The American Indian Graduate Magazine Spring 2022

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American Indian Graduate Center is now Native Forward Scholars Fund Dr. Henrietta Mann on the brilliant future of Native education


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The American Indian Graduate SPRING 2022 | VOLUME 21 | NUMBER 1

The American Indian Graduate Volume 21, Number 1 3701 San Mateo Blvd. NE, Ste 200 Albuquerque, NM 87110 505.881.4584

STAFF Publisher Angelique Albert, CEO Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes Editor in Chief David Weber Managing Editor Alyssa Bitsie Navajo Nation Graphic Designer Monica Schwartz


CEO Message Th evolution of our organization's new brand as Native Forward Scholars Fund


Chair Message The continuing mission as Native Forward Scholars Fund

22 Rewriting the Script on Indigenous Representation in Hollywood

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair Holly Cook Macarro Red Lake Band of Ojibwe


Vice-Chair Stacy Leeds Cherokee Nation


The Politics of Change: Survival to Resilience

Secretary & Treasurer Aurene M. Martin Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Hud Oberly Comanche, Osage, & Caddo Ernie Stevens, Jr. Oneida Nation of Wisconsin Richard Williams Oglala Lakota & Northern Cheyenne Amber Garrison Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma


Native Leaders Impacting Policy


Creating Our Own Brilliant Future

BOARD EMERITUS Steve Stallings Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians Walter Lamar Blackfeet & Wichita

COVER IMAGE Dr. Henrietta Mann Cheyenne, Citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

35 2021 Students of the Year




a message from chief executive officer

Angelique Albert Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes




est Sxlxalt (Good Day)!

I’m pleased to welcome this special edition of The American Indian Graduate Magazine, which showcases our new brand, Native Forward Scholars Fund, previously known as American Indian Graduate Center. Changing an organization’s name is not an easy thing to do. It is with great appreciation of how far our current name has brought us, that we undertook the rigorous process to identify a new name that honors our past and sets the stage for moving forward. This is the second time in our 50year history that we have changed our name, with the first in 1989, when we changed from American Indian Scholarships to American Indian Graduate Center. I want to thank our students, alumni, partners, and all who participated in helping us develop our new name. Thank you for your time spent in interviews, bulletin boards, surveys, and focus groups. It is with your input, that helped to guide us to this point. I am beyond thrilled to share a bit of our story, motivation, and process with you. At Native Forward Scholars Fund, our students are always at the center of what drives us. After 50 years of serving students in higher education, we’re proud of the work we have done by providing direct scholarships and support services to over 20,000 students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states. We have contributed to over 1,600 law degrees, and over 2,200 Ph.D. degrees, and watched the landscape of tribal sovereignty and academia, transform at the hands of the brilliant individuals dedicated to utilizing their skills for our communities. As we watch the success of individuals like Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar, and Dr. Henrietta Mann move the needle for us as Native leaders in this country, we continue to see disparities and systemic barriers increase for our Native students. According to a 2020 report from

the National Center for Education Statistics, Native adults are half as likely to hold a bachelor’s degree compared to the overall U.S. population, and only 19% of American Indian and Alaskan Natives aged 18 to 24 are enrolled in college, compared to 41% of the overall U.S. population. When you take this inequity and compound it with the astronomical wealth gap of Native American household wealth being less than 5% of White household wealth, we begin to see the cyclical story unfold. Access to financial support continues to be the main barrier for Native students. The average unmet need for a Native Forward Scholar is over $26,000 per year, with the highest unmet need over $130,000. Our average award for students is approximately $11,000 per year, which allows us to fulfill a portion of unmet needs of our students. Annually, we are only able to fund 18% of students who apply for funding through us, leaving an enormous funding gap among our Native students who seek higher education. Addressing the tremendous financial need of our scholars is the driving force for us to rebrand, relaunch, and reimagine how we serve our students. We must immediately scale our organization to address that funding gap. We have restructured our organization, increased staff, and are dedicated to breaking down systemic barriers. We have a proven model for success in place, but move at a rate that is simply not fast enough to combat the disparities. We have been able to increase graduation rates for undergraduates students to 69% and graduate students to 95%, compared to the national average of 41% for Native students. Our core competency of effective scholarship operations is key to helping change these disparities. We feel it is our obligation to scale these services for students and begin moving the needle forward. We have a moral imperative to do so. Driven by our students and armed with the knowledge of our ances-

tors, we decided to approach our rebrand in an inclusive way. We invited alumni, students, partners, donors, peers, potential donors, and board members to help us. Thank you to the over 500 individuals who helped us select a brand name that we are proud of. Native Forward Scholars Fund is a name that clearly defines who we are, what we do, and who we serve. While there is no perfect single name to describe all the members of our communities, “Native” speaks clearly to our collective histories and cultures. “Forward” signals how we continue to support the path to opportunities for those we serve. Since the origin of our organization, our work has supported the forward movement of our Native communities – giving rise to new beginnings, advancing opportunities, and establishing new horizons for our scholars. “Forward” also underscores how our scholars continue to share their knowledge, gifts, and talents with their communities. Together, these words represent a clear, simple declaration of our mission. Our work at Native Forward will not be complete until we are able to create opportunities, empower, and provide financial support to every Native student in this country wanting to pursue higher education. Again, thank you to all who have contributed and welcome to the next part of our journey as Native Forward Scholars Fund. With our new name and vision, you’re invited to read stories of individuals, who we feel exemplify the Native Forward movement. They are breaking barriers and moving Native voices forward and we’re proud to have been a small part of their journey, and enjoy shining a light on their success. Lemlmtš (Thank You),

