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New San Carlos Apache College aims to preserve culture, prepare for future

San Carlos college has values based on Apache concept of Go’zhoo: to be at peace
August 13, 2017

Tribal values key to new school; ASU staff offered insight to community members on how to create an institution from scratch

When the first students walk into classes at the new San Carlos Apache College on Monday, they’ll not only be learning biology and accounting, they’ll be part of a mission to preserve their language and culture and drive economic prosperity in their community.

Arizona’s third tribal college opened Friday on the San Carlos Apache Reservation after two and a half years of intense planning and preparation, much of it done with the assistance of Arizona State University.

More than five years ago, the chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Terry Rambler, had a vision to create a college, and he asked ASU President Michael Crow for help. The Apaches were able to leverage the expertise of Maria Hesse, vice provost for academic partnerships at ASU, and Jacob Moore, the university’s assistant vice president for tribal relations.

Chairman Rambler

San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler speaks at the grand opening of the new San Carlos Apache College on Friday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

At Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rambler said that San Carlos Apache College is for everyone in the community — high school students, tribal employees and elders.

“This is the beginning of something great. This is a way to say no to alcohol and drugs by using our minds in a good way and not abusing them,” he said.

“This is a way to regain respect among ourselves. This is a way not to lose our identity as Apaches.”

Hesse is the former president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and was on the team that founded the college in the late 1980s. So she was able to offer insight to the community members on how to create an institution from scratch, working with the tribe to have a long-term plan in place to ensure they would open on time.

“If you want to start classes in August, here’s what you need to do in July,” she said. “What are the priority hires? If you want to do electrical wiring in July, you need to rip everything out by June. We talked about the program of study and class schedule.

“Even if they start with 50 students, it’s a humongous undertaking.”

Ahumada and Hesse

The college's founding president, Martin Ahumada, thanks ASU Vice Provost for Academic Partnerships Maria Hesse, by giving her a tribal burden basket at San Carlos Apache College's grand opening. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Classes will be held in a stone building in downtown San Carlos that was the previous tribal administrative headquarters. Workers were still renovating the building into classrooms during the ceremony on Friday and expected to work straight through the weekend until the start of classes Monday morning.

At first, the college will offer general-education courses in English, math, biology, chemistry, accounting and computer literacy. Eventually, the curriculum will be expanded and associate’s degrees will be offered. Tuition will be $34.50 per credit hour, so a full-time semester of 12 credits would cost $414.

For now, San Carlos is offering classes as a site of Tohono O’odham Community College, a tribal college in Sells. That allows San Carlos to be accredited until it earns its accreditation independently in about four years.

Accreditation is critically important because it allows students to qualify for financial aid and for their credits to transfer to universities. Like at all Arizona two-year colleges, students at San Carlos will be able to map out their majors to efficiently transfer to ASU.

The college will have core values based on the Apache concept of Go’zhoo — to be at peace.

Tohono O’odham Community College is a good blueprint for how tribal culture is integral to the vision. All students take two classes in “Himdag” — the lifelong elements of culture, values, language and way of life for the tribe. The college has a committee made up of staff, faculty, students and community members that works to incorporate “Himdag” into every aspect of college life.

“They don’t teach anything that’s out of sync with their culture,” said Moore, who is a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe.

Ahumada hug

San Carlos Apache College President Martin Ahumada receives a hug from one of his former mentors following the grand-opening ceremonies. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Martin Ahumada, the new president of San Carlos Apache College, said that preserving culture is vital for the Apaches.

“It has been known for many decades that the knowledge of one’s native tongue and being well grounded in your cultural traditions is important for self-esteem,” said Ahumada, the former interim president of Dine College on the Navajo reservation, the country’s first tribal college, founded in 1968.

Among the San Carlos Apache, few members younger than 35 know the language, according to Cordella Moses, a curriculum specialist for the tribe’s language-preservation department. She helped to design the Apache Language and Culture course, which is offered at 5 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday this semester.

“A lot of people think ‘culture’ refers to ceremonial dancing, but culture means a lot more than that. It’s our art, how we make moccasins and beadwork, and our meditation and our prayers,” she said.

“If you don’t know the language, you can’t pray.”

Ahumada said that besides Apache culture and the general-education courses, he would like to prepare students for jobs in San Carlos, which has a casino and a new medical center.

“We want courses in health sciences, natural resources. We’re going to explore cybersecurity and entrepreneurship,” he said.

“We know the Apache way of life was long anchored in farming, and we want to enable members of the community to return to farming.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU

The college received a $1.5 million federal grant in 2014 to get started, and the tribal council recently agreed to fund it with $2.5 million.

ASU’s support for the tribal college is part of a larger agreement between the university and the community, signed in 2013, that will include design and construction assistance when the San Carlos Apache are ready to build a campus; college-readiness and healthy-lifestyle programming for young people; and academic counseling and personal support for San Carlos freshmen and transfer students through the Native American Achievement Program at ASU.

Hesse said that Crow agreed with Rambler’s idea of jump-starting the tribe’s business community with the college.

“He felt like they were like-minded in their shared belief that education brings opportunity and hope to our youth while fueling economic development,” she said at the opening ceremony Friday.

“You can address the workforce training needs for employers, and you can offer lifelong learning opportunities to members of this community.”

Like many reservations, San Carlos faces poverty, unemployment and other socioeconomic challenges, Moore said.

“From a K-12 perspective, any number of our tribal communities have struggling schools. Someone with a more critical eye would say, ‘How can they be a feeder system to a college?’

“But the beauty is this idea of having a vision and some expectation that these students do have someplace to go and a future.”

Top photo: Founding President Martin Ahumada (second from left) thanks Tohono O'odham Community College President Paul Robertson by giving him a tribal burden basket at the grand opening of the new San Carlos Apache College in San Carlos, Arizona, on Friday. Tohono O'odham Community College is using its accreditation to cover the new college to allow its students to qualify for financial aid and for their credits to transfer to universities. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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True Sioux Hope Foundation, ASU partner to offer Native students a big boost

ASU, True Sioux partnership gives 2 Native students chance for college degree
July 21, 2017

Scholarships for two new Sun Devils part of nascent alliance to strengthen community on economically hard-hit Pine Ridge Reservation

Last April, Mariah McGhee had resigned herself to the fact that college wasn’t in the cards.

McGhee, a class valedictorian who had often visited Arizona, had dreamed of attending Arizona State University since she was 5. But McGhee (pictured above with her mom) knew her family couldn’t afford out-of-state tuition, and she was adamant about not racking up personal debt through student loans. The 18-year-old was prepared to start her work career without a degree.

Then a miracle dropped in her lap: a full four-year scholarship to ASU.

“It wasn’t just a surprise but a real shock,” said McGhee, who graduated from Red Cloud High School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “When they brought me into the principal’s office to give me some news, I thought I was in trouble.”

