Report date
July 2022
Learning Log

I have grown so much over the past few years since starting my Bush Fellowship journey and I am thankful for being a part of such a great opportunity. I appreciate the investment into my leadership growth and for believing in my ability to affect systemic change in education for indigenous students. Reflecting back to the beginning, one of the things I wish I would have known better would be the impact of the pandemic on my leadership journey and on my personal life. Due to COVID-19, the original plan that I proposed for my Bush Fellowship had to change because of restrictions caused by the pandemic, which required flexibility on my part. My initial plan included traveling to different places to learn from female administrators in higher education, which had to shift. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and everything changed. To name a few, I learned how to work from home, all of my kids did school online, my family adapted to staying home, and we ordered groceries online. The flexibility required on my part included the importance of prioritizing my self-care and investing in taking care of my mind, body, heart, and soul so that I can be the best me during this unknown time. The pandemic took a major hit on my mental health as this was and continues to still be a stressful time for our indigenous communities across Turtle Island. We lost so many relatives over the past few years to sickness and to the lack of quality healthcare provided (due to short. I lost a few relatives in my tiwahe and tiospaye (immediate and extended family) and laying loved ones to rest during the pandemic was challenging as well. My family and I could not send off our loved ones the way we used to pre-COVID, and I believe this caused much distress for us all. The fear of becoming sick with the virus was always on my mind, and I could not shake that fear for a long time. The only wish I had was that I could have better prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the impact that the pandemic would have on my life and my Bush Fellowship journey. How do you prepare for something that you have not been through before? This is why I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I applied for the Bush Fellowship a few times prior to actually being selected, and I believe it was my time now to receive it so that I could take care of myself—to balance myself (wicozani). With my Bush Fellowship plan, I was able to adapt my personal plan of growth to meet my immediate needs, which included prioritizing self-care. I would not have made it through losing my aunt, losing my first cousin (brother), and losing other family members and friends without the Bush Foundation. I was able to facilitate my healing through traditional and Western modalities such as therapy, group counseling, chiropractic, wellness visits with my primary doctor, meditation, and utilizing the ceremonial way of life to work through my grief so that I can be the best leader I can be. I would not have been able to afford these things without my Bush Fellowship. Of course, I still integrated esteemed professional development opportunities into my leadership journey, but my self-care was number one. What surprised me the most from my Bush Fellowship journey was the realization of how much support I have out there in the universe believing in me, praying for me, and wanting the best for me. People would (and still do) go out of their way to help me because they believed in a higher calling for me. Several people in the community are protective of me and my spirit and believe in my leadership. Like my unci (grandma) says, I was made for something much bigger than the physical world, my ancestors have been praying for me and I have always felt their presence. During my Bush Fellowship, I was honored to be given my Dakota name, Wakan Wocekiye Win (Sacred Prayer Woman), and to be gifted with my canunpa (sacred pipe). These two things were the highest honors to receive in my eyes. I feel that the next chapter of my leadership journey will be directed towards continuing to develop my understanding and practicing the traditional ceremonial way of life, learning from elders, and becoming a future cultural bearer for our community. I was told by the person that gifted me my sacred pipe that they were told by my ancestors that I needed it, and they were right. I come from a medicine-carrying family, but it skipped a generation. Due to the harmful effects of residential boarding schools and cultural genocide, my tiwahe (immediate family) did not carry on the tradition of the canunpa way of life. This is my next journey, to carry out my name Wakan Wocekiye Win and to make the spiritual leaders of the Oceti Sakowikn (7 Council Fires) proud. To be western educated, but also culturally grounded, is what our people need, and I will do my best to live my life in a good way and to be a humble leader in our community.