Native Sun News: Indian students seek education in the world

The following story was written and reported by David Michaud, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Autumn White Eyes

Indian students travel the world seeking education
By David Michaud
Native Sun News Correspondent

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION - Some students dream about leaving the Reservation to attend a college that will give them new experiences. Others take it a step farther and wish to travel to an entirely different continent to search out those experiences.

For four students from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, coming to realize this dream has taken a winding, sometimes difficult road.

For Autumn White Eyes her educational experience took her all the way to Glasgow, Scotland for her Fall Semester in 2012. White Eyes, an incoming senior at Dartmouth who is studying Native American Studies and English, decided that she wanted an out of the ordinary experience.

“I decided to study abroad because I had an older role model-friend, Maka Clifford, who traveled to Japan and came back to my high school in Pine Ridge (Red Cloud Indian School) to talk about his experience,” said White Eyes.

Along with White Eyes two other Red Cloud students, Laree Pourier and Sarah Herman, also were fortunate enough to study abroad. Pourier made the trip to Cape Town, South Africa for the Spring 2013 semester, returning in early June.

The reason that Pourier, a Social Justice major at Marquette, chose South Africa was because of the parallels indigenous South Africans faced when compared with Native Americans in the U.S.

“The classes were focused in Social Justice issues and that was appealing to me,” said Pourier. “Also, with the history of colonialism and genocide it was all relative to me as a Native American woman.”

Going into the country Pourier felt like many people who travel to Indian Reservations for the first time do; scared, nervous and unsure exactly what to expect from a foreign people.

“I didn’t know much about South America or what their culture or even cities would be like,” said Pourier, who never forgot why she went to South Africa in the first place. “I wanted to see what steps Indigenous South Africans were taking towards healing.”

Luckily, Pourier’s job took her right into the area where she could see up close and personal. She worked in a township, which is similar to an Indian Reservation except in South Africa where they put all their Indigenous.

“It was beautiful to see the similarity between their struggles and ours,” said Pourier, who worked with the Indigenous as part of her class work and involved organizing community gatherings and events.

Pourier was not the only overseas traveler who was able to make connections between her people and those in other countries though.

In Scotland White Eyes was able to draw parallels between one of their past events and past events here at home.

“I learned more about some of Scotland’s history and the people in the highlands were forced to move into the cities in the late 1800’s, and in a lot of ways I think that translated into some Native American history,” said White Eyes.

While these students have experienced other countries and cultures one student from Pine Ridge is just getting ready for her journey.

Destiny Leftwich is currently preparing herself for, possibly life-altering, experience. She is set to travel to New Castle, Australia (about 60 miles North of Sydney) on July 11.

While in Australia, like all other study abroad students, Leftwich, an Elementary Education major at the University of South Dakota, will be required to keep up her class work along with integrating herself in the community.

She believes that her culture and the culture of the Aboriginals can bring them closer together.

“I am hoping to find a lot of similarities, along with the differences, between our culture and theirs. I want to build networks between our people’s,” said Leftwich. “I’ve heard from a mentor about their way of incorporating restorative justice into their culture and it sounds very interesting and I would love to learn more.”

Having three classes in Aboriginal Studies is a good start for Leftwich to begin to study their culture, she believes.

With all the positives that come with studying abroad, White Eyes, and Pourier say that taking classes in another country is something that more students should aspire to.

Like with Leftwich, she had a plan from when she entered college that this was what she wanted to do.

“When I started college as a freshman I promised myself that I would participate in a study abroad program,” said Leftwich. “I was a little afraid knowing that I had to go alone, but I knew this was something I wanted to do.”

Seeing others like Leftwich already leaving for study abroad programs Pourier believes that more students from Reservations can strive with these courses.

“I think Natives can be more than just American citizens, they can be world students and world citizens. We can identify with other peoples struggles,” said Pourier.

So while this upcoming semester Leftwich travels alone to Australia, perhaps soon Natives will be traveling in droves to far off countries.

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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