July Newsletter Student Highlights
American Indian Services Scholarship Recipient Highlights
Thalia Dubois, Chippewa
Minot State University
Thalia is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and lives in Dunseith, ND. She works as a cashier and babysitter and helps care for her 5 younger siblings. Thalia graduated high school early with 9 college credits already completed. Her college credits a nursing course and a CPR course. Thalia’s desire to pursue a career in medicine was inspired by her grandfather who has had cancer. He to travel four hours outside of their town for his checkups and treatments due to their community hospital being understaffed. She hopes to spare others this difficulty.
Montgomery Brown, Standing Rock Sioux
Native American Studies & Criminal Justice
Sitting Bull College
Montgomery is from Wakpala, SD. His goal is to one day become a lawyer so that he can help represent Native peoples as they pursue treaty rights, water rights, sovereignty, and other issues. His mission is to help tribes become self-sustainable. Montgomery is a U.S. Navy veteran where he served four years as a combat medic. He has volunteered with veterans groups, and is an activist for indigenous causes. Through his work as a veteran volunteer he formed a construction company that helps with various projects throughout his community.
To support Thalia, Montgomery, and students like them on their educational journey, please donate today.
AIS Provides COVID Relief On the Navajo Nation
COVID-19 Hits the Navajo Nation
COVID-19 was comparatively slow to come to the Navajo Nation. The first case was recorded over two months after the virus first appeared in the United States. But after it arrived the disease traveled with the speed and destruction of a forest fire. On May 27th it was announced that the Navajo Nation had surpassed New York to become the area with the highest per-capita infection rate in the U.S. The rapidity of the spread and the high rate of death were due mainly to a lack of infrastructure in this remote part of the country. There are also high rates of pre-existing conditions among citizens and lack of access to healthcare. About 40% of homes lack the running water necessary to follow the basic guidelines set forth by the CDC, and many homes are multigenerational. Both are factors that are believed to contribute to spread.
Curfews Contain Spread but Contribute to Difficulty
To combat the rising total of cases, this great nation initiated a mandatory weekend curfew. It was initially active for 8 weeks and has been recently reinstated due to a sharp increase in cases. Residents are required to stay at home starting Friday evening through Monday morning. There is also a strict weekday curfew between 8pm and 5am.
Many living within the Navajo Nation are hours away from the closest grocery store, something most people take for granted. We have been informed that cleaning supplies are nearly impossible to find at grocery stores on the reservation. This means that people have to travel even farther to find what they need in order to keep their families safe. These curfews and long distance to stores have made it extremely difficult for citizens to get supplies. It is especially difficult for elders who are dependent on family to get essentials. And for the households in quarantine – which number in the hundreds on any given day – getting what they need is made that much harder.
The reports we are hearing from those living on the Navajo Nation are dire. In a community where 1 in 3 children live in poverty, many children depend on school attendance in order to receive regular meals. As schools have been shut down for months, the food insecurity of low income families on the reservation has only deepened. Many low income children are only getting 1 meal a day. Many workers are losing their jobs after being exposed and going into quarantine, or as a result of the recession. Elders who live on roads only accessible by four wheel drive are close to starving because they aren’t able to get supplies.
Our main focus at AIS is providing educational scholarships and programs to Native American students. However, we often create special projects to meet the needs of our constituents. Due to the extreme challenges the Navajo Nation is facing, we opened up a project to provide food and supplies. On May 4th, 6th and 7th four semitruck trailers delivered 160,000 pounds of nonperishable goods to a meeting house. With the help of 45 missionaries from The Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints, Tribal Agencies, and surrounding communities, the goods were unloaded and divided into approximately 1,200 family boxes.
Each of these family boxes had enough provisions to provide for a family of 5 for four weeks. Once the boxes were ready, they were loaded into volunteer’s trucks and taken to cities throughout the Navajo Nation. These cities included Kayenta-New Mexico, Chinle-Arizona, Fort Defiance-Arizona, Tuba City-Arizona, and Monument Valley-Utah. Our goal was for the boxes to be delivered to the families most in need of them. We have made more deliveries since then, and will continue to provide supplies as the crisis persists.
How You Can Help
To help us in these efforts, please consider sponsoring a family box to be delivered this month by donating here. $15 will feed an individual for 1 week. $50 will feed an individual for 4 weeks. $250 will feed a family of 5 for a month. We appreciate your support as we work to provide relief to our constituents.
Life In the Wake of a Pandemic – Shandiin’s Story
I’m a student here at Brigham Young University Hawaii. This was my last semester and on April 18th, I finally graduated with my Business Management – Finance Bachelor’s.