Angelique Albert Chief Executive Officer



a message from board chair

Holly Cook Macarro Red Lake Band of Ojibwe


reetings to our Native scholars, alumni, and friends! This is an exciting edition of the magazine as we are finally able to introduce our new name and logo: Native Forward Scholars Fund. As many of you know, throughout our over 50-year legacy, we have supported educational opportunities for Native students in their pursuit of higher education. As we launch our new moniker and logo, Native Forward Scholars Fund, we will continue to build on that legacy, but now bearing a name that more accurately reflects our scholarship support for students across the spectrum of higher education, from undergraduate to graduate studies, and in the pursuit of professional degrees. The two words, Native Forward, represent a clear declaration of our vision and mission to fund and empower the next generation of Native leaders. The name also speaks clearly to our collective histories and cultures and how we continue to support the path to success in higher education for the Native scholars we serve. Since the origin of our organization, our work has supported the forward movement of our Native communities – advancing new opportunities and establishing new horizons for our scholars. Ultimately, Native Forward underscores how in turn, our scholars continue to share their



knowledge, gifts, and talents with their individual communities. As we move into this new era for our organization, we want to recognize, as always, the many before us who have contributed to its success as American Indian Graduate Center. I personally want to say Chi-Miigwech, “Big Thank You” in Ojibwemowin, to all who have helped lay the foundation for the place we find ourselves in today – one where scholarship support is available, not just to students seeking graduate degrees, but to all students seeking a post-secondary degree. Education is the cornerstone of Indian Country’s success, and the current and future scholars of Native Forward will continue to succeed with scholarship support from this organization and our alumni into what we know is a very bright future. It is with this vision and eye to the next generations of Native scholars, that we are proud to now be Native Forward. Miigwech for your continued support. Sincerely,

Holly Cook Macarro Board Chair



about the writers

About the Writers Sara LaBarge

Menominee Nation Native Forward Alumna Sara 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 Strategic Partnerships at Native Forward. 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.

Niya DeGroat

Diné Native Forward Alumnus Niya 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 attained his master’s degree in fashion journalism from the Academy of Art University in May 2020. He was also the former Director of Multimedia for Phoenix Fashion Week. He has years of fashion show production experience including mentoring up-and-coming designers and models. He is a citizen of the Diné Nation originally from Mariano Lake, New Mexico.

Mark Macarro

Tribal Chairman, Pechanga Band of Indians Vice President, National Congress of American Indians Mark Macarro is the duly elected Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in southern California. Chairman Macarro was first elected to the Pechanga Tribal Council in 1992 and is currently serving in his 27th consecutive year as Tribal Chairman. Throughout his tenure, Macarro's vision for Pechanga has been to see the Band strengthen its political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency while maintaining its distinct and unique cultural identity. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Toya Stewart Downey Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Native Forward Alumna

Toya is an award-winning journalist who has worked at major newspapers across the country, including The Dallas Morning News. She attended the University of Minnesota and earned a Master of Arts 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. 8










ur collective story is woven together from a diverse fabric of cultures, customs and histories. The exchange of ideas and knowledge enriches our shared experience from one generation to the next. The history and legacy of Native Forward Scholars Fund are rich and full of passion. Over the past five decades, our organization has seen tremendous growth and has facilitated changing the landscape of Native

higher education and subsequently, Indian Country on a much broader scale. So, what’s at the heart of what we do? Native students who have a dream to attain undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. An important part of our work is investing in communities by empowering a qualified workforce. “I believe that we need to center our students and know that higher education is very necessary for living in this very complex world,” said Native Forward Scholars Fund Alumna, Dr. Henrietta Mann (Cheyenne— Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma).





brilliant future

“We need to make sure Native students who wish to go to college to fulfill their own dreams have the financial assistance they need to not have to worry about additional obstacles."

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Henrietta Mann

Dr. Henrietta Mann

In 1982, Dr. Mann received a scholarship and support services from Native Forward Scholars Fund for her doctoral degree from the University of New Mexico and understands the importance of the organization. “We need to make sure Native students who wish to go to college to fulfill their own dreams have the financial assistance they need to not have to worry about additional obstacles. We must expand upon our own bodies of knowledge that reflect the needs of our respective nations or communities and begin to fill those gaps in terms of knowledge or skill areas that are needed from Tribal citizens,” Dr. Mann said. She is the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies at Montana State University, Bozeman. She taught at the University of Mon-

tana, Missoula for 28 years where she was a professor of Native American Studies. She also taught at the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard University; and Haskell Indian Nations University. As an advocate for Natives in higher education and more specifically, in the development of Native Studies programs, she understands the need for exchange of ideas across cultures. “It also important that we work to bridge the divide between cultures and provide an opportunity for non-Natives to understand Native cultures and traditions. Native peoples have well-disciplined bodies of knowledge, and we are so culturally pluralistic,” said Dr. Mann. Each Tribe is unique and with over 570+ federally recognized Tribes and over 60 state recognized Tribes, the exchange of ideas enriches our experience and

amplifies the message that while we are Native people, diversity amongst us is vast and intricate. We are all part of contributing to that story, the collective story of this transformational organization. When Native Forward Scholars Fund was founded as American Indian Scholarships in 1969, by Robert Bennett and John Rainer, there were only 38 Native lawyers, 15 Native doctoral students, and 30 Native medical doctors. Since then, Native Forward Scholars Fund has contributed to 1,600 law degrees and 2,200 doctoral degrees. In 1988, Native Forward Scholars Fund Alumnus, Robert Miller (Eastern Shawnee Tribe), was one of the first law students who received a scholarship.



brilliant future

"I like the phrase ‘pay it forward, pay it back.' Help the new generation, put your money to something that will help produce results in the future." Robert Miller

Miller’s areas of expertise include Federal Indian Law, American Indians, and International Law, American Indian Economic Development, Native American natural resources, and civil procedure. He is the Interim Chief Justice for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Court of Appeals and sits as a judge for other Tribes. In addition, Miller is the Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar at Arizona State University and the Faculty Director of the Rosette LLP American Indian Economic Development Program at Arizona State University. “We need organizations like Native Forward Scholars Fund to help bolster Native communities’ economic development growth. There are a handful of Tribes that are doing well, but the fact remains, there are hundreds more that can benefit from economic growth,” Miller said.



