Receiving the Bush Fellowship has changed my life in many ways, in my career, my community work, and in my personal life. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and receiving the Bush Fellowship has given me the support I needed to grow my leadership capacity to make an impactful change as an emerging leader in educational equity. With everything going on in the world and country—to be living amid a pandemic and in a cultural climate that allows leaders to address social justice issues—this is an opportunity to leverage my fellowship to challenge the social norms within education and higher education institutions. Although my plans have altered due to the pandemic, my motivation and determination have not, and I attribute this strength and resiliency to my L/D/Nakota ancestors who have given everything for me to be alive today. As a part of the prophetic seventh generation, I must help mend our sacred hoop through my efforts as an Iháŋkthuŋwaŋ working at the university level in South Dakota.
With the support of the Bush Fellowship, I have been able to seek out professional development opportunities to grow my leadership in public speaking, facilitation, diversity, equity, inclusion, community-building, and cultural identity development to name a few. I feel more empowered to take on equity issues with this knowledge and newly formed skills. I feel that I have gained more self-confidence and do not doubt myself as much as I used to when called on to address certain issues, whether that be in my work or the community. As an advocate for indigenous education equity, I continue this much-needed work in K-12 education and within the university I work for, provoking administrators to look at education through a different lens—equity. Equity is distinct from equality, but many individuals do not know the difference. I feel it is imperative for staff and faculty within educational systems to be knowledgeable about equity issues, and I help address this by providing training and education opportunities. For Native American students, they must overcome significant barriers to reach the same goals as their counterparts, which are unique and complex issues, such as addressing historical trauma. Through my work, I can aid in addressing such issues through my personal story as a Native American student and as an employee within the regental system. To add to my learning journey since receiving the Bush Fellowship, I have come a long way in my formal doctoral program as well.
As a first-generation Iháŋkthuŋwaŋ student, pursuing higher education was challenging at first, and to continue this journey as a doctoral student during the pandemic has been trying, but I love to learn so I am still here. I am pursuing my Doctor of Education in Adult & Higher Education Administration as I seek to one day be working at an administrative level—the university presidency. I am done with my doctoral coursework and am working on the dissertation writing process in my program, where I plan to propose here soon. I am on track to graduate in May 2021 with my Doctor of Education and will be officially promoted in my position as a Director within the College of Nursing. I learned from a very young age that education was important, especially as a Native American. I was taught that for me to help my people, I can do so through the means of education. Education can be healing, especially when I use my education to give back to my people. To further add to healing, focusing on my self-care and strengthening my cultural identity are equally important.
During these stressful times, I have found solace with my Bush Fellowship, as it allows me to take care of myself in ways that I never could before. One of those examples including addressing my health issues through chiropractor care and therapy. As a modality of healing the mind, body, and spirit, chiropractor care and therapy were far too costly for me to ever consider, but I can with the support of my fellowship. My stipend also allows me to travel locally to participate in ceremonies, which have been an integral part of my healing and self-care. I learned that for me to be the best leader I can be, I need to be the best me by taking care of myself as well. I look forward to the next six months as I learn and grow as a leader.