liaison) with the National Education Association. In this role she serves as a team lead on racial justice in education, manages national partnerships, and advises on American Indian and Alaska Native issues. She has also served in the Obama Administration as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the United States Department of Agriculture and as Associate Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education at the United States Department of Education.



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Each month American Indian Graduate Center selects one Undergraduate and one Graduate Scholar as our Students of the Month; celebrating each student’s impressive achievements in academic excellence and community engagement. Each month awardees are showcased on American Indian Graduate Center’s website and social media platforms. The awardees also receive a certificate, and a cash prize. Let’s give these students a round of applause as they continue the tradition of empowering Native students on a national level! Nicole Atencio - Navajo Nation & Santo Domingo Pueblo January - Undergraduate

Nicole is a Gates Millennium Scholar pursuing a degree in biology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Nicole’s goal is to become a naturopathic doctor and midwife. She would like to explore as many alternative healing methods that are possible and deliver as many babies as she can. Nicole also volunteers as a naturalist, taking children aged five to 13 on nature walks. She supports the kids by leading planned activities to get the kids engaged and thinking about skills like hiking safety, how to read maps, teamwork and all the organisms in the environment.

Christina McDonogh - Sugpiaq January - Graduate

Christina is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at Cornell Law School to impact her community in the legal field. Prior to starting school, Christina attended the American Indian Law Center’s Pre-Law Summer Institute, where she returned to work as a teacher’s assistant the year after her 1L. Christina’s ultimate goal is to help law students learn about Indigenous issues and to amplify the Native voice in everyday discussions. In addition to her responsibilities at Cornell, she is on the National NALSA e-board, where she represents law students in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

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Greyson Palmer - Cherokee Nation February - Undergraduate

Greyson is studying his Biology (Pre-Optometry) degree at the University of Oklahoma. In his first year of college, Greyson had the opportunity to volunteer at a health clinic in a rural village in Honduras, where he assisted with optometry exams and solidified his career goal to become an optometrist. He’s continued to volunteer virtually in a recruitment and fundraising capacity, despite the pandemic. As an optometrist, Greyson wants to ensure that Native Americans have easy and affordable access to good eye health and vision care.

Heidi K. Brandow - Diné & Kānaka Maoli February - Graduate

Heidi is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is centered on the inclusion of Indigenous people, and perspectives in the development of ethical and sustainable methods of creative engagement. Heidi is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and has studied Industrial Design at Istanbul Technical University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Design Studies from Harvard University, where she is also a co-founder of the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective - an organization that promotes design by and for Indigenous communities as foundational to the history, theory and practice of design fields.

Emma Vernon Harrah - Cherokee Nation March - Undergraduate

Emma is pursuing a nursing degree at Oklahoma Baptist University. She has an extensive background of volunteer experience, including Cleats for Kids, Oklahoma Regional Food Bank, Hope Pregnancy, City Rescue Mission, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Kids, and Community Outreach with The Salvation Army. Emma is also an active member in her church and her high school cross country team, which has kept her motivated to work hard not only in the sport but in every aspect of life.

McKeon K. Dempsey - Navajo Nation March - Graduate

McKeon is Kiiya’áanii Dine’é born for Tsédeeshgiizhnii Dine’é, who is pursuing her master’s degree at The George Washington University. She is committed to providing mental health and wellness services that is culturally inclusive and compassionate. As an Indigenous art therapy student, McKeon’s focus and passion include Indigenous methodology which involves cultural sensitive terminology, supporting Indigenous world views and integrating both a spiritual and meaning making practice for approaches to health and wellness. Her interests include decolonization, ancestral healing, storytelling, expression, and Indigenization.


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Karrah Peterson - Crow Tribe April - Undergraduate

Karrah is a biology scholar at Montana State University - Billings. She grew up hearing her traditional language and watching powwows, but never thought it was different until she joined the U.S. Navy after high school. Karrah pursued medicine for her undergraduate degree because she saw that there was a lack of specialized healthcare for Native and rural communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is Karrah’s ultimate goal to become a doctor to treat the Native community and to fill the void of rural healthcare in Montana.