He has invested in Native Forward Scholars Fund and the Miller Indigenous Economic Development Fellowship, which is a $190,000 initiative with a goal of awarding research fellowships to doctoral candidates in their current data collection or analysis phase. Their work centers on economics and economic development focusing on or influencing Native communities. “We need businesses on reservations so dollars can circulate locally. Keep the dollar on the reservation, that is the multiplier effect. If you think about all the Tribes within the U.S., very few, if any, have a functional private sector economy. With the Miller Indigenous Economic Development Fellowship, I wanted to give back to Native Forward Scholars Fund and invest in Native economies,” Miller said. The Miller Indigenous

Economic Development Fellowship awarded its first three students this year. Miller’s incredible journey is one of the over 20,000 alumni stories Native Forward Scholars Fund has invested in. Miller is a firm believer in reciprocity and returning what was invested in him to future generations. “I like the phrase ‘pay it forward, pay it back.’ Help the new generation, put your money to something that will help produce results in the future,” Miller said. Like so many other Native Forward Scholars Fund alumni, Miller is committed to making positive impacts in Native student communities and with each Native perspective and journey, the next chapter will evolve and grow.






brilliant future

"Use your voice, your own uniqueness will drive you through the process. I didn’t have to fit any mold. I started becoming the only Native student in these spaces, you realize then, that you must become that trailblazer, motivating and inspiring others." Bo Shimmin

Paving the way for many Native students studying music in higher education is Native Forward Scholars Fund Alumnus, Bo Shimmin (Acoma Pueblo). Shimmin was born and raised in New Mexico and grew up in the Pueblo of Acoma, learning his traditions and language until he was 12 years

old when he moved to Arizona to live with his father. In 2020, Shimmin received his Master of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan School of Music, and has since had several opera roles. Shimmin is a Gates Millennium Scholar, administered in part by affiliate American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, a Gilman International Scholar, and a recipient of two Fulbright Scholar awards. During his first Fulbright, he taught in Italy in 2019. In his second, he plans to study and research a project entitled, “Identity Through Song, Italian Art and African Ameri-

can Art Song Post 2020.” “It is sometimes isolating to go through higher education, you are not going to see many people like you. None of your professors will look like you, but by doing this myself, I can fill these places in the future. Use your voice, your own uniqueness will drive you through the process. I didn’t have to fit any mold. I started becoming the only Native student in these spaces, you realize then, that you must become that trailblazer, motivating and inspiring others,” Shimmin said, reflecting on his experience with higher education.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Schamp (Aurioso Media)

We believe higher education deepens our transformative impact on every part of society. Knowledge and experience are powerful tools that can advance and preserve our way of life. By learning from the past, we are creating our own brilliant future.



brilliant future

“We as Native people are still here, and we are working to share more realistic and honest depictions of Native people by allowing them to represent themselves.” Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar

Another trailblazer in Indian Country is Native Forward Scholar Fund Alumna, Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo, Hopi, Tewa, Diné). On February 14, 2022, Dr. Chavez Lamar assumed the role of director of the National Museum of the American Indian, making her the first Native woman to lead a Smithsonian Museum. She oversees the museum's three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan, and the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland. From an early age, Dr. Chavez Lamar knew the importance of education. She graduated Valedictorian of her high school and later completed her undergraduate degree at Colorado College in studio art. “My mom instilled a love of reading. I was always interested in reading, and I think that helped me in school. I took education very seriously and knew I would go on to college,” said Dr. Chavez Lamar, “I appreciate that my parents supported me in being an art major. I know I probably would not have finished school or maybe would have ended up in a job I was not happy with if I didn’t have their support, they let me find my own path.” As Dr. Chavez Lamar began her graduate studies in American Indian Studies, she was interested in the museum field. After receiving her master’s degree in American Indian Studies, she attended the University of New Mexico for her 18


doctoral in American Studies and later began her museum career in 1994 as an intern at the National Museum of the American Indian. “I never had to worry about the stress related to financial barriers. And that meant a lot to me. It is hard to say if I would have completed my degree without the scholarship I received. And I know that scholarships are needed by many Native students and families to fund college education. Native Forward Scholars Fund has changed the landscape of Indian Country for the better,” said Dr. Chavez Lamar, whose graduate degree program was funded by Native Forward Scholars Fund. For more than 50 years, we have empowered Native leaders through national scholarship funding and student services to share their voices and strengthen their communities. These individuals have pursued their passion and earned degrees that have allowed them the opportunity to contribute to shared, but diverse Native stories and experiences. As the organization moves forward, students and alumni will continue to grow, serving as catalysts in amplifying the overall message. “We as Native people are still here, and we are working to share more realistic and honest depictions of Native people by allowing

them to represent themselves,” said Dr. Chavez Lamar. Whether it be through STEM, education, law, economic development, or the humanities, Native representation is increasing and is a direct result of filling positions that require degrees in higher education. We are gaining a seat at the table. To inspire excellence with impact, we provide holistic support services and resources to help Native students access and navigate the higher education of their choice, build strong networks of engaged alumni that foster community and mentorship beyond our organization, advocate greater representation and visibility of Native communities and trusted stewardship of donor support and scholarship funding to make meaningful differences. Since our inception, we have awarded over $350 million in scholarships to Native students. Additionally, Native Forward Scholars Fund Economic Impact Study results were phenomenal. For every dollar invested into Native students’ higher educational journeys, the United States received a cumulative $16.90 in return, and recipients from scholarship programs, who are also employed in the U.S. workforce, amounting to $349.4 million in added income into the economy.

Empowering Native Scholars and increasing visibility through higher education, we are Native Forward.