In the middle of the semester classes were canceled on campus. The following week we resumed with all of our classes being online. For myself it was it was extremely hard to focus on assignments the rest of that week. BYU Hawaii was one of the first colleges to cancel classes and cancel graduation in the same day. My family had already planned to fly out to Hawaii to celebrate my graduation. It was extremely hard for me to continue to stay focused in my last semester. I was able to get through it and finish out this past semester strong.
But it’s been difficult not to worry about my family. All I can do is watch from afar. Even if I could go home, I wouldn’t be able to visit them because they have a lot of underlying health conditions or they are much older. Distancing right now is really important so that our people are not spreading the virus. Many are being sent to the hospital and others lose their lives. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of my family and when I can see them again.
Also being here at BYU Hawaii, I was seeing how it was affecting students from so many other countries. I had a lot of friends who had to leave within a week to get home to their countries before they closed. Many of them didn’t make it home because their countries had already closed for entry. It was affecting their ability to be able to finish school at the same time. Many are stuck here still in Hawaii until further notice.
Looking back on this last semester, if I did not receive the American Indian services scholarship it would have been hard for me to sustain myself till the end of the semester. This one scholarship was able to give me peace of mind that I would have a roof over my head until graduation. I think that it is important to know that this scholarship program has helped me this semester. That going into the next semester I want others to continue on with their education and graduate from college. It is the best feeling knowing that you accomplished your goals and nothing can stand in the way of our educational pursuits.
– Shandiin White, Navajo
Life In the Wake of a Pandemic – Manuel’s Advice
I am Manuel Felix and I was awarded the AIS Scholarship for my 2016 fall school year at Arizona State University. After graduation with my degree in communication and technical writing, I secured a job with Desert Diamond Casino where I work in the surveillance department. I utilize my education received from ASU on a daily basis. I write and edit surveillance training manuals. I oversee the surveillance department and edit surveillance officers’ incident reports. American Indian Services, thank you again for believing in me while I pursued my dreams of higher education.
I want to share my thoughts with you about the mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional healing that can be achieved though riding your bicycle. These are all things that we need during this COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the four year journey while attending ASU, I rode my bicycle around town. Everywhere I needed to go was traveled by bike in the blistering heat, rain, sunshine, and high winds. I commuted through it all. Navigating through the city on my bicycle proved to be rewarding. After graduation in 2017 I still continue to get everywhere I need to go by bicycle.
I know what you’re thinking? Ride a bicycle? No way! It’s dangerous, it’s too far, it’s not for me. People have become car dependent. “For a lot of people a car means freedom and social status, but if a city provides you no choice but to drive, a car isn’t freedom, it’s dependence. If you have no choice but to drive for every trip, it’s not your fault. Your city has failed.” says Janette Sadik-Khan. Khan, Director for New York City’s Department of Transporting who is also an avid cyclist.
Riding your bicycle everywhere you need to go will give you a sense of freedom. Riding your bicycle for short trips will save on gas money, and wear and tear on your vehicle. While implementing new riding habits, you will work on the physical benefits of cardio. You will also gain a sense of self-pride, knowing that you are getting the exercise that your body needs.
Not only will this prove beneficial to personal needs, riding your bicycle helps worldwide. Our carbon footprint is greatly reduced by not commuting by vehicle. No carbon emissions are released while riding your bicycle. Just power, imagination, and sweat are needed to power the bicycle.
Mental, spiritual, physical and emotional healing is obtainable while replacing the vehicle to navigate the area you live in by bicycle. Mental healing in the sense of receiving a quiet mind from riding, nothing but you and the open air to gather your thoughts, explore ideas, and obtain inner peace. We all need time for ourselves and to decompress in our own ways as we’re cooped up at home right now. I have found that when I feel blue or on edge, taking that bicycle ride helps out. Alone time develops incredible knowledge of self in these hard times that we all must face. Remember that mental, spiritual, physical and emotional healing can all be obtained by riding your bicycle during this Covid-19 crisis.
Life In the Wake of a Pandemic – Haley’s Story
My name is Haley Jordan Begay, and I am a senior at Indiana University studying sports broadcast journalism and Spanish. My goal is to become a sideline reporter for ESPN or Fox Sports.
I am extremely dedicated. I often wake up early at my Bloomington apartment, walk two miles to school (I use this as exercise), and sit in class all day until my writing internship begins later in the afternoon. I sign up for every project that I’m offered whether that be covering a Little 500 bike team planning for their big race, starting my own women’s media organization on campus or participating in worship with a student-run church group called FCA.