Savannah Jacobs

Savannah Jacobs (pictured with her father, Chuck Jacobs, at their home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota) is one of the two students sponsored by True Sioux Hope Foundation. She will study political science at ASU. Her plan is to get her degree and then “come back to Pine Ridge and help in the fight” to improve lives there. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

When McGhee arrived, she also encountered classmate Savannah Jacobs, who also thought she was in trouble. After a few suspenseful moments, they were told to pack their bags because they were headed to ASU.

“We both cried and had tears streaming down our faces. It was a huge gift,” recalled Jacobs, who plans on majoring in political science. McGhee said she will study business entrepreneurship at W. P. Carey School of Business.

Their scholarships are a result of a new initiative between the ASU FoundationFormed in 2014, the True Sioux Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization aimed at combating poverty, improving education and creating sustainable organizations for the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation., the Center for Indian Education and the True Sioux Hope Foundation, which is sponsoring a pair of Native students from Pine Ridge to attend ASU.

“Given who we are as an institution, with a charterASU’s charter reads: “ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.” that clearly outlines our work in being inclusive, interested in how our students succeed, and that we assume responsibility for people and society, this opportunity is perfect for us,” said Bryan Brayboy, ASU special adviser to the president and President’s Professor of indigenous education and justice. “We want to partner with Pine Ridge in order to help them define and enact their future. This starts, in part, with Mariah and Savannah.”

Brayboy added that ASU is an excellent place for McGhee and Jacobs to seek their higher education as the university will welcome more than 2,700 indigenous students this fall and is responsible for 20 percent of the nation’s American Indian doctoral students.

Twila True

True Sioux Hope Foundation founder Twila True addresses the crowd and thanks them for coming to see their programs at Pine Ridge. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

That’s one of the reasons why True Sioux Hope Foundation leader Twila True partnered with ASU.

“They got a whisper of what we were trying to do and said, ‘Tell us more,’” said True, a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and co-founder and CEO of True Investments, a real estate private equity firm based in Newport Beach, Calif., where True resides.

As a youngster, True was whisked to California from Pine Ridge as part of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, a federal program intended to encourage Native Americans to leave Indian reservations to acquire vocational skills and assimilate into the general population throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Today True is a successful businessperson, but she never forgot her roots.

“The Pine Ridge Reservation has always had a place in my heart,” True said. “I had tribe, I had family and I had culture.”

True also wants to change part of their culture — the one that gets the most ink these days.

Pine Ridge is considered the most economically disadvantaged reservation in the United States with a 90 percent unemployment rate and average annual household income of $3,500. The student dropout rate is over 70 percent, and the teacher turnover rate is eight times higher than that of the U.S. national average.

“You can’t affect change unless it’s long-term,” True said regarding the scholarships. “We’re all parents now. True Sioux Hope and ASU are now parents of these girls, and we’re going to take them and graduate them from college.”

That was a sentiment echoed by the ASU Foundation.

“Through our partnership with the True Sioux Hope Foundation and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, we believe we can work together to rebuild and strengthen capacity in this culturally rich community while ensuring a positive impact for future generations,” said Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of ASU Foundation, the independent nonprofit that raises and invests private donations in support of ASU.

The two scholarships are just the beginning of the partnership. Although details are still being ironed out, there are plans afoot for ASU to help rebuild and strengthen the capacity of Pine Ridge. Brayboy says this will be done through education, housing, economic development, and health and well-being initiatives created by ASU and True Sioux Hope to ensure positive impact for generations to come. He was quick to point out that this is all happening in partnership with and at the direction of the Pine Ridge community, and he hopes that it will become a model for other universities and entities looking to boost other tribal communities throughout the country.

McGhee and Jacobs said it’s already having an impact on their lives. The two have vowed they'll return to the reservation after graduation and use their education to improve the lives of others. McGhee wants to start a business there while Jacobs would like to start a fund or organization to enable Native students like herself to go to college.

“The goal is to get a college degree from ASU, come back to Pine Ridge and help in the fight,” Jacobs said.

Top photo: True Sioux Hope Foundation scholarship recipient Mariah McGhee (right) and her mother, Donna McGhee, pose for a portrait on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on July 7. McGhee plans to study business entrepreneurship at ASU. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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A blessing and a nuisance: Native American views of the annual monsoon

Some tribes view monsoon rains as life-sustaining; others, destructive.
Beliefs can vary within any one group, ASU prof says.
July 13, 2017

Tribes from around Arizona share how they view the summer rainy season

The annual summer monsoon: torrential thunderstorms, heavy rain, damaged roofs, uprooted trees, dusty vehicles and repeated trips to the car wash.

Many Arizonans approach it with a sense of dread, panic or annoyance.

They’re not indigenous peoples of Arizona.

“Moisture in any form — whether it’s flowing water, lakes, ponds, winter storms and monsoon season — is the sustenance that helps the Hopi people to survive,” said Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in northeastern Arizona.

“Rain is the ultimate blessing to our people and answer to our prayers.”

Given the varying degrees of beliefs among Arizona tribes, indigenous people within the same tribe often hold different perspectives about rain and water, said Tennille Marley, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s American Indian Studies program.

“There are many different beliefs about how people view or feel about the rain, from some who don’t think about the rain to those who believe it’s sacred and necessary for life,” said Marley, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe near Show Low, Arizona.

Kuwanwisiwma said when the Hopi clans originally migrated from northern America to Arizona, water became a valued part of their survival in the harsh climate. As a result, they learned to plant and rotate their crops around the monsoon, considered their New Year.

He says the Hopis traditionally plant their crops — corn, beans and watermelon — in May and continue throughout the summer. Kuwanwisiwma said they’re able to harvest those crops without irrigation and on about 12 inches of annual rainfall.

“It’s really a reflection of how the seeds have adapted and are proudly among the most drought-resistant in the world,” he said.

He added that when the Hopi people hear the first thunder of the season, “it’s a great feeling that rain is going to come.”

The Ak-Chin Indian Community, about an hour south of Phoenix, also has great reverence for rain and monsoon season, said Jeremy Johns, a museum technician for the tribe.

“The first monsoon is considered our January 1st, and we refer to it as Saguaro Fruit Month,” Johns said. “It’s an important time for us culturally and agriculturally, and we look at it as a new start, a renewal, a refreshing.”

Johns said his ancestors grew their crops in flooded washes on the 22,000-acre reservation and monsoon rains were a way for them to harness water and grow their crops. When it didn’t rain, Johns said his ancestors starved and were forced to supplement their diets by hunting and gathering.

He said that today the reservation still uses a flood-based irrigation system to grow corn, tepary beans, watermelon, O’odham squash and Devil’s Claw, a wild plant used for basketry.

Johns said because Ak-Chin is one of the smaller tribes in Arizona, they often harvest their crops with other O’odham tribesThe sister tribes are: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Tohono O’odham Nation. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community includes the Piipaash. to build their food supply and stay connected.

“It’s a way to keep those cultural ties strong amongst us and work with each other as much as possible,” Johns said.

For the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, whose land sits along the Colorado River and straddles the Arizona/California border, the monsoon is no longer as important as it once was.

