For those who want better medical care in their towns or on their reservations, or help for troubled families, or better schools, all these—and more—may be just down the road, when soon-to-be Native graduates return home to help their communities or work in others like them.
On November 10, the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce (RMICC) honored 21 Indian students at its annual Scholars Gala. They are this generation’s achievers who plan, not merely hope, to make a difference in the Indian world, often in their own communities.
Indian country may suffer from poverty, alcoholism and diabetes, but as a “child of the reservation,” Amanda Skenadore, Navajo, recipient of a $2,000 Colorado Indian Education Foundation (CIEF) scholarship, fears flying. Nevertheless, she hopes to use travel—including air travel—and graduate training “to be part of a solution” to increase Native health programs and disease prevention. Another CIEF $2,000 scholarship recipient is Ursula Running Bear, Rosebud Sioux, who is a Ph.D. candidate in clinical science who enjoys beading in her limited spare time.
A self-described lifetime learner and one of CIEF’s five $1,000 scholarship awardees is Julie Marshall Jacobson, Ahtna Athabaskan, who returned to school after a 20-year break and has a 4.0 GPA at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She has a teenage son, a husband, a 22-credit-hour schedule and a mentoring commitment. “For me, writing is an extension of the storytelling tradition of our peoples,” she says, hoping to “benefit future generations.”
Saydie Allapowa Sago, Zuni Pueblo/Mescalero Apache, wants to “treat people in her Native community that have debilitating diseases.” In addition to studies in biology and physiology, she is in an academic leadership program and hopes to attain a certificate in diversity leadership. She received one of two $2,000 scholarships from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
A rodeo participant and horse lover who says she wants to “work with animals on my [Navajo] reservation to help the youth and community with their livestock” received one of 11 scholarships for $1,000 provided by businesses through RMICC. Kristy Dennison is a transfer student at Colorado State University majoring in equine science after receiving a veterinarian technician degree from Navajo Technical College. She also wants to help the reservation community “make better choices in caring for animals and responsibilities of being a horse owner.” Her scholarship was from the Tesoro Foundation.
A commemorative scholarship of $1,000 was given by the Medicine Heart Dancers in honor of Lance Allrunner, Cheyenne/Comanche/Kiowa, a community leader who passed March 5, 2010. The recipient was TiLane May Sherwood, Three Affiliated Tribes, who is attending Community College of Aurora for business administration.
Dee St. Cyr, Hoonch Henuk-ga (Bear Woman), Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and RMICC chairwoman, said the gala also honored military veterans. She noted that since 2003, $116,000 has been awarded to 107 American Indian students. She commended the scholars’ parents, and quoted Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.”