My days were often stressful and filled with anxiety because I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to succeed. I never said no or took a break from school and media-related activities. Then, the corona virus hit.
At first, I thought the virus replicated the swine flu and was just unpleasant and only deadly for a small portion of people. However, I was still cautious and carried tons of hand sanitizer. I canceled my spring break trip. All of my activities were getting canceled left and right including sideline reporting for the Big Ten Network.
Everything that made me happy was disappearing. Then school was officially moved to e-learning. At first, I wasn’t too mad about this change because my life was so fast paced that I actually wanted a break from my jam-packed days. But then boredom quickly settled in. I missed my professors, friends, sideline reporting and making a difference on campus through Jesus Christ’s love.
After all of this hit, I truly realized that being busy is a great thing, and I shouldn’t have taken it for granted. All those activities I was involved in did make me happy even though I worried I wouldn’t be able to get them all done. However, I always did, and now I miss that feeling of having too much to do.
I haven’t seen another human face in person (other than my family) in over a month. I am taking social distancing very seriously so that everyone can get back to their normal lives. As I have been sitting home doing my online classes and job, another nightmare struck; my mother’s brain cancer returned.
My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer almost three years ago and beat it pretty quick! She made chemo and radiation seem easy, and her MRI scans always came back clear. But now, it’s back, and I am truly scared. If corona were to hit the world at any time, I’m glad it’s now because I am able to be home with my mom.
She is with her whole family under one roof where she is being kept busy doing her regular momma duties and spending time with us. She and I have been binge watching our favorite reality TV shows, staying up until 1 a.m. laughing and taking time to appreciate life.
I am certain my momma will beat this cancer again. I am also certain that this deadly virus will make everyone better in the long run. We will appreciate the stress, the crazy and the time we get to spend seeing friends face to face when we return to “real life.”
I’d like to thank my Native American and AIS community for the continuous financial support that has propelled my broadcasting career and for keeping in touch with their students. I pray for your safety, health and to enjoy the boredom a little more today.
– Haley Jordan Begay, Cherokee
Student Highlight April 2020
Being born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and participating in my Pueblo traditions in Cochiti, New Mexico, I am thankful that I am apart of these two very distinct communities. I am pursuing an education that will create positive change in both communities. As an American Indian, I am a part of the Pueblo of Cochiti, Pueblo of Jemez, and Diné. As a first-generation student I call the University of New Mexico my home in earning a Bachelor of Science in Population Health and a minor in Psychology. I am proud to be a part of the 2nd of its kind, College of Population Health in the United States.
I first became interested in Population Health my sophomore year of college when I discovered that a majority of healthcare is reactive, and I wanted to learn how to take a more proactive approach to prevent illnesses and diseases. Population Health consists of the multidisciplinary study of health, illness, and disability. We learn about the societal, behavioral, and organizational causes of health and disease and explore the ways to reduce health disparities. In my classes I examine policies, health systems, and public health practices that can curb health risks in communities and large populations.
My motivations to earn an undergraduate degree in Population Health began with my professional aspirations to better my American Indian community. I intend to conduct research and help develop preventive programs to reduce diabetes with the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (AASTEC) as my senior capstone project in the Spring of 2020. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to earn an MPH and/or Master of Social Work with an American Indian Concentration. Schools I am interested in applying to are the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis which develops the knowledge and skills to serve Native American communities by understanding the extent, effects, and causes of issues facing Native peoples then evaluating and implementing the best practices with cultural competencies in mind. Other schools I intend on applying to are North Dakota State University with the American Indian Concentration and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.
In the future, I am eager to develop a healthcare system that increases the access of healthcare services on Southwestern reservations. According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS), the department delivers health services to over 244,000 American Indians on the largest Indian reservation in the U.S. The Navajo Nation covers more than 25,000 contiguous square miles where NAIHS has a total of 222 inpatient hospital beds at only four hospitals. The issue of lack of healthcare access for Native Americans has geared me towards an educational plan to pursue a career in public community health. The societal problem I am planning to address is the health disparities of American Indians by first working with the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board by becoming a project director after I finish my graduate program. Then, I intend pursing a more significant role in regional planning and public service. I believe in advocating and serving disadvantaged Indigenous people using a holistic framework consisting of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Working in public service I would be the voice representing our people on director boards and on large scale government committees.