“Our ancestors were once dependent on monsoon season and rotated their crops around it, but we’re not really doing that anymore,” said John Algots, director of the Fort Mojave Physical Resources Department. “Monsoon season is more of a nuisance than anything else.”

That’s because the tribe commercially farms thousands of acres of cotton, and monsoon weather can cost them millions.

“The heat combined with the humidity sterilizes the cotton,” Algots explained. “Monsoons also cause some local flooding, though we don’t really get strong ones like you do in central Arizona.”

Like the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Fort Mojave tribe used the same flooded-wash method to grow crops, specifically corn and squash. However, since becoming a commercial farming enterprise focusing on cotton, alfalfa hay, Bermuda seed and fiber, rain is not culturally or agriculturally significant.

“Our water source comes from the Colorado River, and we have the same vegetation and the same ability to grow crops whether it rains or not,” Algots said.

That same attitude toward the monsoon is also held by Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, but they view water as sacred, said Albert Nelson, acting manager for the tribe’s Cultural Development department.

“Agriculturally, we don’t really plant here and we don’t have any superstitions about the monsoons or the rains, nor do we have any stories about monsoons or rain,” Nelson said. “But we do look at water as being sacred because that’s how our people were created.”

Nelson said the tribe believes their origins traced to Montezuma Well in the Verde Valley, about 95 miles north of Phoenix.

“At that time the well was actually dried and then a flood happened underneath the earth,” Nelson said. “Our people then climbed out of the well, and then the water rose up to the present-day level.”

Nelson said the people who didn’t make it out of the well turned into fish and other water-based creatures, and as a result, his people don’t eat fish.

“We have the belief that things that come out of the water are our relatives,” he said.

Beyond agricultural needs and spiritual beliefs, ASU’s Marley added that water is tied directly to Native American health.

“Because of colonization, water isn’t consumed as a primary beverage and has been replaced by soda and other non-indigenous drinks, which can contribute to health issues,” she said.

Reporter , ASU Now


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Native students experience week of college life in ASU’s Inspire camp

July 3, 2017

Nearly 100 high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona work on research projects, live in the dorm and connect with ASU resources

It was day three of ASU’s 2017 Inspire program, the weeklong camp that offers high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona a taste of college life, and the Arizona State University Memorial Union’s Changemaker space was abuzz.

The young scholars were working in 19 student teams, brainstorming and mapping out the action research plans they’d share with peers and families at the closing Capstone Project Showcase at week’s end. Their topic choices were informed by their own interests and the previous day’s panel presentations and discussions related to indigenous education; health; tribal sovereignty; and planning, architecture and construction in Indian Country. 

The team of Kristen Sanderson, Darian Wauneka, Mackyl Ortega and April Yazzie, all rising high school seniors, had decided to pursue a research action plan related to health and well-being. 

Sanderson’s career interests are nursing or dentistry. Wauneka leans toward optometry. Ortega is interested in working with pharmaceuticals, and Yazzie said she’d like to work for a company like Apple or Intel.

“Individually we suggested alcoholism, hospital misdiagnoses, heat-related deaths and elder neglect,” explained Sanderson. 

As a group, they eventually settled on elder neglect by deciding to draw one topic lottery-style, Wauneka said. 

Having done a lot of internet research in Inspire’s indigenous reading and writing workshop that morning, they worked quickly at the whiteboard, referring to the saved data on their phones and adding a few more ideas as they saw the flow of their research coming together.

A neighboring team had chosen to explore land conservation on tribal nations, and what can be done about the U.S. government’s pollution of the land. 

“Some of the land appears to be unused; there’s no homes or burial grounds, so the government thinks, ‘Why can’t we build out here?’ In reality, that land is used for grazing or for growing crops and the ecosystem is thrown off by it,” said Noah Anaya, a 12th-grade student.

Another group looked at the election of the Navajo Nation president and how during the race the candidates’ focus on tradition and government affect the outcome.

“If the value placed on government is too high, it’s seen as a conflict with traditional values. I would like to see these values balanced, rather than one taking precedent over the other,” senior Vanessa Lee said.

“Outstanding work!” English Professor Jim Blasingame encouragingly shouted to all, as he finished a first lap around the room offering feedback to teams. “These are topics doctoral students are doing dissertations on.

“You’re worldly and you have your heads in the right place. Remember, you are your best resource,” he continued, as he offered tips about how to discern solid, reputable research facts from opinion. “Be wary of sources that use words like would, should, could, might. That author just wants to sell you on their ideas.” 

Immersed in campus life

ASU’s college-readiness summer program Inspire, held June 18-24, saw nearly 100 American Indian students from tribal nations in Arizona participate in activities on ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses and in the greater community.

Rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors had the opportunity to practice and grow academic and personal success behaviors by integrating reading, writing and research skills in culturally relevant, project-based learning.

“You’re all capable and you’re going to learn new things and will grow,” said Jacob Moore, ASU assistant vice president for tribal relations, in his welcome to participants and their families on June 18. “Open your mind to possibilities and you may see some things differently than maybe what you’ve seen in high school. This is a chance for you to envision yourselves on campus and to see for yourself what being in college is like.” 

During Inspire, students experienced university life in a Tempe campus residence hall. They ate in dining halls and enjoyed free time and team-building sessions in the Sun Devil Fitness Center. They worked with their peers and instructors in different buildings on the Tempe campus. They also enjoyed sessions at the Desert Botanical Garden, the Heard Museum and the Indian Legal Program at ASU’s Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

Throughout the program the high schoolers were guided by 11 ASU indigenous students who served as team mentors, providing tips and advice that come best from near-peers. 

“Living on campus has been interesting. Sharing a room and talking with someone else who has similar interests in going to college is great,” said senior Tyler Salt.

During one of the sessions, the students used the me3 tool to explore majors and careers that interested them, providing a glimpse of their future after high school.

“The career exploration has been my favorite part. I’ve always wanted to be a business administrator, and this is giving me the motivation to pursue it when I come [to ASU] next year,” said senior Hailey Veltha.

“I wanted to be a lawyer, but this has showed me different opportunities that are available to me in the different programs,” Anaya said. 

By the end of the program, participants were connected with American Indian students, staff, faculty and support services at the university.

“Programs like Inspire are designed to motivate high school students to begin pursuing higher education, and so it’s important to connect them to the university in general,” said Lorenzo Chavez, director of family and student initiatives for Access ASU.

The program, now in its second year, emphasized the accessibility of the different resources at each of the ASU campuses with a resource fair representing ASU’s schools and colleges.

“We want Inspire participants to feel welcome and comfortable at ASU and understand the many opportunities they’ll find in terms of academics and support. Of course, we hope they will decide to apply to, enroll in and graduate from ASU in the future,” said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and University College.

“We received about 250 applications for this year’s program and could afford to offer places to 100 students. It's clear that interest in a program like this is strong,” she added. 

This year’s Inspire program was sponsored by a grant from the Tohono O'odham Nation to ASU's University College and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, with support from Access ASU.

