Tag Archives: Native American students

First Nations Student Reintroducing Wildflowers in Michigan

A Native American student’s inspiration to change a one-acre plot on the north side of Lake Superior State University’s (LSSU) Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan campus into a living, breathing laboratory came from a course in human environments taught by LSSU biology professor Dennis Merkel.

Carla Marcellus, a senior from Ontario’s Mississauga First Nation, is launching a pilot project to reintroduce wildflowers common to the area before invasive plants took over.

“Most of the species in urban areas are a hodgepodge of plants—weeds—from all over the world,” Marcellus said in an LSSU release. “Over time, they have edged out native species like prairie grass. My goal is to reintroduce a biodiversity that supports the region’s original ecosystems.”

Other than prairie grass this includes a variety of native wildflowers, flowering bushes and trees, all of which provide habitat for a number of insects and animals from butterflies to migrating songbirds.

Marcellus’s project builds on a four-year-old initiative started by grounds director Steve Gregory, who saved LSSU thousands of dollars by letting a hill overlooking the International Bridge go feral. She will take the feral approach and refine it.

“I’ve researched what native plant species prefer an open, hilly slope, such as what we have on this section of campus, and settled on a mix of grass, trees, and shrubs that will grow relatively fast, provide for something that’s pleasing to the eye, and still fit within LSSU’s goal for low-cost sustainability,” she said in the release.

She’ll start her project by pulling out invasive species and replacing them with indigenous plants like honeysuckle, milkweed (a Monarch butterfly favorite), and Brown-Eyed Susans.

Marcellus became a certified forestry and fish and wildlife technician through Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, and has brought her Canadian credits to Michigan to be used toward a bachelor’s degree in ecological advocacy.

Marcellus is getting help spreading the word from LSSU biology professor Gregory Zimmerman, and will go over a comprehensive plan for 2012 at a public meeting being held November 30 at 7 p.m. in the Cisler Center.

Contact her by e-mailing cmarcellus@lssu.edu.

Shakopee Support Native American Education With Donations

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) of Prior Lake, Minnesota recently showed its support for Native American education with donations totaling $755,500 because, as they said in a release, “the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”

A large part of the donations—$585,000—went to the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado as a contribution to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation challenge grant, which will match up to $750,000 over the next three years to establish a scholarship for Native American students pursuing business or entrepreneurship degrees.

“The American Indian College Fund has helped thousands of young Indian people get an education. We are happy to be able to encourage our Indian students to continue their education so that they can help their people. Having an educated and qualified Indian workforce for the future is very important for all tribes in maintaining their sovereignty,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks in a release.

Richard Williams, AICF president and CEO, noted the community’s leadership and praised them for “thinking seven generations into the future.” He went on to say that the money will “help Native American students attain a college degree, creating hope for a better future for them, their families, and their communities.”

SMSC also gave $35,000 each to the Division of Indian Works (DIW) in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Flandreau Indian School in Flandreau, South Dakota. With the money DIW was able to purchase more than 1,000 coats for Native American students. The school will use its funds to support the Positive Best Behavior Program, which rewards students for being respectful, responsible and safe, and extracurricular activities like rodeo club and culture club.

Other grantees include St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, which received $20,000; Catching the Dream in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which received $10,000; Circle of Nations in Wahpeton, North Dakota, which received $8,000; Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which received $7,500; and St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana, which received $5,000.

Grad Student Plans to Reintroduce Buffalo on Reservation

A Montana State University graduate student who shares his father’s dream of reintroducing buffalo to a Wyoming Indian reservation has received a national fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Jason Baldes of Fort Washakie, Wyoming, said the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship will help him work toward bringing buffalo back to the Wind River Indian Reservation and promote both ecological and community health. Studying for his master’s degree in land resources and environmental sciences (LRES), Baldes is the 11th MSU graduate student to receive the STAR award since 1995. His fellowship amounts to $87,000 over two years.

“I was very surprised,” Baldes said. “It’s a ticket into accomplishing something we as a family have always really, really wanted.”

Baldes, 33, is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and long committed to improving life on the reservation. The youngest of nine children and father of four, he grew up hunting and exploring the back country with his father Richard, now retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Riding horses together in the mountains, they saw deer, elk, moose, pronghorn antelope and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, but never buffalo.

MSU Jason Baldes Father Buffalo 270x190 Grad Student Plans to Reintroduce Buffalo on Reservation

Richard Baldes is a Shoshone wildlife biologist on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Wolves are welcome and protected on the reservation. His son Jason represents the next generation of Native biologists.

