This education you have is a tool for you and your family, and much more, says a Lakota/Dakota doctor who grew up at Pine Ridge.
Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician, mother of three and role model, congratulated the newest corps of graduates at United Tribes Technical College on accomplishing a challenging educational goal.
“Not only will your education help your life be stable… but it helps you to help the next generation,” she said at the college’s mid-year graduation ceremony.
Jumping Eagle and her husband, Chase Iron Eyes, teamed-up as a guest-speaker duo December 20 at the college in Bismarck, North Dakota.
An education helps us keep fighting for what our ancestors fought for, she said.
“Right now there’s a struggle going on for our children’s souls and minds, and for land and water,” she said. “We have to figure out how we’re going to save our kids and protect our land and water.”
She recommended people ditch the “rez-itude,” the fatalistic attitude that we can’t accomplish anything.
“We have to teach our kids how to dance and sing, and how to pray in a good way. And that’s what’s gonna keep us strong.”
Jumping Eagle says she’s planning to redirect her medical practice from the corporate provider she works for in Bismarck and begin serving patients at Standing Rock.
“People talk about leaving the rez like it’s escaping Alcatraz,” she said. “But it’s not like that. We have to reject that attitude because there’s beautiful things about the places we’re from.”
When life doesn’t always go like we want, she advised to “just keep going,” and look to the strong and good things in Native communities and the strengths in families that give hope.
Iron Eyes, an attorney and founder of the Last Real Indians website, echoed his wife’s pride in the reservation, describing his upbringing at Fort Yates, North Dakota on Standing Rock.
We may come from some tough places, because the government deliberately imposed a poverty culture on our people, but “to see people who have persevered, tells me we have hope,” he said.
“You don’t need [the approval of] everybody to be a leader in your own community,” he said. “Don’t limit yourself. You don’t need anyone’s permission to lead. You just do it. And each of you here has the determination to do that.”
Six of the mid-year United Tribes graduates earned Bachelor of Science Degrees, 11 earned Associate of Applied Science Degrees and 16 earned Certificates of Completion. The grads earned their degrees in 12 different programs of study. Ten completed their work in the college’s newly revived welding program.
“United Tribes has changed quite a bit over the years,” said College President David M. Gipp. “But we still offer the fundamentals for Native people. Welding is a program we’ve brought back because of what’s happening in the economy. Now there’s a job demand. We try to offer programs that are meaningful to graduates and helpful in their career.”
What you’ve achieved here by graduating is something no one can take away from you, said Gipp. “You did the work. You earned it. And it’s something you will have for life.” He called this a “stepping stone” for more and greater success.
About 175 family members, friends and members of the college faculty and staff braved sub-zero weather to gather in the college’s wellness center to help honor the graduates.
The Wise Spirit Singers provided Flag and Honor songs. The UTTC Color Guard presented and retired the Staff and Flags. A traditional meal was hosted for grads, family members and friends in the college’s cafeteria.
The Fall Honoring completed the semester and marked the beginning of a holiday break. Spring Semester 2014 begins with student orientation January 2, followed by the start of classes on January 6.