Chavez and Annabell Bowen, director of American Indian initiatives in the ASU Office of the President, presented a session for parents and families on the opening morning of Inspire. Bowen spoke about the cultural environment at ASU, and Chavez shared information about applying to the university, financial aid and what families can do to help their students in their decision about college. 

“We have more than 2,800 American Indian students at ASU, making it one of the largest Native student bodies in the country,” Bowen told family members, “and enrollment numbers have been increasing every year.”

As part of her work in the Office of American Indian Initiatives, Bowen heads up the university’s Tribal Nations Tour program, in which current ASU students, faculty and staff travel to all of the tribal communities in Arizona in outreach to K-12 students.

“We even talk with kids in Head Start programs,” said Bowen. “It’s never too early to encourage children to start thinking about college and to have them get firsthand knowledge of the first steps they need to take to be ready.”

Will Argeros contributed to this story;

Top photo: Students make their way to the Indian Legal Program in the Beus Center for Law and Society at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus during ASU's Inspire program for Native high school students. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services , College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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ASU program gives Native American entrepreneurs a boost

June 23, 2017

Aiming to create ripple effect of economic change in tribal communities, Inno-NATIONS initiative hosts its inaugural cohort

The presenter went around the conference room on Friday morning, asking participants if they thought of themselves as entrepreneurs.


Not one of them — eight Native American business owners — raised their hand or said yes.

“We’re taught to be humble in that sense, not to boast,” said Kelsey Haake, a Phoenix-based certified financial manager and estate planner. “We haven’t been ingrained to think ourselves of that way.”

Haake (pictured above, center), originally from the Inupiaq Tribe in northwestern Alaska, said humility is heavily emphasized in Indian Country and that Native Americans are taught not think of themselves as better than others or go out of their way to stand out from the crowd.

Host Traci Morris smiled knowingly, anticipating the reason. But she wanted everyone to give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

“I never called myself an entrepreneur either, but I would argue that you’re all innovators, business people and entrepreneurs,” said Morris, ASU’s American Indian Policy Institute director and Inno-NATIONS founder. “If we weren’t great innovators and adaptors, we wouldn’t have survived Colonialism. I think Native Americans are the greatest entrepreneurs of all.”

Looking to create opportunity, the American Indian Policy Institute in collaboration with ASU’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation has developed an intertribal initiative called Inno-NATIONS, which champions indigenous entrepreneurship and economic development across America.

The goal is to support up-and-coming Native American businesses and ignite their enterprises to fuel sustainable tribal economies by rejuvenating and modernizing traditional trade networks.

Morris said by spearheading innovative partnerships and leveraging resources from ASU, tribes and community organizations, she hopes that Inno-NATIONS will create a “collision community,” causing a ripple effect of economic change in tribal communities.

This year marks the inaugural cohort with Native entrepreneurs, which met from June 22-24. After an opening reception in downtown Phoenix, they got down to business. Through a learning lab, strategy discussions, multimedia presentations and mentorship, the eight participants worked on and learned about business pitches, storytelling, indigenous innovation principles, strategic planning sessions, startup models and business goals. They also read financial statements, took quizzes, watched videos and read several articles by ASU professors.

Morris said after this weekend, they’ll also receive six months of follow-up business counseling, webinars, membership in the Arizona American Indian Chamber of Commerce and a feature article in The Visionary magazine.

The information learned in these sessions was valuable, said Chickasaw Nation citizen Kristen Dorsey. She traveled from Los Angeles to participate.

“These activities were really helpful to me in defining markets and speaking to them effectively,” said Dorsey, who has a Southeastern-inspired line of jewelry. “It was definitely worth the trip.”

For Hopi Tribe member Delvan Polelonema, who owns Naqwatsveni Skateboarding, it was more about receiving confirmation that he was on the right track.

“It’s helpful to know someone else who's been there believes in what you’re doing,” said Polelonema. “I now have more confidence in myself and my product.”

So does Haake, who by the end of the session started to get used to the idea of calling herself an "entrepreneur.”

“I’m more open to the label of calling myself an entrepreneur after this formal business training,” Haake said. “I can say it now without feeling strange about it.”

The entire Inno-NATIONS Inaugural Community Cohort includes: Marian Declay, Native Organization Entertainment; Kristen Dorsey, Kristen Dorsey Designs; Adrian Dotson, ETD Inc; Kelsey Haake, Inuit Financial Services; Rykelle Kemp, Wooden Nickel Store; Candice Mendez, Salt V.Mo Consulting; Delvan Polelonema, Naqwatsveni Skateboarding and Asia Soleil Yazzie, Lady Yazzie.

Top photo: (From left) Delvan Polelonema, owner of Naqwatsveni Skateboarding; Kelsey Haake, a Phoenix-based certified financial manager and estate planner; and Rykelle Kemp, owner of the Wooden Nickel, listen during the Inno-NATIONS workshop Friday in Phoenix. by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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The Arizona fireball has a name: English version is Cibecue Star Rock

Apache name for meteorite housed at ASU center: Dishchii’bikoh Ts’iłsǫǫsé Tsee.
Space stone reveals unusual features in initial ASU scientific analysis.
Meteorite curated on ASU's Tempe campus belongs to White Mountain Apache Tribe.
June 1, 2017

White Mountain Apache Tribe chooses moniker for meteorite retrieved by ASU team; analysis reveals stone's intriguing structure

Far out in the asteroid belt, more than 200 million miles from Earth, an asteroid the size of a Volkswagen Beetle lazily orbited the sun. Then something — we’ll never know what — disturbed it.

It was knocked out of its orbit into an elliptical orbit. It swung closer and closer to the sun. Then, last summer on June 2, it roared into Earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 miles per hour.

This random chain of cosmic events landed it on the homeland of the White Mountain Apache Tribe in eastern Arizona.

Now it has a name. The tribe has named their meteorite Dishchii’bikoh Ts’iłsǫǫsé Tsee. In English, it is CibecueThe town of Cibecue is close to where the meteorite was found. Star Rock. It was officially confirmed Monday.

Recovered by an Arizona State University team during a three-day expedition, it is a meteorite like no other ever studied.

“It does contain things we have not seen before,” said Laurence Garvie, research professor and curator of the Center for Meteorite Studies in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

It is an ordinary chondrite — the most common type of meteor. However, when Garvie examined it in detail, he found some unusual features.

“Ooo, we’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “We just finished the initial scientific analysis of Dishchii’bikoh. It turned out to be really interesting. In one respect it’s an ordinary chondrite, but when we looked at the structure there’s aspects we’ve never seen before. This is where the future scientific analysis will take place.”

Video and top photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

It has been classified as an LL7 meteorite. Only 50 of that type have been found over the world. This is the first in North America.

“Look at the structure inside,” Garvie said. “These stones are really, really fragile. It’s like someone crushed this rock with a mortar and pestle and then squeezed it back together very gently. How did that structure form? That’s something we still need to work at.”

The name and classification were approved by the Committee for Meteorite Nomenclature, a 12-member international committee that classifies all new meteorites found around the world. The committee is part of the Meteoritical Society. They mull such questions as, is the name appropriate? How do you justify it being a certain type of meteorite? Is the science there? It’s a difficult and time-consuming process.

