Akers, who was the first in her family to attend college, has also taught at Purdue University as well as California State University–Northridge where she was the program director of the school’s Native American studies program.
The mother of four said that for those ambitious working Natives without a college degree, school is something they can still realize.
“I would encourage them, very strongly, to follow their dreams, to go back to school even if they think they’re too old or that they’ve got family responsibilities,” she said. “I did that myself, and I think that it’s a wonderful thing to help your own family and your tribal nation by educating yourself and striving to be the very best that you can be.”
And for the parents slated to send their children off to college, Akers said it’s imperative that parents support them.
“I think that what we have to do as Native people is to make sure that our students have a support system in place so when they come to a large public university like Nebraska they have people they can call, mentors on campus, professors or whomever, or people in the local Indian community they can turn to for advice and assistance if needed.”
An advocate of higher education for Indigenous Peoples, Akers also encourages Natives to pursue academia as a career.
“We need academics like myself and the other Native scholars to at least get our stories told and not allow the dominant society to silence us.”
Akers is the author of two books: Living in the Land of Death: The Choctaw Nation, 1830-1860, and Culture and Customs of the Choctaw Indians. She is currently working on her third, Genocide in America: Harvest of Blood, which is due for release in 2014.