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Rewriting the the ScriptScript on Rewriting


Indigenous Indigenous Representation Representation in Hollywood in


Native American creatives take over mainstream media with forwardthinking storytelling and good oldfashioned NDN humor by Niya DeGroat


n February 9, 2020, New Zealand-born filmmaker, Taika Waititi, of Māori descent, took home the Oscar for best-adapted screenplay for his hit 2019 comedy-drama film, “Jojo Rabbit.” During his acceptance speech as the first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award, the then 44-year-old declared: “I dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids that live in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers, and we can make it here, as well.” In a sense, his words were two-fold: perhaps, as a signal for the Hollywood executives in the room to do better in terms of Indigenous representation and as a rallying cry for Indigenous creatives around the world to get out there and tell their own stories. Unfortunately, a month later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. The film and television industry ceased all productions, movie theaters closed their doors, and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, became staples of entertainment in our increasingly isolating Zoom culture. Across Indigenous homelands in the U.S., the pandemic ravaged underserved Tribal communities immensely due to their inequity in healthcare access and quality. Still, traditional practices, especially storytelling and telling jokes, became beacons of hope for Indigenous peoples to make it through these uncertain times. In 2021, at the height of the pandemic, Indigenous-produced programming started to take flight beginning with the April premiere of Peacock’s comedy sensation, “Rutherford Falls,” led by showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas (Diné). In the summer of that same year, Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Muscogee), followed suit with their own hit comedy series, “Reservation Dogs,” premiering in August through FX on Hulu. Both shows have been lauded for employing Indigenous artists behind and in front of the camera. Other notable programming featuring Indigenous talent include Disney+’s release of, “Hawkeye,” which introduced the world to Indigenous superhero, Maya Lopez, aka Echo, portrayed by rising Native American deaf actress, Alaqua Cox (Menominee/Mohican). Of course, there are the Western favorites, “Yellowstone” and “1883,” streaming on Paramount+. However, it is important to note that the latter two shows are created and written through the non-Indigenous lens of Taylor Sheridan, whom some can argue, is a modern-day John Ford. With the success and popularity of these shows, I sat down over the phone, with three of today’s prominent changemakers in the industry: film and television producer, Bird Runningwater, writer-producer, Sierra Teller Ornelas, and actor, Gary Farmer, to get a better understanding of the state of Indigenous representation in media. THE AMERICAN INDIAN GRADUATE | SPRING 2022


indigenous representation in hollywood BIRD RUNNINGWATER To be clear, this resurgence of interest in Native programming did not happen overnight. Long before “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs” garnered worldwide fame, and before social media, filmmaker, Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/ Mescalero Apache), with a career spanning 25 years, was leading the charge quietly, from 2001 to 2021, as the Sundance Institute’s Director of Indigenous, DEI and Artist Programs. “Seventy-eight percent of Americans don’t know that Native Americans exist today,” said Runningwater, referring to a 2016-2018 public opinion survey conducted by the nonprofit organization IllumiNative entitled, “Reclaiming Native Truth.” Upon completion of the survey, the IllumiNative team took their data and presented it to industry leaders. Runningwater, who currently serves as one of the organization’s board of advisors, points out that, “a majority of the 78% of the people who don't know anything about Native Americans are inside those organizations as decision-makers. For years, those gatekeepers have been saying that there's no audiences for Native American work. And that's just based upon their own ignorance.” During his tenure at Sundance, Runningwater was responsible for nurturing emerging Indigenous talent through the institute’s workshop labs, grants, and fellowships that allowed 145 filmmakers to launch into the global marketplace with over 110 Indigenous-made films premiering at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. In fact, before making a name for themselves, “Reservation Dogs” co-creators, Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, were guided by Runningwater during their time in the program. “We were brought together by Bird Runningwater from the Sundance Institute; he’s like the patriarch of Indigenous filmmaking,” said Waititi, in a 2021 interview for Entertainment Weekly. “For me, there's just basic authenticity to Native-told storytelling,” said Runningwater, “whether it’s written, directed, and produced by Native people, that in and of itself,

Bird Runningwater Photo Courtesy of Josh S. Rose 24


indigenous representation in hollywood

Sundance Institute panel, "Reseeing the Present, Rewriting the Past," featuring, from left to right, Bird Runningwater, Garrett Bradley, Sky Hopinka, RaMell Ross, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, and Crystal Echo Hawk. Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

“For me, there’s just basic authenticity to Native-told storytelling. Whether it’s written, directed, and produced by Native people, that in and of itself, is unlike anything that’s ever been made historically.” Bird Runningwater

is unlike anything that's ever been made historically. And I think that by having that creative control and being able to exhibit this level of authenticity, there's so much more nuance and originality, and so much tribal specificity, that most Americans have never even heard of. And so that's what makes us unique, and our storytelling unique.” Today, Runningwater serves as a co-executive producer on the TV show, "Sovereign," currently in development with Ava DuVernay, Warner Bros. Television Studios, and ARRAY Filmworks. His production company, Cloud Woman Media, just landed a first-look deal with Amazon Studios. When Runningwater says that he has worked with and is friends with so and so in the industry, believe him.



indigenous representation in hollywood SIERRA TELLER ORNELAS One of those friends is Sierra Teller Ornelas, who is the head writer and co-creator of “Rutherford Falls” – an American sitcom starring fellow creator, Ed Helms, Indigenous comedian, Jana Schmeiding, and veteran Native actor, Michael Greyeyes. The story centers around two best friends, Nathan Rutherford and Reagan Wells, as they grapple with race relations between the townsfolk, Nathan’s founding family heritage, and the fictional Minishonka tribe that Reagan belongs to. The show has received several award nominations and was picked up for another season. The show’s success can be attributed to the writing, which uses humor to dismantle Native American tropes by presenting Native characters in a contemporary context. “I think that there is a visceral value to seeing yourself depicted accurately on-screen,” said Ornelas, “for many years, you had White people playing Indians on TV and movies. Gradually, it was seen as a very huge step forward to have actual Native actors play Native people, but they were often relegated to background characters or villains.” For Ornelas, being able to observe how Indigenous actors responded to their contemporary roles has been one of the many highlights of creating this show. “It was fascinating to watch Native actors, and guest actors, kind of acclimate to what was going on,” said Ornelas, “a lot of the background actors would come up to me and say, ‘I never get to wear jeans in a scene, or it's very rare that I’m inside, or that I get to be in a car!’ And so, it’s those little moments of watching those changes happen that I find really gratifying to witness.”