“It’s something the public knows almost nothing about,” Garvie said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s not just me eyeballing it saying, ‘It’s a whatever.’ It’s hours of work here and hours of work on microscopes and hours of work looking through boring Excel spreadsheets. Then you have to write a report and then you have to submit it to the nomenclature committee and then, assuming everything is OK, you have to publish your findings. So it’s a long, long process.”

The meteorite belongs to the White Mountain Apache Tribe, but it will be curated in perpetuity at the center on the university’s Tempe campus. Permission to curate the meteorite took months of legal work. Because the meteorite belongs to the tribe, they chose its name.

“We wanted something that reflected the local environment and what’s special about it,” Garvie said.

Jacob Moore, assistant vice president of tribal relations at Arizona State University, and tribal chairman Ronnie Lupe were key to securing permission from the tribe to search on their land.

“This would not have happened without a lot of people,” Garvie said. “It’s just been a really, really fun story.”

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU course helps grow community of Native changemakers

May 31, 2017

Editor's note: The ASU community, mindful of Arizona’s place in Indian Country and the university’s location on the ancestral homelands of the Akimel O'odham and Pee Posh peoples, aspires to support Native students and tribes in developing futures of their own making. Last week’s story “ASU American Indian Studies Program trains advocates for indigenous communities” discussed AIS’s focus on partnerships to strengthen communities. This story spotlights the ways that one course, AIS 440: Cultural Professionalism, contributes to that effort.

When Arizona State University graduating senior Kendall Cody walked across the stage at the university’s American Indian Convocation on May 10, she carried with her an admittedly big passion: “getting more people to pursue and complete higher education.” ASU senior Kendall Cody explains poster at AIS 440 research symposium ASU graduating senior Kendall Cody discusses her proposal for a pre-college program for high schoolers, "“Gila River’s Life Long Learners." Cody and classmates in AIS 440: Cultural Professionalism showcased their work in ASU’s seventh annual Creating Visions for Future Nations Research Symposium, presenting their proposals in a poster-session format at the close of ASU’s annual American Indian Student Success Forum on March 21, 2017. Photo by Lyonel Tso Download Full Image

She also left ASU with solid experience and confidence in directing that passion to make an impact.

Cody worked as a peer coach for the past two years with ASU’s First-Year Success Center, encouraging other students to make it to the graduation finish line and to discover ways to make the most of their college journey: “I absolutely loved my job, so it never felt like work,” said Cody, who graduated May 8 with a major in psychological science and a minor in American Indian studies.

In the spring semester, as part of the course American Indian Studies 440: Cultural Professionalism, Cody chose a project to encourage and support kids’ readiness to apply and be admitted to post-secondary education, laying out the design for a four-year college-application program to support high schoolers in the Gila River Indian Community, south of Phoenix.  

In AIS 440, students draw on the ASU Libraries’ Labriola National American Indian Data Center and other sources to research the demographics and contemporary issues of Arizona’s 22 sovereign tribes. They then design a community development proposal directly connected to meeting one challenge in one Native nation or tribe beyond their home communities.

“An important U.S. Census statistic for Gila River that stood out in doing my background research was that 1.6 percent of adults indicated bachelor’s degree attainment,” said Cody, who is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.

She designed an extra-curricular program that would break down the higher-education application process into identifiable steps, mapping out goals and activities for youth from freshman through senior year.

“By first semester of their senior year, students would be ready to apply to at least three different colleges or universities,” Cody explained. “I suggested activities to support students’ not only having a strong application, but becoming a more holistic person by that time as well.”

When she and her AIS 440 classmates showcased their proposals in a poster session in March, Cody’s project, “Gila River’s Life Long Learners,” received this year’s undergraduate “community vote” for the project that symposium guests consider most innovative and practical.

That honor includes an award from the Princeton Review valued at $2,799, for an in-person test-prep course that Cody intends to use in advance of graduate school admissions exams. 

Perhaps most noteworthy, at semester’s end Cody was contacted by a member of the Gila River Indian Community to schedule a meeting to discuss the possibility of implementing her project idea.

ASU student participants in 2017 Creating Visions for Future Nations poster symposium

Undergraduate and graduate student participants in the AIS 440 poster symposium posed with Laura Gonzales-Macias and Miss Indian ASU 2015-2016 Jennifer R. Jones. From left: Nicholet Deschene Parkhurst, Jameson D. Lopez, Ferrin Brown Wolf, Matthew Yatsayte, Kyle Howe, Davis E. Henderson, Summer Kirk, Martisha Clyde, Kendall Cody, Marcene Hoover-Bennett, Kelly Lee, Laura Gonzales-Macis, Jennifer R. Jones, Latifah Pailzote, Sarahna Cooper, and Kayla DeVault.

Creating visions for future nations    

“One of the key pieces of the American Indian Studies paradigm at ASU is strengthening communities, and at the core of this class is the use-inspired research assignment based in helping our families and communities,” said Laura Gonzales-Macias, who regularly teaches the course and also serves as associate director of American Indian Student Support Services in ASU’s University College.

The community development project proposal and the learning experiences that support it are the focus for about two months, she noted.

Students do a literature review, write a full research paper describing their review and project proposal, make an in-class slideshow presentation, and prepare and present at the annual poster symposium, “Creating Visions for Future Nations.”   

The course, she said, was developed seven years ago with American Indian Studies Professors John Tippeconnic III and James Riding In. They designed an experience in which students can explore indigenous perspectives on communication, research and professional and leadership skills.

In addition, students can prepare for what comes next in their journey: building a track record in the kind of research and presentations required in graduate school; fine-tuning their resumes; setting and meeting goals for employment, internships or graduate applications; and beginning to build a professional network across tribal communities.

Over the years, she said, the course has continued to evolve in partnership with the students — and the overlap and connections that have grown between students and community mentors have been especially enriching.

Mentoring extends connections

Some mentors visit the class as presenters; others assist with project ideas, Gonzales-Macias explained.

“Once students decide on a community development project proposal, they’re matched with a research mentor — someone from the community or a graduate student or faculty member with expertise related to the project,” she said.

“We partner with ASU’s American Indian Graduate Student Association to match students with a graduate or professional student,” she continued, “and we are so fortunate to have a host of community mentors who generously engage with students in the course.”

Kendall Cody, for example, was matched with ASU graduate student Dorothy Rhodes, executive intern for the lieutenant governor of the Gila River Indian Community, who could share knowledge and suggest resources. (Rhodes graduated May 8 with a master’s degree in liberal studies.) 

Cody said that Ak-Chin Indian Community Councilwoman Delia Carlyle’s guest presentation in AIS 440 also influenced how she shaped her project proposal.

“In addition to talking about Ak-Chin’s approach to self-governance and some of its exciting business partnerships, Ms. Carlyle shared her story with us. She wasn’t the best student in high school and other barriers popped up along her life journey, and so it was only recently that she earned her associate’s degree,” she said. “Despite all of those things that happened, she still has a very powerful leadership positon and is helping others in her community.