Buffalo—the term Baldes prefers over bison—is the only large ungulate missing from the Wind River Indian Reservation, which has seen a resurgence of wildlife since tribal leaders instituted game laws in 1983, said Richard Baldes, who was a leader in that effort. At age 70, he said he has never seen buffalo on the reservation. In fact, he thinks they haven’t lived there since the late 19th century.

“They deserve to be here,” Richard Baldes said. “They deserve to be respected because of what they are and what they did, especially for Native people.”

Jason Baldes said buffalo are culturally significant, and their reintroduction will improve ecological and community health on the Wind River reservation. For the portion of his project that deals with health, he plans to work with established community groups and use a holistic approach that incorporates cultural, spiritual and dietary aspects. For the portion that focuses on buffalo, he will start by analyzing habitat and its viability for buffalo. Next summer during the growing season, he will examine range conditions.

He wants to gradually build a buffalo herd of more than 1,000 animals, a number based on research by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other conservation organizations, Baldes said. The herd might originate with quarantined buffalo from Yellowstone National Park or buffalo from the Henry Mountains area of south-central Utah, and Canada. The Wind River herd should be genetically reputable, meaning that the buffalo would contain no cattle genes. It should be certified disease free and managed as wildlife.

“It shouldn’t be treated as just another cow population,” Baldes said.

Richard Baldes said, “We don’t want anything to do with pens, ear tagging, cowboys chasing them, rounding them up. That’s livestock, cowboy stuff. Buffalo are wild animals, and we want to treat them as such and give them the respect they deserve, as we do with all other wildlife.”

Baldes is proposing that the Wind River buffalo herd share 595,000 acres on the north side of the reservation with certified organic cattle owned by the Northern Arapaho.

“Studies have shown they don’t intermingle,” Baldes said.

Baldes said Shoshone leaders have already given him permission to pursue his project, but he still needs support from Northern Arapaho leaders. Shoshone and Northern Arapaho both live on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming.

His desire to bring buffalo to the reservation began as a boy and grew stronger when he and his father traveled to Africa 15 years ago. While spending six weeks in Kenya and Tanzania, the two were caught up in a massive migration that involved an estimated 3 million wildebeests, as well as zebras, hyenas and lions.

“It was fantastic, unbelievable,” said Richard Baldes.

As impressive as it was, Jason Baldes said it made him think about the 60 million buffalo that once roamed the United States. At the same time—continuing on his own to Zanzibar and Uganda where he helped with elephant research—he compared conditions in Third World countries with those in the United States. When he finally returned home, the then-teenager had new focus.

“It became a mission of mine to work to improve the life and reservation as a whole,” Baldes said.

Baldes began working closely with his community and co-founded two nonprofit organizations. The Young Warriors Society works with the youth of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, emphasizing cultural and traditional values to overcome socio-economic, political and environmental issues. The Wind River Alliance is dedicated to the health and protection of the Wind River watershed.

MSU Jason Baldes Dog Buffalo 270x204 Grad Student Plans to Reintroduce Buffalo on Reservation

MSU land resources graduate student Jason Baldes, shown with his dog Beah, is trying to restore buffalo to the plains in Wyoming.

Baldes also coordinated youth leadership camps to raise interest in biology, ecology and environmental sciences. He helped conduct camps on other reservations in the Missouri River Watershed. He has been involved in protecting natural areas and cultural and sacred sites that are important to the Wind River tribes.

As an MSU undergraduate in LRES, Baldes was selected for an internship with the National Science Foundation’s WildFIRE Partnerships for International Research and Education. He will travel to New Zealand for that in February and March. Baldes also studied the effects of carbon dioxide on fish survival and development with the U.S. Geological Survey. He received second place for a presentation to the 2009 Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

His future is bright, according to several mentors.

“He has strong people skills and can work successfully to bring community members together with scientists and administrators to craft solutions to community sustainability,” said Cliff Montagne, MSU professor of soil science and Baldes’ undergraduate and graduate adviser.

Peter Gogan, supervisory wildlife biologist with the USGS-Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, encouraged Baldes to work toward undergraduate and advanced degrees and identified USGS funds that were available to Native American students.

Gogan attributed much of Baldes’ success to self-motivation and the support he has received from his parents and wife.

Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, executive director of Hopa Mountain and former director of Native Waters at MSU, called Baldes “an exceptional young scientist.” She said she recommended that he attend MSU because she knew he would find strong mentors at MSU. She also knew that he would have interdisciplinary opportunities that would build his knowledge base and help him carry out his goals.

“I think one thing that makes Jason just an outstanding young leader is that he really has a vision for his community,” she added.

Richard Baldes said of his son, “We are very proud of him.”