I am passionate that I will be able to take what I learn in my degree now, capstone project and graduate program in the future, and apply it in regional Indigenous and American Indian communities to reduce health disparities and increase access to healthcare services. I am proud to state that I am a 2019 Udall Scholar for Native American Heath care. I have taken the initiative to prepare for my future educational plans and career goals by taking on two internships currently to begin addressing issues that face American Indians and public health. I am the first intern for the College Horizons Scholars Program to develop student success programming for Native students on campus and help retention rates and set them up for their future and lead them to graduate programs. Secondly, I have become a Future Community Leader for the Center for Social Sustainable Systems Leadership Institute. I have currently taken a proactive role in my community to prepare and execute an action plan aimed at addressing and understanding water, land, health disparities, and social justice issues affecting New Mexican Communities. As part of my project publication I am focusing on legislation and policy development to sustain our local farmers, acequias, and to ensure that water is available to our Pueblos south of Albuquerque.
Receiving financial aid has equipped me to focus on my plans and goals for graduate school and my career which I am eager to begin. I have a focused plan to assist Indigenous communities in the future, and I am determined to reduce health disparities and increase access on reservations while preserving our cultural traditions. This funding is helping provide me the education to support my community and pave the way for me to give back to future generations, so they have the same amazing opportunities as me.
Student Highlight March 2020
My name is Shyh Saenz and I am anything but shy. I am an urban Indian from Hayward, California and I am an enrolled tribal member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. I am currently a freshman at Gonzaga University studying Communication Studies with a minor in Broadcasting & Electronic Media Studies.
My goal is to become a sportscaster because there are not very many Indigenous women that look like me on television. I love sports and I am passionate about using my voice. Being a sportscaster will give me a platform to speak up on issues our Indigenous community is facing and give me the opportunity to bring awareness to the injustices facing our community and help make change. I play Division 1 soccer at Gonzaga and I take a lot of pride in being the only Indigenous person on the team. It is empowering to represent my tribe and all indigenous communities by giving hope to other girls like me to not give up.
Living in the Bay Area and moving to Spokane, Washington was a cultural shock. It’s been challenging as I was accustomed to a diverse city and school and now I am in a predominantly white and affluent school. However, I have learned to push through it by finding a community and support on campus in UMEC, the Unity Multicultural Education Center where I have made friends with other Indigenous students and students of color on campus.
The American Indian Services Scholarship is helping me get one step closer to achieving my goals as I continue to learn and grow as a student. Gonzaga is an expensive private school and my funds are limited because I come from a working middle class family. I do not have any spare money and Spokane is much colder than Hayward. I do not have any winter clothes and a good warm snow jacket and boots. What seems like basic things like clothes, food, transportation are not cheap. Books are expensive and I will need new books for the spring semester. During the winter break they will close the dorm so I have to fly back to California. I have not been back home since school started in July. I hope not to get into loan debt when I graduate from college but I also want to survive and graduate from Gonzaga by June 2020.
Although being a student-athlete is a neat experience it is extremely difficult to have a job because of the time commitment. Receiving this scholarship is allowing me to focus on my education and fully thrive as a student.
AIS Distributes Jackets Just In Time For Winter Storms
On the Hopi mesas, 2 hours from a grocery store or gas station, sits a far flung community of Hopi rock houses. These homes are small with low roofs and are composed of dry clay and stone. The only heat sources are wood burning fireplaces, and most homes lack electricity. These homes are lit with candles, lanterns, or flashlights. Wood for the winter must be stockpiled because if a big storm hits there’s a risk of being stranded for weeks at a time due to bad roads.
The weeks over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays saw such storms in this community. Northeastern Arizona was hit with several inches of snow and temps as low as 10-15 degrees at night with a biting windchill. Luckily, a generous American Indian Services donor anticipated the difficulties that some Native Americans will have staying warm this winter. Together with his connections at King’s Camo he was able to acquire 1,275 brand new, heavy duty winter jackets and donate them to American Indian Services. We distributed them to 4 different reservations that we knew had a citizenry in need of warm winter clothes. The jackets were handed out in early December, just in time to keep the recipients safe from the recent cold snap.
The jackets were distributed to the Rosebud reservation in Idaho; the Pineridge reservation in South Dakota; the Hopi reservation in Arizona; and the Navajo reservation in Utah and New Mexico. Everywhere our people went, they were met with gratitude. Farrah Klein, our Tuba City, Arizona PREP director reported, “I went door to door and gave the jackets to people I knew really needed them. My family helped and we went around until 10 o’clock at night. We went to one trailer where there were no windows. Their home was completely boarded up with plywood to protect from the cold. They were very happy and grateful to receive these good quality jackets. Many of them didn’t have any coats, or if they did their coats were torn. I made sure that all the adults and kids who desperately needed the coats got them.”