“A lot of students start fixating on whether they might mess up, or they think that if they haven’t finished a degree in four years they’ve failed,” Cody said. “Her remarks were a reminder to make sure that my programming for high school students would dispel those myths that stress a lot of people out and emphasize that working toward some post-secondary training to support what they want to do in life is the main goal.”

Other community leaders who presented to students this semester were LuAnn Leonard, former Arizona Board of Regent and executive director of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund, Hopi Tribe; Arizona House Democrats Indigenous Peoples Caucus members Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson (District 3) and Rep. Eric Descheenie, D-Chinle (District 7); and Robin Enos, human resources director, and Crystal Banuelos, community employment manager, with the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community.  

Banuelos, a 2003 ASU graduate, said she has enjoyed being a community presenter in AIS 440 for five years, sharing insights about preparedness for the job search and professionalism. 

“I try to give students guidance and confidence about how they can be the best potential candidate, in whatever area that interests them, and encourage them to grow those behaviors that will make them the best employee after being hired,” Banuelos said, “focusing on being a team player, being willing to go above and beyond, and being communicative.”

“I also talk with students about where the workforce is going or areas that might have longevity,” she said. “That may spark ideas for some individuals as they make the determination of the path that’s best for them.” 

This spring semester, built into the AIS 440 course, was an opportunity for the students to be mentors themselves and build additional connections. 

“We have a business etiquette dinner as part of the course, and this semester Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) staff and high school students in the START program, a TOCC pre-college outreach program, came up from Sells to join us for the dinner session at Tempe Mission Palms hotel,” said Gonzales-Macias. “Students in my class as well as other ASU Native students enjoyed meeting and giving advice to Tohono O’odham youth.” 

Laying the foundation for a professional career

Three years ago ASU alumna Waynette Taylor took AIS 440 with Gonzales-Macias as a senior and completed a proposal for a community development project titled “Live Well, Be Well: A Holistic Approach to Treating Diabetic and Obese Individuals in the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community.”

She proposed a holistic, culturally sensitive approach to educating newly diagnosed diabetic and obese patients and put her central emphasis on an effective treatment plan developed by a comprehensive health-care team.

Taylor sees the course and that project proposal as laying a foundation for her career. 

“I knew Laura’s class was going to be great, but I didn’t realize the full impact it would have on my life,” she said.

“I decided eight years ago that I wanted to become a physician assistant, the first in my extended family to ever pursue a medical career, but I didn’t have any idea about how I’d become a medical provider.”

At ASU she fell in love with her major — biological sciences — and she became a leader in the student organization PANAL (Pre-Health Association of Native American Leaders).

“In completing the community development proposal in AIS 440, I discovered how I could make an impact in a community. The project only intensified the amount of passion I had for diabetes-related work,” said Taylor, whose mother and several other family members cope with the disease.

She credits AIS 440, and all the commitment that she put into the class, for her securing an internship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the summer after she graduated, and for her ability to perform at a competitive level in the position.

“I was more confident in my research and was more familiar with how to summarize my work to NIH scientists,” said Taylor, who asked as an intern that she be allowed to focus on diabetes.

“My individual project focused on identifying the genetic determinants of Type 2 diabetes among the Pima Indians,” she said. “In the genetic laboratory of the NIDDK, a branch of the NIH, I helped to identify variants predicted to be deleterious in biological candidate genes, validated those sequences, genotyped, then submitted them for analysis to determine if these variants could affect risk for T2D. I would not have been as confident as I was in the delivery of my research if it were not for the experience I had gained in AIS 440.”  

Since earning her degree in 2014 she became a patient-care assistant at Banner Desert Medical Center and cared for diabetic patients, to learn more about the real-life complications and co-morbidities associated with the disease. Taylor now works for Indian Health Services in a behavioral health facility as a counselor aide to at-risk adolescents, helping them to rebuild their lives. 

“I still keep in touch with some of the community leaders who served as mentors and guest speakers in the course,” she said, “and when I read or hear the names of others in the news or in my work I’ll have that feeling of connection.”  

Taylor said the AIS 440 poster symposium has become an event around which alumni of the course and current students, faculty and staff coalesce.

“I attended the AIS 440 poster symposium last year and was very impressed with the students’ work. Now as an alum I’m totally supportive of the students and want to be a part of the symposiums in the future, letting students know it’s possible for them to implement their work in Native communities.” 

She has accepted a place in Northern Arizona University’s physician assistant professional graduate program for fall. Taylor said she used the Princeton Review scholarship she earned as the “community vote” winner in the 2014 AIS 440 poster session to help prepare for the GRE. 

“Dr. Gonzales-Macias is a remarkable individual. I have a lot of appreciation for her because of how much of an impact she has made on my life,” Taylor said of her mentor and former teacher. “My career aspirations are to return home to the Navajo and Hopi reservations as a physician assistant to care for individuals who are affected by diabetes. I believe that a program like the one I proposed in AIS 440 could make a real difference in any community, and it is my personal goal to see it come to life.”

Inspiring new passions 

When the spring 2017 AIS 440 students made their final class presentation as a group, gathering with community leaders for an end-of-semester celebration and formal dinner at Tempe Mission Palms on May 2, undergraduate Ferrin Brown Wolf reflected on the transformation he felt in himself over the semester.

“Are you a person who looks down the road, or do you look at the here and now? I’m transforming to where I’m looking down the road,” he said, as students took stock of all they’d learned from the readings, assignments and community mentors.

Brown Wolf said that closely following the protests at Standing Rock this year, where his grandmother’s people are, had energized him.

“Eric Descheenie, when he visited our class, said to us: ‘Your passion finds you.’ It has me thinking I need to get into law school. I’m going for an IT degree, but will I be happy if I’m punching in code, not doing things for my people?” 

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


ASU American Indian Studies program trains advocates for indigenous communities

May 22, 2017

Exclusively made up of indigenous professors, the American Indian Studies program at Arizona State University motivates the next generation of scholars to advocate for Indigenous nations and communities.

“We’re striving to make American Indian Studies not only important and relevant to Native nations, organizations and peoples, but also to society as a whole,” said James Riding In (Pawnee), professor and interim director of the program. Professor presents the Dean’s Medal to American Indian Studies graduate Professor Myla Vicenti-Carpio presents the Dean’s Medal to American Indian Studies and filming graduate Cameron Mundo during the American Indian Convocation in spring 2016. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

The curriculum for undergraduate and graduate students focuses on American Indian experiences, human rights and social justice, giving students a practical and theoretical understanding of complex issues facing American Indian communities across the U.S. and Indigenous communities around the world. 

The value of an American Indian Studies degree

“There are several values to our degree,” said Riding In. “It provides students with critical thinking and academic skills as well as knowledge of American Indian nations in both a historical and contemporary context.”