Note: This article was developed under STAR Fellowship Assistance Agreement No. FP917294 awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It has not been formally reviewed by the EPA. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Jason Eric Baldes and EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this article.”

Student Explores Renewable Energy Options for the Upper Sioux Indian Community

At the University of Minnesota, Morris, it’s hard not to be environmentally conscious. Two massive wind turbines whirl on the horizon, reflective solar panels dot the campus, and a gasification plant periodically billows steam near the athletic fields. Apparently, environmental consciousness rubbed off on Seth Elsen ’12, of Shelton, Washington.

Last year Elsen, a political science and American Indian Studies major, coordinated publicity for the Regional Fitness Center’s solar thermal panels through the Students Using Natural Energy (SUN-E) project. This year he’s working as an AmeriCorps Student In Service exploring the possibilities of renewable energy for the Upper Sioux Indian Community.

The Upper Sioux Community is interested in lessening its environmental footprint. So, when the opportunity arose to work with a student through the University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns, they took it. Located just south of Granite Falls, the area holds a wealth of wind and solar potential. Elsen is researching which combination of renewable energy options would make the most sense for the community. His research is based on maps and data compiled by the United States Department of Energy, as well as studies conducted on the area. He is also analyzing current energy use throughout the community and pinpointing needs.

A presentation by Elsen to the tribal council will be the end result of this project. His research will be a blueprint from which they can move forward, if they so choose.

Elsen says the project really captured his interests, both in American Indian Studies and in renewable energy. He appreciates the experience working directly with the tribe. Elsen, an enrolled member of the Brothertown Indian Nation of Wisconsin and a descendant from the Mohegan Tribe, would like to go into tribal policy after graduation. He says, “It’s a great way to give back.”

Students In Service is an AmeriCorps program that encourages college students to enroll as part-time AmeriCorps members. Coordinated by Minnesota Campus Compact, an organization that promotes civic engagement on Minnesota college campuses, the program allows interested students to work in a variety of positions to help better their communities. Qualifying activities include academic and co-curricular service learning, internships with nonprofit organizations, certain kinds of practicum hours, federal or state-funded community service work-study, and most kinds of volunteer work. Students commit to 300 hours of service throughout the year.

The University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns is a community outreach program that serves as a point-of-entry to the resources of the university. Small towns, local units of government, K–12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and other university units are able to utilize CST’s resources as they work on rural issues or make contributions to rural society. CST’s mission is to focus the university’s attention and marshal its resources toward assisting Minnesota’s small towns with locally identified issues while creating applied learning opportunities for faculty and students.

Tribal College Consortium to Receive $18.9 Million for Jobs Training

United Tribes Technical College was one of 32 community colleges nationwide selected to receive a portion of the nearly $500 million provided through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program funded by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education.

United Tribes will serve as the facilitator for the Tribal College Consortium for Developing Montana and North Dakota Workforce (TCC DeMaND), which brings together Cankdeska Cikana Community College, in Fort Totten, North Dakota; Fort Peck Community College, in Poplar, Montana; and Aaniiih Nakoda College, in Harlem, Montana, formerly known as Fort Belknap College.

David M. Gipp United Tribes Technical College 270x402 Tribal College Consortium to Receive $18.9 Million for Jobs Training

David M. Gipp, UTTC president

“This is very significant to these tribal colleges, the tribes and the surrounding communities they serve,” said David M. Gipp, United Tribes president, in a release. “These are targeted resources to effectively train and educate students and sustain regional job development.”

With the $18.9 million the TCC DeMaND program aims to:

  • accelerate progress for low-skilled and other workers;
  • improve retention and achievement rates and/or reduce time in training;
  • build programs that meet industry needs, including developing career pathways;
  • strengthen online and technology-enabled learning.

As part of the program United Tribes will create a welding certificate program and electrician short-term training certificate. Fort Peck will create welding and certified nurse assistant (CNA) program. Aaniih Nakoda will also develop a CNA program to meet healthcare shortages on the Fort Belknap Reservation. Cankdeska is developing a new associate of applied science degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The schools expect to impact 1,800 students, both Native American and non-Native.

Yankton Sioux Student First in Tribe to Earn a Physics Degree

Charee Peters wasn’t expecting to break any barriers when she made the decision to change her major from theater to physics while an undergraduate student at the University of Denver, but that’s exactly what she did.

When she was handed that bachelor’s degree in 2011, she became the first member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe to earn a degree in physics.

“It was very unexpected. It’s very surprising that in all the generations and people that have been in the tribe, none have done what I have done,” she said. “It’s a bit distressing to know that I am paving the way for others like me, but I’m pushing through to represent my tribe and to show the world what Native Americans can do.”