Above: Sierra Teller Ornelas Below: Cast of Rutherford Falls. Photo Courtesy of NBCUniversal 26


indigenous representation in hollywood GARY FARMER One of those notable guest actors is everyone’s “favorite Indian,” 68-year-old Canadian actor, Gary Farmer, of the Cayuga Nation, whose acting career in film, TV and theater spans nearly five decades. Currently, you can see Farmer as the scene-stealing Uncle Brownie in, “Reservation Dogs,” or as a café owner, Dan Twelvetrees, in SYFY’s, “Resident Alien.” The key to Farmer’s success? Staying true to who you are and never giving in. “I spent 47 years trying to bust it up!” said Farmer, referring to the representation of Native peoples in media, “for years, I’ve been saying, ‘We have got to decentralize Hollywood,’ and lately, I think we’ve accomplished that, because for us Natives, storytelling comes from the land, not necessarily Hollywood.” Indeed, Farmer’s ability to portray different characters in various genres can be afforded to his upbringing where he had to navigate between two worlds. “I started acting very young since I was born. Basically, I felt like I was nobody. I was sent to public school in an urban environment where very few people looked like me. I was 70 miles away from home, so I missed out on a lot of traditional knowledge that was valuable to a Native student’s education,” Farmer said. Early in his career, Farmer says it was difficult to land acting gigs because of his refusal to settle. “I've never been a starving Indian actor. In those early years, I wasn't available for the historical, melodramatic stuff that was being produced. I wasn't subjugated to that much and when I was, I challenged it consistently,” Farmer said.

Gary Farmer “And I did lose jobs by suggesting that we can't continue to exploit in this manner. And it was challenging for my own career because there was no cultural consultant when I started, no such thing, so a lot of the time, it was me against the writers, me against the directors, me against the producers,” Farmer said, “but I always tried to maintain the integrity of the various Tribes I was portraying, at all costs, and I still do.”

shooting the next season of ‘Reservation Dogs’ and I must have had 40 White Oklahomans in Tulsa come up to me personally and tell me how much they enjoy the show,” Farmer said, “that's a first for me in 47 years of my career, where you got White folks coming to you and saying they’re getting laughs from you and enjoying it a lot. That has been a long time coming, a really long time.”

Farmer’s work has always resonated with Native audiences, but more recently, his portrayals have touched the hearts of non-Natives, as well. “I just came back from

It is safe to say that Indigenous-driven storytelling in television and film is as diverse and dynamic as the artists who tell them, and it will continue to evolve as time passes. In fact, just recently, AMC Networks unveiled a trailer for its new series, “Dark Winds,” based on the best-selling novels by Tony Hillerman, and directed by yet, another seasoned Sundance Film Festival winner, Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho). “I think that the best way to tell a Native story is to have Indigenous people at the helm,” said Ornelas, “we're experiencing a real shift. I think the goal now is to make sure that that shift is permanent.”

"In terms of representation, I don't know if much has changed except that the audience is being entertained by us more because we're approaching it in a new manner. We're helping them laugh at us, and if they can laugh at us, they can humanize us." Gary Farmer





SURVIVAL RESILIENCE by Mark Macarro Recently, I was asked to comment on the current political landscape, both in and out of Indian country: the history, strides, and future of what may help in achieving current legislation that will further the recognition of Indian communities in larger bodies of government. While the frame of the question posits an Indian Country paradigm with an in and an out, the premise is anachronistic. Indian country is, and the United States is still learning it must meet Tribal nations and Indian people where they are.



survival to resilience


n November 1998, by a vote of 63% to 37%, Californians overwhelmingly supported the Tribes’ ballot referendum: Proposition 5. The Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Reliance initiative would have mandated that Tribal-state compacts be negotiated and promulgated under the parameters of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). When the measure was struck down on a technicality, the Tribes returned in the November 2000 election with Proposition 1A, and again won overwhelmingly with an increased margin with 65% to 35%. In the wake of that resounding victory, one of California’s then-power players assembled 30 of us Tribal leaders into his Capitol office. While we assumed the impromptu meeting would be congratulatory in nature, and it was, he proceeded to impart his unsolicited advice to us upstart political neophytes. “Congratulations to you all on your amazing victory, enjoy and savor the moment,” he orated, “political power is never given, it is always taken—and those who’ve had it taken from them will want it back.” A cautionary admonishment to be sure. This seasoned politico’s advice was insightful for confirming how the political game is played in America: individual players in the system are Machiavellian, and when a win is scored, it’s a zero-sum result. Political power and the accumulation, thereof, are a goal unto itself. Often someone’s observations say as much about themselves as the thing they’re trying to comment on. In this case, transference of personal values to tribal leaderships’ motivations could not have been more wrong. For Indian people working in politics, government, education, entertainment, science, and a multitude of allied fields and endeavors, the betterment of our communities and our people are our motivation. Our catalysts are decades, and centuries of injustice, inequity, and diminishment. For so long, so many have done so much to make us disappear. Federal policy vis-àvis Indian country since the 1850s alone, is a shameful testament to this. Despite it all, we are still here.



survival to resilience We have persevered and have a legacy of resilience—both of which we are imbued with from so many of our collective ancestral and cultural teachings. When called upon to serve one’s people, a question is often asked: what will you do when you have the chance to serve? We have seen the answer play out throughout Indian Country where many have worked to right the scales of justice, to bring equity to our tribal communities, establish parity between Tribal governments and flex our existence—not as an exercise of strength, but as a means of moving across the continuum from survival to resilience. Throughout my past 30 years of service on the Pechanga Tribal Council, and as the incumbent Tribal Chairman for the last 27 years, I have seen Indian Country grow to be more empowered with each decade, becoming increasingly proactive in exercising and asserting Tribal sovereignty; Significant successful strides in applying jurisdictional governmental powers throughout a multitude of subject-matter arenas have been accomplished. The Oliphant gains made in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and further expanded in VAWA 2022, is but one example. Along the way, a strengthening of Indigenous identity has manifested—with a strong resistance and push-back to others’ attempts to appropriate, to mascot, and to define who and what we are. The progress through this period has been made by our own Indian people—making significant inroads with their education, experience, and the vision of our forebears to create a world reflective of who we are. There is such a powerful sense of obligation to be true to those who came before. Tribal nations need to continue this trajectory of successful gains. A critical way to ensure this happens is to be at the table where Tribal priorities are discussed and considered; To be in the room where it happens. A hallmark of this strengthening is that empowerment has been by our own. The United States Department of the Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), became em30