Kari Denny, a motivational speaker and the sister of our AIS PREP director Roland Denny, told us that she collects and distributes clothes and supplies to her community in Kayenta, Utah year round and having these jackets was enormously helpful. “We took jackets to the elderly and they were so happy. They said, ‘Now I don’t have to borrow a jacket.’ I also went around town to people on the streets and gave them jackets. I still see them weeks later and they’re out there wearing them every day. They all said ‘Thank you American Indian Services,’ and some even cried. They’re very appreciative. Many of the elderly still herd sheep for their livelihood, so they go through warm clothes quickly because they’re out in the elements. They asked whether I had socks and gloves, which occasionally I do. So I’m hoping to get more of those next year that I can give out along with the jackets.”
Our jacket donor also wanted to make sure that the children had toys this Christmas, so he provided wooden cars for us to distribute. Our AIS PREP-Pocatello site director Sunshine Shepherd gave out 500 of them at the Fort Hall Reservation’s rec center Christmas pro-gram. Every year the older tribal children put together stockings for the younger kids with donated toiletries, candy, fruit, and a hat. They put the wooden cars on tables with the stockings and Santa’s elves handed them out. The children loved the cars and the program’s organizers repeatedly thanked Sunshine for American Indian Services’ contribution.
A lack of educated citizenry causes many difficulties for a community, the main one being poverty and the vulnerabilities it exposes them to. These experiences this winter reaffirm our belief in the AIS mission to provide quality education to Native Americans in need. The more Native Americans are able to receive college degrees, the more they will be able to help their communities build the infrastructure needed to keep them warm and safe.
The AIS donor plans to do another jacket and toy drive next year. If you are interested in participating please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Highlight February 2020
My name is Terra Goss and I’m an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of New Town, North Dakota. I was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, but was raised in Killeen, Texas. I currently reside in Great Falls, Montana where I attend the Great Falls College Montana State University.
I’m majoring in License Addiction Counseling, because there is such a high job demand in this field on Native American Reservations. I’d like to work on different reservations as a Chemical Dependency Counselor and try to educate as many people as possible about drugs and alcohol.
Since, I have started school in the fall semester 2018 I have involved myself in The Native American group on campus and was voted the president of the group late August 2018. I will not say that my credentials will blow the competition out of the water or that I have some exceptionally rare skill that makes me the best candidate, but I do have a decent GPA, I have done some volunteer work at the local shelter, and I’m currently looking for an on-campus job.
What sets me apart, and what I think is unique and special about me, is my combination of work ethic and my drive to succeed. Doing the Native group, volunteer work and getting my studies done have led me to develop a strong work ethic and strong ability to prioritize, manage my time, and make sure that I always get my school work done on time. I’m always willing to go above and beyond to do a better job. I believe what I am accomplishing now will help me in the future, when a difficult situation arises I will be prepared to excel and work hard for success. College is a tough road and my drive and perseverance to continue accomplishing have, and will lead me to success.
– Terra Goss
Student Highlight January 2020
Hello, my name is Kodiak Ronald Cleveland. I am a 27 year old enrolled Hoocąk (Ho-Chunk) tribal member, father, husband, and psychology student attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Ever since I was a young man, I knew I would pursue college in order to advance my career. However, I did not know that out of my six siblings, being the second youngest sibling of them all (out of seven of us, total), I am most likely to be the first to graduate and earn a college degree.
I grew up in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and learned my Hoocąk language, heritage and cultural ways from elders in my Hoocąk community. I have carried such knowledge with me as I have transitioned from being a young man, to a husband, and to being a father to my toddler son who is soon to be three this upcoming January. I have encountered much trauma in my life and have born witness to loved ones who have struggled with various health conditions, substance abuse addictions, and mental health disorders. Only after I had experienced traveling and working in various places and roles, did I begin to realize the truth of what matters most to me: holistic mental health well-being. It is difficult to accomplish healthy mental well-being, especially in this day and age of overwhelming stimuli and environmental impacts. Because of such barriers to positive and healthy mental well-being, I recognize the need for the following professions: social work, family counseling, marriage counseling, substance abuse rehabilitation, counseling for veterans, and child psychologists. Above mentioned professions are united in that they require a solid foundation in psychology and sociology which explains my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in psychology from a Liberal Arts college.
I anticipate contributing back to Native American communities and the border-towns surrounding such communities. As I pursue my career in psychology, I balance and support my family by encouraging my wife to continue her collegiate studies, and my son to have the best upbringing I can provide him, as he is a young Hoocąk who I am sure will one day strive to do great things, as well.
Kodiak Ronald Cleveland