Over the next five years she plans on having her master’s, wants to be working toward a doctorate in physics or astrophysics and would like to have a couple research papers published.

She’s already working toward her first goal by attending Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She expects to be done with her master’s in 2013 and after she gets her Ph.D. she wants to become a professor or work in a research lab or observatory. But what does being an astrophysicist entail?

She says it has to do with “studying and applying physics to celestial objects in the universe. There are many sub-fields in astronomy and astrophysics though, so depending on whom you ask, you may get different answers about what he/she specifically does. For example, you can be an observational astrophysicist, which would include collecting data using an observatory on Earth or a telescope in space like the Hubble space telescope. Another astrophysicist may be studying the origin of the universe. Most of my research has been theoretical and has included me working at a computer to model what the light looks like from exploding stars called supernovae. I have also been working on an archeoastronomy project where I’m looking for cosmic alignments with structures from ancient cities in Bolivia.”

Peters is working on the supernovae research project with Jennifer Hoffman, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Denver.

Hoffman explained what they are doing: “We are creating 3-D computational simulations of the ways that stars explode when they become supernovae. When we look at the polarized light emitted by a faraway supernova, we can figure out the shape of its explosion. Most of these explosions turn out to be not spherical, but instead asymmetric in some way. The computer models let us create a hypothetical asymmetric stellar explosion in the computer and simulate what we would see if we pointed our telescopes at it. Then matching the simulation with the actual observed data allows us to learn more about the detailed shapes of these cosmic explosions, even though they are too far away to image. The ultimate goal is to find out what caused the asymmetries to occur and use this information to learn more about what the star was like before it exploded.”

Hoffman said it’s Peters’ “rare combination of idealism and groundedness” that has made her such a successful student and scientist. She said working with Peters “constantly reminds me that being able to learn things about the universe is really cool! At the same time, she’s very down to earth and practical; she never loses sight of what’s important to her, and that gives her self-confidence while helping her keep everything in perspective. She’s been a terrific colleague. I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in the future.”

But what advice does this super student have for other Native American students?

“Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do. It’s so easy to make excuses, which can keep you from doing your best,” she says. “Where you come from and the circumstances that you’ve been through do not determine what you can achieve; only you do. If you work hard and always put your best foot forward, you can do anything.”

LEAD Summer Business Institute Deadline Extended

The deadline for the LEAD Summer Business Institute has been extended through January 20, 2012, so if you’re a high school junior of Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian descent, you could still be a part of this college preparatory program.

According to the Native American Finance Officers Association website, the institute is a three to four week program where students live on a college campus to learn about business and finance careers. Participating students last year attended Dartmouth College, Northwestern University and Stanford University.

“In addition to taking classes in marketing, accounting, finance, economics and ethics, students also spent two days on campus learning about the relevance of business, finance and economic development for Native communities and Tribal organizations,” the website says. “During this time, Tribal leaders and Native people working in the financial services industry serve as motivational speakers and help students to understand how they can make an impact in their communities by pursuing careers in finance.”

View the application here or for more information contact NAFOA by calling 602-540-0736 or e-mailing lead@nafoa.org.

MIT Summer Research Program Seeks Diverse Candidates

The Summer Research Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) started in 1986 to address the underrepresentation of minority students, including Native Americans, in engineering and science fields in the United States.

According to, Dr. Sophia Cisneros, a Dr. Martin Luther King Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT, the program rarely receives applications from interested Native American students, and as a Native from the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw tribes, Cisneros would like to see this change.

The program is meant for sophomores, juniors and non-graduating seniors who could benefit from spending a summer on the MIT campus, working in a research laboratory with experienced scientists and engineers.

“Students who participate in this program will be better prepared and motivated to pursue advanced degrees, thereby helping to sustain a rich talent pool in critical areas of research and innovation,” says the program website.

For more information visit the MIT Summer Research Program website, call 617-253-4860 or e-mail mit-srp@mit.edu.

Applications—available here—are accepted from mid-November through February 3.

Golfer Has Drive to Help Native American Youth

Alexandrea Schulte Golfer Has Drive to Help Native American Youth

Alexandrea Schulte

I know very little—if anything—about the big-ticket game of golf. But Alexandrea “Alex” Schulte, 23, does. At the budding age of 14, the American Junior Golf Association named Schulte one of the Top 50 teenage players in the country.

Schulte, of Naples, Florida, said she’s been playing the club-and-ball sport for 15 years, since she was 8. Her father, Robert Schulte, would travel across Texas with his softball team to compete in tournaments; Alexandrea, a Northern Ute, said she’d go for the ride.