blematic of this with her appointment by President Biden to his Cabinet. Secretary Haaland’s successful appointment was on the relative heels of having been elected, together with Rep. Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk), as the first Native American women elected to Congress. Sunshine Sykes (Navajo), appointed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 to the State’s Superior Court, is now confirmed to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the first Native American to ever join the federal bench in the State of California. Minnesota’s Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe) is the highest ranking Native American elected official in the U.S. It is a remarkable period of accomplishment we find ourselves in. Political and legal success in recent years includes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 2010, the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, the unprecedented funding to Tribal governments via the Coronavirus Relief Funding/CARES Act, the American Recovery Plan Act, and the impacts of the Native vote on no less than the election of the president. Many Tribes have been able to have lands returned to their jurisdictional control, either through federal land transfers or from real-estate purchases. Is it an insult to injury that a Tribe should have to buy back land which was once theirs? Perhaps, a question for another place. How many acres have been returned and what number of acres indicates success? Suffice it to say, many in Tribal leadership are pleased when such lands are available for land back in the first place. My view? A win is earned when there is a Tribe, still, to receive land back and land is available to be returned. The Native presence in the world of the media, entertainment, and the arts has seen a tremendous increase in visibility with its practitioners pushing boundaries further than ever, and insisting on Indigenous content being created, written, acted, crewed, and show-runnered by Indian people. Flagship shows like “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs” are leading the way. Other shows with significant Native participation on both sides of the camera include “Yellowstone” and “Resident Alien.”

The literary space is framed by three-term U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo (Muskogee Creek Nation), the 23rd poet laureate and the first Native American. Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) has earned, not only critical acclaim as an author, novelist, and poet, she was the 2021 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction for “The Night Watchman.” Challenges remain and confront many of us. The Brackeen case, that's currently before the Supreme Court, is the current and most serious threat to the Tribal sovereignty we currently exercise. Some in Congress have voted to diminish the voting rights of significant parts of Indian country—where Tribal populations and land bases are large, but the communities are rural. There remains a chronic and uneven distribution of infrastructure throughout much of Indian country and especially among Alaska Native villages. Communication facilities, broadband capacity, and adequate roads are either non-existent or dilapidated and aging. These items are a few of the essential building blocks necessary to establish a commerce core and build a tribal economy. A deep, unmet housing and adequate health care need remains acute with no long-term solution at hand. Other challenges include protection of sacred places and no uniform set of laws comprehensively protecting the sacred religious customs and practices of American Indians and Alaska Native people. Tribal nations must tackle multiple threat sources from projects where local, state, and federal governments all can act as lead agencies. Our Tribal nations, our people, are resolute and have an ancestral understanding of the long game. This gives our leadership the wisdom of perseverance, patience, and the tool of good timing. We apply lessons from our recent histories— many of which did not go so well— we can forge ahead with added resources in our toolbox to level the field of challenge and create the change necessary for our tribal communities. Doing so, we create parity and respect we deserve. And with patience, sometimes we just get lucky—lucky that our pesky colonizing neighbors, being single generation oriented, move away. Meanwhile, we are still here.

MC, Chance Rush and Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. at the 2022 IGA Tradeshow & Convention

Native Leaders Impacting Policy

by Toya Stewart Downey


or hundreds of years, and despite insurmountable obstacles, American Indian leaders have always advocated on behalf of their people. Fast forward to 2022, the same determination lives in today’s generation of leaders who continue to strengthen sovereign nations through politics and policy. There are many organizations throughout Indian Country, but two organizations are worth highlighting, the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and the Indian Gaming Association (IGA). THE AMERICAN INDIAN GRADUATE | SPRING 2022


native leaders impacting policy in communities through research and evaluation but its policy work that’s helped push priorities forward to enhance the work NICWA is known for. “There was a lot of attention for NICWA under the Obama administration. The administration started a working group, and at the Interior [U.S. Department of the Interior] there was a lot happening,” Dr. Kastelic said, “the NICWA guidelines were updated, and they were legally binding.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed that data collection was needed on how NICWA was implemented, and there was a review of the law where momentum was promising, but there was a shift in the White House administration. After the Obama-era ended, there was pull-back of work and public backlash. “We began to see a wave of challenges against the Indian Child Welfare Act,” Dr. Kastelic said, “they began to assert that NICWA was discriminating against Native kids and that it violated the Constitution and forced them to stay with families.” While the backlash was discouraging and may have caused the organization to go on the offensive, it didn’t stop the work at NICWA – or in other organizations – that focus on policy changes in Indian Country. Meanwhile, at IGA, the needs of Tribal communities were not forgotten as resources were allocated during the COVID-19 pandemic. “One of the things we got involved with, right off the bat, was trying to make sure that the tribes were involved in the recovery,” said Chairman of the Indian Gaming Association (IGA) and Native Forward Board Member, Ernie Stevens Jr. (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin). “It’s too easy and typical [for the government] to forget about tribes. We asked for $20 billion—even though we received less than what we asked for as a part of the rescue plan, it helped with housing, education, and critical services for our community members,” Stevens said.