Shellby Branch - Muscogee Creek Nation April - Graduate

Shellby is a second-year master’s student enrolled in the Higher Education program at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is also the Testing and Notetaking Coordinator for Disability Services at her university. Shellby is passionate about making sure underrepresented students at higher education institutions have support services that foster inclusive college environments. A first-generation college student, she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and hopes to enroll in a doctoral program to begin research on the development of low-income college students.

Danielle Waters - Wyandotte Nation May - Undergraduate

Danielle is studying Social and Substance Use Disorder at Northwest Indian College. She is a proud mother to five children: four daughters and one boy. Danielle is a woman who is in two years of recovery, which is the inspiration for her choice of degree and desire to work with Indigenous women who struggle with substance use disorder. Danielle also volunteers at her church, offering childcare on ‘Celebrate Recovery’ nights and organizing libraries for children in Ghana.

Emma Sumrow - Chickasaw Nation May - Graduate

Emma is a first-year student in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York City. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University in College Station with a minor in Art. She is currently pursuing a Master of Architecture and plans to have a career in both architecture and academia after obtaining her degree.

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Matthew Holgate - Navajo Nation June - Undergradate

Matthew is a Junior at Vanguard University of Southern California. Pursuing his bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in journalism and digital media, along with his certificate in Anti-Human Trafficking, his post-graduation goal is to bring awareness of human trafficking to Indigenous youth everywhere. Matthew has a passion for working with students who seek to create social change in their communities for the better.

Jacqueline Kocer - Oglala Sioux Tribe June - Graduate

Jacqueline Kocer is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of New Mexico working on her dissertation examining Gallina (AD 1100-1300) ceramics. Her research involves the study of cultural identity through ceramic production practices. Upon graduation, she plans to teach at a Tribal college and run her nonprofit company that will include a collaborative research program and archaeological field school for Native students. Jacqueline Kocer is the recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Dissertation Improvement Fellowship and the SAA Arthur C. Parker Scholarship for Native Americans.

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Are you accepted or waitlisted to a professional pharmacy program? You could be eligible for the Health Careers Opportunity Program’s Pharmacy Academic Boot Camp. BENEFITS OF THE PROGRAM INCLUDE: • Introductory and Overview courses offerings: American Indian Health Issues, Antimicrobial Agents, Calculations, Cell & Molecular Biology, Medical Microbiology, Pharmaceutical Biochemistry, Pharmacy Practice, Pharmaceutics, Pharmacology. • Opportunity to work closely with College of Health faculty. • Provide resources and speakers addressing minority health issues and health equity. • Daily stipend and travel assistance to Missoula, MT



CONTACT: 406-243-4571

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AVA I L A B L E N O W ! Apply to American Indian Graduate Center’s mid-year scholarships by November 30. Native students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees are eligible to apply today.


AIGC Empowering Scholars Initiative: Access Scholarships Community Impact Research Scholarships Direct Scholarships Student Relief Scholarships Miller Indigenous Economic Development Fellowship Ae SPEEA Aerospace Career Enhancement Scholarship



at the american indian graduateLearn | fall 2021more |

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Good Business Requires Attention To ROI For Randy Schwan, general manager at Spirit Lake Manufacturing, running a tribal business is all about assuring quality, productivity and profitability. It’s all about maximizing the return on investment (ROI) on behalf of the tribe and its members. Guaranteed “Return on Indian” Country As the only 100% tribally owned insurance company, AMERIND expands the definition of ROI to mean “Return on Indian” Country. Beyond offering tribal businesses an unmatched level of financial reliability, transparency and strength, AMERIND is building a better world and brighter future in association with Randy and other business leaders in the form of community development grants, educational scholarships and cultural event sponsorships. To learn more or to receive a quote, visit

Protecting Our People


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SPRING 2022 Issue: FEBRUARY 18, 2022

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