In the downtime between matches, Alexandrea would join the team on the golf course and whack a bucket of dimpled orbs into the Lone Star sky. That’s all it took; Alexandrea was hooked.

But golf isn’t where her ambitions end.

Although Alexandrea hopes to one day go pro and emulously compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) against the world’s premiere female golfers, she also longs for something much more: to inspire Native American youth on reservations spanning Turtle Island.

Alexandrea is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas; she earned a degree in communications in 2010. Her baccalaureate, coupled with her golf and motivation, Alexandrea said she’s determined to acquaint Native kids with their own talents by visiting them in the classroom.

But Alexandrea is an urban Indian, long since removed from her own reservation. So her question inevitably is: Where to begin?

Indeed. That’s the convoluted question that plagues urban Indians from Los Angeles to the Bronx: How, God, can I help my people?

“I’ve always wanted to go to schools, speak with the kids, interact with them,” Alexandrea said. “It’s a personal goal. I think I want to go to reservations during the off-season and meet kids. I think I can help … I’m just putting myself out there.”

“She’s very proud of her Native American heritage,” said Robert Schulte. “Her mom was very proud of her heritage and she instilled that (pride) in Alex.”

Alexandrea continues to barnstorm across the country competing in golf tourneys—several held just miles from plight-ravaged reservations.

“I have visited some reservations in Arizona and New Mexico while playing golf,” she said. “It was really hard … I noticed that the kids needed something to inspire them.”

Alexandrea Schulte and Shauna Estes Taylor e1326126267562 270x179 Golfer Has Drive to Help Native American Youth

Alexandrea Schulte, right, and University of Arkansas coach Shauna Estes-Taylor, watch Schulte’s shot in midair at the first hole during the 2008 NCAA competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Play was suspended due to inclement weather. “With the wind blowing that hard (Shauna) was out there helping us get the right yardage,” said Schulte.

Shauna Estes-Taylor, Alexandrea’s golf coach from the University of Arkansas, said Alexandrea is resourceful and eager, and if anyone can find a way to connect with organizations that help kids on reservations, she can.

“She’s super proud to be a Native American,” she said. “I think Alex will show people that she’s out there, and she’ll use her sport and education to succeed in her goal and her dreams. She’s a go-getter like that.”

It took about 30 minutes into our conversation before Alexandrea revealed to me the source of her selflessness. It’s an intimate story about her mother who died from Lymphoma when Alexandrea was only a sophomore.

Alexandrea, then about 13 or 14, would sit spellbound at her mother’s side and listen undivided to stories about her grandfather, Amos Perank. Amos, according to Alexandrea, was one day about to be forcibly removed to a distant boarding school, far from his people. Government agents threatened to cut his hair and strip him of his language and traditional garb. But Perank would have none of that, so he ran away and resisted the government and his removal.

“It’s (that) fighting spirit in us,” said Alexandrea. “I remember hearing about that.”

And it’s that same fighting spirit that Alexandrea said she resolves to honor by helping her people in any way she can, especially the kids.

“My mom always told me to never forget who you are. I always tried to remember that—everyday,” said a melancholy Alexandrea.

She’d someday like to coach women’s golf in the athletic department of her alma mater—the University of Arkansas.

We spoke for 45 minutes about sports, plight, rez kids and all manner of complications she may face on the journey ahead. But Alexandrea is determined to meet her objective. Hurdles be damned.

“Any discouragement would give me the goal to push forward,” she said. “This will take a while. But it can be done. It’s a long road, but I’m willing to take any challenge.

“So many Native American kids have so much talent. I think they just have to have someone to look up to,” she said.

If you’re a teacher or school administrator and you’d like Alexandrea to visit with your Native American students, she can be contacted at alex88golfer@yahoo.com.

Alexandrea Schulte Florida e1326126221524 Golfer Has Drive to Help Native American Youth

This image of Alexandrea Schulte was taken at Bear’s Paw Country Club, in Naples, Florida, on December 15, 2011. (Photo courtesy Alexandrea Schulte)

Tribal College and EPA Join Forces to Promote Environmental Careers

The Environmental Protection Agency and Haskell Indian Nations University plan on partnering to support Native American students who are interested in pursuing environmental and scientific careers.

“EPA wants to increase Haskell University’s awareness of federal opportunities while helping to create an environmentally conscious campus through student-led initiatives,” reads a press release. “The agreement also focuses on student employment and volunteer programs, research participation, lectures and seminars on environmental issues, and community outreach.”

Haskell and EPA officials will be signing the agreement on Wednesday, February 1 at Haskell, which is a tribal college in Lawrence, Kansas that enrolls more than 1,000 Native American and Alaska Native students every year.