According to Riding In, American Indian Studies is broadly concerned with aspects of the human experience. As such, a student pursuing a degree, minor or certificate in American Indian Studies would gain an education rooted in humanistic ideals and social sciences methods. This dual structure helps students acquire analytical and critical-thinking skills, cultural expertise in American Indian affairs and a broad skillset applicable to a range of careers — especially in fields working with Indian nations or underprivileged/marginalized communities.

Graduates have gone to law school and doctoral programs all over the country. Given the academic nature of the subject, many pursue careers within Indian communities to help find solutions for the complex challenges facing these nations. Recent graduates have launched careers with the International Treaty Council, the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and the local government. 

For example, alumna Madison Fulton (Navajo), who works for the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, said her education in American Indian Studies was instrumental in getting her to where she is now. She said exposure to caring and influential professors, American Indian Studies theory and thought, and engagement through discussion prepared her to work with tribes.

“The American Indian Studies paradigm and canon are the most important aspect of my education,” she said. “The canon has given me the knowledge to be an advocate for Indian rights in terms of sexual assault advocacy, ethical research, and health and wellbeing of Indian communities and people.” 

American Indian Studies scholarship and impact

The American Indian Studies faculty at ASU have produced scholarship that is shaping the discourse on Indigenous issues today. Their research and publications range from the sacred histories of various Indigenous peoples to the contemporary problems faced by American Indian communities, such as: American Indian child and adolescent issues, graves protection, decolonization and spiritual beliefs.

Furthermore, the program is home to a peer-reviewed journal that publishes work by American Indian scholars from around the country.

Wíčazo Ša Review is an interdisciplinary academic journal devoted to publishing American Indian scholarship. The journal was started in 1985 by founding editors Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Beatrice Medicine, Roger Buffalohead and William Willard. Professor James Riding In (Pawnee) has been the editor-in-chief of Wíčazo Ša Review since 2005. 

The Review fits well within the paradigm of the American Indian Studies program, which states: “American Indian Studies faculty must view their teaching, research and service as a ‘sacred’ responsibility to Indian nations undertaken for the sake of cultural survival.”

“Most of the journals were those that come from the fields of history, anthropology and others,” Riding In said. “And it was very difficult oftentimes for indigenous scholars to get their work published because oftentimes their work fell outside of the realm of what many of those gatekeepers who were in charge of those disciplines thought was pertinent scholarship.”

Riding In said the journal’s most important function today is to provide an outlet for indigenous scholars to get their work published. He emphasized how valuable such an outlet is for young native faculty working in universities across the country.

With Arizona having the second largest Native American population of any state, Indian affairs is an area in demand from both the U.S. federal government and the Indian tribes themselves. The American Indian Studies program strives to partner with Indian nations, communities and organizations to seek solutions for the unique challenges faced by American Indian nations.

“ASU continues to develop an impressive cohort of scholars engaged in American Indian cultural, social, educational, legal and economic issues. We have built world-class programs in American Indian Studies, American Indian legal Studies and Indigenous conceptions of justice,” said President Michael Crow in a 2015 statement on the university’s commitment to American Indian tribes. “Our work, however, is not complete. We must further … integrate Indigenous knowledge and engage Indigenous issues globally.” 

Parker Shea

Student Writer and Reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Native American student wins prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship in Tribal Policy

May 3, 2017

Megan Tom sees working in education research, policy and tribal law in her future.

“I want to do a lot of things; professor, researcher, policy advocate, administrator, university president. Over all I want to support tribal colleges and their missions,” said Tom, a junior in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University majoring in English literature and minoring in public policy. Megan Tom Megan Tom, an ASU junior majoring in English literature and minoring in public policy, has won a 2017 Udall Undergraduate Scholarship in Tribal Policy. Download Full Image

“My particular interest is in tribal education,” she said, adding that in the coming five years, she would like to complete a graduate degree at University of Oxford and a doctorate at ASU and then work on education policy and student achievement at universities and tribal colleges starting in the Northwestern United States.

Tom is Ts’inaajinii (Black-Streaked Wood Clan) born for Naakai Dine’e (Mexican-Navajo Clan). Her maternal clan is Tsenjikini (Cliff Dwellers Clan).

As a Navajo first-generation college student from Cameron, Arizona, she already is immersed in Native American higher education research and policy. Since last July, she has served as a junior research scholar at the ASU Center for Indian Education. She also was a campus coordinator at Teach for America-Phoenix.

Her honors thesis will focus on the effects of higher education policy, campus climate, and student leadership on American Indian students. As President of the American Indian Council, she led a campaign to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on all of ASU’s campuses, and assisted with the city of Phoenix campaign.

“ASU sits on the ancestral homelands of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh people, and it’s important for our future leaders and universities to continuously honor and acknowledge indigenous people, because our indigenous people make up socioeconomic diversity and need to be included in the decision making process,” she said.

Tom explained that these experiences, as well as her observations about education issues on the Navajo Nation and within tribal communities, have given her a multi-faceted perception of education policy. And these experiences will continue, as she will be interning this summer at the College Board National headquarters in New York City.

“Sometimes people think of education as separate from other types of policy, but that’s not always the case. For example, on the Navajo Nation there was a mine that was shut down because of environmental concerns, but that mine funded a very important scholarship for Navajo students,” she said.

“There’s also an environmental aspect to education; when you don’t have access to clean water you can’t be concerned about not having a bachelor’s degree. Or, when you can’t get to school because the roads are flooded, that’s a problem,” she added.

“I want to work on education policy that addresses how people access education when they are not having their basic needs met and how Native students can prepare themselves to succeed in their tribal colleges or major universities.”

Tom’s commitment to Native American policy issues has been recognized with a 2017 Udall Undergraduate Scholarship in Tribal Policy.

The scholarship, worth $7,000, is given by the Tucson, Arizona-based Udall Foundation to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and interest in issues related to Native American nations or to the environment.

The scholarship honors the legacies of Morris K. Udall, who represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years, and his brother Stewart Udall, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Their careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources.

This year, 50 students from 42 colleges and universities throughout the United States have been selected as 2017 Udall Scholars. A 15-member independent review committee selected this year’s group on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, Native health care, or tribal public policy, leadership potential, record of public service, and academic achievement. This class of Udall Scholars was selected from 494 candidates nominated by 224 colleges and universities.

The 2017 Udall Scholars will gather in Tucson on August 8–13 to meet one another and program alumni, learn more about the Udall legacy of public service, and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care, and governance.

“I am really honored, grateful, and reflective on what I had to do to get the scholarship. It took a lot of work to go through the process,” Tom said.

That process included completing an extensive application with several essay-type questions, submitting letters of recommendation as well as grade transcripts, and writing an 800-word essay.

Tom credits her colleagues and mentors at the ASU Center for Indian Education (CIE) with helping her complete the application. Colin Ben, CIE postdoctoral research fellow, boosted her confidence and helped her refine the essay. “I also have to thank my recommenders, Dr. Jessica Solyom, Dr. Erik Johnston and Charlinda Haudley, because they also serve as my mentors.” Tom said.

She also received assistance with the application process from the Office of National Scholarship Advisement housed at Barrett Honors College in Tempe. 