Dr. Sarah Kastelic Long before it became a national organization, NICWA was already doing the work needed to protect the safety and health of American Indian and Alaska Native children. Based in Portland, Oregon, the nonprofit got its start in 1983 as a grassroots organization seeking to fill a void—where too few American Indians or Alaska Natives were trained child welfare workers. Since then, NICWA has gained a reputation as the most comprehensive source of information on child welfare in the American Indian community. “Our public policy work is what we’re best known for,” said Dr. Sarah Kastelic (Alutiiq), an enrolled citizen of the Native Village of Ouzinkie, “that’s because we’re really successful. Through our work, we have brought $3 billion to tribal communities for programs serving children and families.” Dr. Kastelic, who became the executive director of NICWA in 2015, said the organization helps tribes build capacity in a few ways including how systematic change works



That funding came through the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provided payments to state, local, and tribal governments dealing with the economic fallout from COVID-19. The CARES Act, which was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, provided $8 billion in financial assistance to Tribal governments. Part of the success of making strides in Indian Country, came through the coordinated effort of several organizations, especially Tribal leaders, who “are the strongest lobbyists in D.C.,” Stevens said, “I couldn’t do this by myself. What we did was done by the Tribal leaders, who are critical. Even though there were a number of things we did, there are still people who are struggling.” Prior to the pandemic, the gaming industry ranked as the 11th biggest employer in the United States, but like other businesses during the height of the pandemic, the gaming industry came to a halt. Then when business began to reopen, the industry saw fewer customers, which resulted in a slower recovery for the economy. “Our folks worked hard—from wiping those machines down to taking temperatures and all of that,” said Stevens, “as we regrouped, our leaders were on the front lines to get our businesses back on their feet. We are a major economic force in America today, that’s why we’ve been able to impress D.C.”

native leaders impacting policy Stevens says partnerships with non-Native leaders and organizations are also important, citing the work that the American Gaming Association did on behalf of tribal communities. Based on the relationship with leaders there, he was able to ask for assistance in the advocacy work IGA was pursuing. Stevens and Dr. Kastelic say that part of their work involves being proactive and strategic, meaning they must build networks of supporters and pay attention to the words and actions of lawmakers. “We’re lobbying to include the words ‘and Tribes.’ In the case where we received the $3 billion, it was largely a result of us pushing for Tribal governments to be treated with parity as state governments,” said Dr. Kastelic. Annually, NICWA identifies its policy priorities to guide and focus its work and keep critical issues front and center for tribes, lawmakers, and other stakeholders. Priorities are developed through input from the board, staff, and tribal constituents. The 2022 priorities for NICWA are grounded in the mission, commitments, and desires to improve services and resources. IGA continues to build on its work with Congress to ensure that matters important to Indian Country, remain at the forefront of legislation. One example is the successful passing of the recent FY23 (Omnibus) Funding Bill, which includes the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It builds on the 2013 VAWA reauthorization that reaffirms Tribal jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians against Native children, assaults on Tribal justice personnel, and a broader range of crimes against Native women. Another gain is the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which is delivering an additional $13 billion to help Native nations enhance water systems, rebuild roads, expand broadband access, and focus on matters related to cybersecurity. “But there’s more work to be done,” Stevens said, adding that the organization and its supporters are “going to D.C. in the summer months to meet with regional folks and schedule a legislative summit before legislators’ recess in August.” Leaders for NICWA ensure they are included in critical conversations at both the state and federal level. The organization also facilitates listening sessions with Tribal leaders, social services, and urban Indian communities with a goal of sharing opportunities that exist to reform child welfare. Both Stevens and Kastelic say it’s critical that American Indians pay attention to the policy work that’s happening on behalf of Tribes. “Readers can write to their lawmakers and be active in local arenas because we’re all in this together,” Stevens said, “we’re nonpartisan, but we work to get out the vote. And we’re gearing up for the midterm elections. We spend a lot of time getting involved with the administration in D.C., because we want to have a voice.” According to leaders, the Biden administration has prioritized matters that are important in Indian Country, which include racial equity. “We are encouraging people to sign up and get involved in social media campaigns, join mailing lists, and get ready to take action

Ernie Stevens Jr. as we move forward with the Brackeen Supreme Court case,” Dr. Kastelic said. The Haaland v. Brackeen lawsuit, brought by Texas, and previously Indiana and Louisiana, alleges ICWA is unconstitutional. “Tribal governments and states can still sign on to support ICWA, and members of Congress can support the brief,” said Dr. Kastelic. “There is still an opportunity for local policymakers to show their support of ICWA. Tribes have to be key governments who influence their citizens – particularly for the children and families in their jurisdiction,” Dr. Kastelic said, “they have a role in state cases for their citizens and the wellbeing of their children.” The U.S. Supreme Court will review Haaland v. Brackeen this fall.




Matthew Holgate I am Diné from the Navajo Nation and originally from Navajo Mountain, Arizona. I am Many Goats born for Bitter Water, my maternal grandfather is Mexican Clan, and my paternal grandfather is Many Goats. I am a senior at Vanguard University of Southern California attaining my Bachelor of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Emerging Media and Technology. I am also pursuing minors in journalism, digital media, and religion along with an Anti-Human Trafficking Certificate. I currently serve as the Student Body President at Vanguard University. I plan to use my education to continue bringing awareness and resources to anti-human trafficking among Native American people. I also serve as an intern with the Global Center for Women and Justice working to provide prevention practices for anti-human trafficking. I want to work in higher education to help Native American students develop professionally and in their personal communities. Once I finish, my undergraduate degree, I plan to get a master’s degree in clinical counseling. Being a Native Forward Scholar is more than just getting monetary funds, but it takes a lot of work and by having the support and opportunity, I can live out my dreams to give back to my own community. The scholarship I received has changed my perspective and made me feel that I have a team that supports my overall goal and motivates me to do more. The scholarship means I can expand my abilities by helping people. Attending college has given me the opportunity to learn about the various career fields out there and what job fits well with my skillset. This is where I fell in love with public safety and anti-human trafficking efforts. In May of 2022, I was given the opportunity to establish an anti-trafficking conference in the Navajo Nation. Walking into college, I didn’t understand that it could be anything more than just an educational accomplishment. I’ve been able to expand my education to create opportunities to explore what I want to do with my life while building my network. I like to think of Native Forward Scholars Fund as one of my partners in ending human trafficking in Tribal nations, by way of the scholarship. Native Forward has given me much more than funding, but it has given me experience, opportunity, and motivation to change the world. 34