 “The Udall Scholarship is of special significance to ASU, not only because it is named in honor of native Arizonans Morris and Stewart Udall, but because it recognizes two of our points of pride: a commitment to sustainability and a concern for Native American issues,” said Kyle Mox, ONSA director.

“Megan is a remarkable young leader who has had and will continue to have a major impact. The Udall Scholarship will be a ‘force multiplier’ and accelerate her professional development,” Mox said, adding that only 10 awards were made to Native American candidates this year, further underscoring the significance of Tom’s accomplishment. 

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


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ASU partnership helps to re-energize the teaching of Pima culture, language

Unique ASU student group works to preserve Native language, culture.
Studies show Native students do better academically with sense of identity.
April 21, 2017

Gila River cohort trains Native American teachers on their home reservation

Native American communities across the U.S. face pressures most of mainstream society never considers, but a unique group of ASU students is helping solve two of the most pressing issues on their reservation: the preservation of identity and language.

Studies have shown that Native students who have a strong sense of their culture and language from an early age do better in school. Still, indigenous languages in North America are disappearing as tribes grapple with how to integrate while maintaining a sense of identity.

To that end, the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort has emerged from a partnership between the Arizona State University Center for Indian Education and the Gila River Indian Community Tribal Education Department, a first-of-its-kind program that trains future teachers on their home reservation with a focus on tribal history and keeping alive the Akimel O’otham language.

After the group’s eight members graduate from ASU next month, they will be uniquely poised to help young members of the Gila River Indian Community maintain “a sense of being and who they are,” said Deborah Chadwick, project director of the Center for Indian Education and head of the cohortThe Gila River Culture & Language Teacher Cohort is also supported through the collaborative work of New College, the Gila River Tribal Education Office, Gila River Culture Coordinator Anthony Gray and Gila River Indian Student Support..

Here’s a look at the group, what they’ve done and what they hope comes next. 

Coursework and capstones

student discusses with teacher

Starleen Somegustava reviews her group's capstone project, which focuses on traditional language proficiency, with instructor Deborah Chadwick during the cohort's Tuesday evening class.

The three-year program for Gila River Indian Community teachers offers standard courses, including science, philosophy, sustainability, gender roles and border politics. It also features curriculum that covers career development, eco-community ethics, tribal history and culture, history of American Indian Education, basic and conversational communication, reading, writing and speaking.

The capstone is separated into two projects:

O'otham Culture and Language Materials — Students have collected and curated materials for use in Pima culture classes. They have also created a database for the resources, which any teacher on the reservation about a half-hour south of Phoenix can access.

Compilation/Evaluation of Parent Language Surveys — Students are analyzing data on parents' language knowledge. They'll create a plan for future Akimel O'otham language classes for the community.

After graduation, five members of the cohort will continue on another year to earn their master’s degrees at ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

The players

gila river

Gila River cohort members work on their capstone project with project director Deborah Chadwick at Casa Blanca Community School.

Nina Allison (BA/MA) — Teacher for Gila River Indian Community's Early Education. "I'm the first in my family to go to a university, and I'm happy with what I've accomplished. I want to teach students what I know, extend their language and establish a classroom where my students are totally immersive."

Hudunigsihbani Antone (BA) — Teaching assistant at St. Peter Indian Mission School, Bapchule, Arizona. "I thought once I was a mom, that was it. This degree is really for my kids. It's also a big stepping-stone for other single moms. It means I have more opportunities, and I will help create more opportunities for others."

Priscilla Espinoza (BA/MA) — Parent educator for Family and Child Education in the Bureau of Indian Education, Casa Blanca Community School. "I heard about the program and thought, 'It's my turn.' I spent many years raising my family and felt it was time to do something for myself. The degree will allow me to continue to help my community and my people. I have the gift of gab, and I'll use it to motivate others."

Marcella Hoover (BA/MA) — Culture teacher at Sacaton Middle School, Sacaton, Arizona. "When the program was initially offered, my first thought was, 'I can't believe I'm actually going to a university!' Once I get the degree, my plans won't really change much. I will continue to be there for my students and the children of our community."

Arlanna Jackson (BA) — Administrative assistant for Gila River Indian Community Tribal Education Department. "Teaching is something I've always wanted to do, and I have the passion for it. I want to help revitalize through songs. Our language is important because it identifies who we are as a people."

Donovan Kyyitan (BA) — Teaching assistant at St. Peter Indian Mission School, Bapchule, Arizona. "My initial reaction to this offering was, 'Finally! Do it now and jump on board.' I want to see our language prosper in the classroom where it's fully in our native tongue with no English."

Starleen Somegustava (BA/MA) — Culture specialist with the Gila River Indian Community's Head Start Program. "Once I get my master's, I would like to teach culture and language in high schools because it's not currently being taught at that level."

Edwardine Thomas (BA/MA) — Parent educator for Family and Child Education in the Bureau of Indian Education. "I'm going to continue to work with both students and parents because a lot of them are not fluent. My ultimate wish is to open a day care with full immersion."


Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs, said that “one of the most pressing issues for tribal nations and communities today is the protection, reclamation and strengthening of their tribal languages and concomitant cultures.”

He added that ASU President Michael Crow wants the university to “support tribal nations in achieving futures of their own making.”

With this in mind, the cohort that came together three years ago is working their plan to help preserve the culture and language in their Native community of about 20,000.

Anthony Gray, cultural coordinator for the Gila River Indian Community, said he has seen an uptick from Native youth who want to know more about their history and language.

"They recognize that culture and language grounds them and gives them roots," Gray said. "As long as those roots are strong, we'll stay resilient and always be here."

He called the Akimel O’otham language "a gift."


mentoring at gila river

Mentor Samuel Catanach (right) discusses the group's capstone project with students (from left) Priscilla Espinoza, Hudunigsihbani Antone and Arlanna Jackson during their Tuesday evening course at Casa Blanca Community School.

Samuel Catanach, a graduate student with ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and one of two academic mentors serving the cohort, said interacting with the group has also been a gift.

"There's a broad age range of the cohort members, and it's really been cool to see how everybody is working together and seeing the older ones do particularly well," Catanach said. "I learn just as much from them as they do from me."

The mentors are ASU graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They meet weekly with the eight students. They tutor them in writing and organizational skills, and they work with course instructors in providing additional student support on major assignments.


students talking

Edwardine Thomas (left) couldn't be happier to show off her graduation robe Tuesday evening at Casa Blanca Community School.

Two celebrations are better than one, and the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort will be recognized twice.

The first graduation ceremony will be take place on May 4 on the Gila River Indian Reservation. In addition to Brayboy, dignitaries will include Gila River Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Lt. Gov. Monica Antone and Marlene Tromp, dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Students will receive their diplomas at ASU's American Indian Convocation on May 10 at ASU Gammage on the Tempe campus.

Top photo: Cohort leader Deborah Chadwick and Donovan Kyyitan are getting ready for graduation next month. Kyyitan says he wants to lead classes in his native language with no English. Photos and video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now