Saxon Metzger As a member of the Osage Nation, I’ve been honored to work with the Native Forward Scholars Fund for several years. They’ve supported me in my academics, my professional career, and in helping me grow as a person. Through their continued financial and institutional support, I’ve been able to graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Economics and will graduate at the end of this semester with my Master of Business Administration. Through their support, I’ve received numerous industry certifications and attended professional workshops that have opened doors for me to enjoy my career as a project developer for solar array installations in the Midwest. Native Forward staff made me feel like I belonged and was believed in, which helped me, not just accomplish many of my goals and dreams, but also to heal something deep within myself that I’ve only recently understood as a deeply rooted historical phenomenon. Our people have been exposed to generations of organized patterns of violence intended to break us apart and push us to the periphery until we disappear entirely. Within my own family, Mary Denoya-Bellieu-Lewis was murdered in front of her own daughter to secure financial gain during the Osage Reign of Terror. The beauty of our people is that, despite these legacies of scars across the fabric of our culture, we continuously serve as a model for loving and supporting each other and guiding the world. Native Forward is a prime example of this commitment to one another. It is not in our culture to be marginalized, but to continue to stand upright as a people and a collection of tribes to serve to better the world and grow ourselves. May we continue to learn how to support each other’s growth, conscious that we are the descendants of centuries of recent trauma. May we continuously serve and support our families, communities, tribes, and the world around us. May we become stewards of our sacred history, to weave the memories of our ancestors into loving action in the present to create a future for our people that would make them proud. 35

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Social Workers Advancing through Grounded Education (SAGE) Are you interested in Social Work? Social Justice? Behavioral Health? Do you have a passion for serving people? A Master of Social Work may be a good t for you. At the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, MSW students serving Native people can participate in the SAGE program. The SAGE program recruits, trains and nancially supports MSW Brown School students as they complete 360 hours of their practica in Indian Country. All SAGE recipients are awarded a stipend to assist with the completion of their practicum serving tribal communities, focusing on behavioral health, violence prevention, or trauma. “It is an honor to be at one of the top Social Work programs in the United States, concentrating on American Indian and Alaska Native social work. I am grateful to be one of the many rising Indigenous scholars in contemporary times and will make it my mission to invest, support, and advocate for our Indigenous People.”



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Find a rewarding career with the only 100% Tribally owned and trusted insurance provider. You can make a difference and take pride in giving back to Indian Country every day at AMERIND. We are seeking exceptional individuals who want to use their talent and experience to support our vision, Tribes Protecting Tribes. We place value on building a dedicated team, providing our team members with training and continuing education, and promoting from within whenever possible. At AMERIND, it is more than a job – we are a place where you can build a meaningful career.

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students of the month



Larissa Nez

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Navajo Nation

Andy is the Fundraising Chair for the National Society of Leadership & Success and a member of Beta Alpha Psi and Beta Gamma Sigma. He plans to graduate in the spring of 2022, and then return to school for his master’s in Professional Accountancy. This summer, Andy will work as an Audit Intern at Ketel Thorstenson, LLP in Rapid City, and next spring he will work as a tax intern with Eide Bailly in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Larissa is an alumna of the University of Notre Dame and serves as the communications director for the Native American Alumni. She’s a first-year Master of Arts student in Public Humanities at Brown University, and a Curatorial Fellow with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.


Andy Malaterre​



Nadira Mitchell​

Christopher Morigeau​

Navajo Nation

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservations

Nadira is studying Natural Resources-Wildlife Conservation, interested in the integration of natural resources policy, wildlife, and Indigenous land from Navajo perspectives. Nadira hopes to combine academics and tenacity to engage the community because, she says, the environment, animals, and humans are interconnected, as seen in Navajo wellness philosophies and creation stories.

Christopher is in his first year of law school after teaching for five years on the reservation and one year at an alternative school in his hometown. Christopher believes a career in law was always in his future because of his father. Christopher hopes to follow in his footsteps and provide representation on his reservation.




students of the month


Morgan Mackey​

Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada

Seminole Nation

Emiliano is a descendant of the Confederated Tribes of Round Valley of Northern California and received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science, Communication, and Leadership with an emphasis in Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Idaho. Emiliano plans to pursue a master’s program in either plant science or natural resources.

Morgan Mackey is from Choctaw, Oklahoma, and received a bachelor's in molecular biology from East Central University in 2017. She is currently a third-year medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She’s interested in Native health and promoting the admissions of more Native students into medical school. Morgan plans to return to Oklahoma to practice medicine after her training.


Emiliano McLane​



Adarius Begay​

Charlie White Eagle​

Colorado River Indian Tribes of the Colorado Indian Reservation

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Reservation

Adarius is finishing his senior year at the University of Oklahoma studying computer science. He’s actively involved with the Native American community through the American Indian Student Association (AISA), American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), and the Society of Native American Gentlemen.




Charlie received a bachelor’s degree in Lakota Studies with an emphasis in Indian Law from Oglala Lakota College in 2021. She also received two Associate of Art degrees in Tribal Law and Lakota Studies. She’s enrolled in the Master of Legal Studies-Indigenous Peoples Law program at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Charlie hopes to learn and gain a better understanding of Indian Law.


students of the month



Saxon Metzger​

Navajo Nation

Osage Nation

Kaylee is originally Cottonwood Canyon, located in Canyon de Chelly, but resides in Flagstaff, Arizona. Kaylee is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University. Her studies and interests include bilingual education and language acquisition with the goal of teaching in the Navajo language.

Saxon received his bachelor's in economics and is now pursuing his Master of Business Administration with an emphasis on sustainability. He served as a volunteer at For Kids’ Sake and the Dayemi Tariqat for seven years. Saxon is also currently working as the program director for Solarize Southern Illinois, a nonprofit that educates and promotes solar power in a six-county region.


Kaylee Begay



Leighanna Jake

Lynn Martell

Navajo Nation

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Leighanna graduated from Sherman Indian High School in 2020 and says that it’s her greatest accomplishment so far because she’s the only child in her family to graduate and attend college. She’s a freshman at Humboldt State University studying botany. Leighanna plans to use her degree to protect and heal her ancestral lands through education, science, and culture.

Lynn is a third-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral program at the University of North Dakota. She’s also in the Indians into Psychology Doctoral Education (INPSYDE) program and head recruiter of Native Americans in the program. Lynn is also a mental health clinical trainee providing intervention and assessment services to children for the White Earth Tribal Mental Health Services. THE AMERICAN INDIAN GRADUATE | SPRING 2022


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