by Zoe Higheagle Strong, Executive Director of Tribal Relations
Dear family and friends,
The staff at the Tribal Relations Office and Native American Programs offers up our prayers and friendship during this time of crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our work plans have been altered, but our commitment to Native American students, families, and communities remain strong.
We have assembled task force teams with Native American Health Sciences (Director, Dr. Naomi Bender) and other key departments at WSU to see how we can partners with tribes to address urgent needs, such as, internet and broadband access, youth engagement and support, and grant writing efforts so that tribes can apply for urgent COVID-19 grants. I want to thank WSU faculty and staff for volunteering their time to meet these urgent grant writing needs!
I also want to thank our Native American Program staff Anthony Brave, Outreach Coordinator, Ken Lokensgard, Assistant Director for the Center of Native American Research and Collaboration, Joelle Berg, Retention Specialist, and Patty Iulo, Fiscal Specialist and Native American Sciences staff Naomi Bender, Director, Lonnie Nelson, Assistant Director, and Evanlene Melting Tallow, Outreach and Program Coordinator for revisioning programs and services to serve Native students virtually. We now have two major summer camp opportunities for high school Native students that can engage, motivate and educate them in STEAM related career fields and receive free computer device: (a) Native Youth Exploring Higher Education Virtual Camp and (b) Na-ha-shnee STEAM Health Summer Institute.
On another note, I want to congratulate all of our students who persevered and graduated this semester! One of the graduates was Faith Price, Director for Native American Programs who graduated with a masters’ degree in Prevention Science. I also congratulate Faith on her new position as Community Prevention Coordinator at the All Nations Health Center in Missoula. For those who do not know, Faith grew up on the Flathead Reservation. As Native people, we often feel a call to come back home and be close to family and serve our communities. Although we are incredibly sad to lose such an amazing director who has poured out her heart for the students, we celebrate Faith as she returns home to work and live near her family.
Faith stated, “I will be doing substance use and suicide prevention work for the Native community there, including Native students at the University of Montana. I’ll be living on the nearby Flathead Indian Reservation, which is where I grew up and my parents and younger brother still live. My daughter, sister, a niece and a bunch of nephews live in Missoula. I’m excited to get back to Montana to be with my family, and serve my home community. However, I know I will always have a home in Pullman now, too, with my Cougar Family. It has been a very rewarding nine years on the Palouse, and I have enjoyed getting to know many friends, community members, and of course, STUDENTS during my time there! Thank you all for welcoming me in, and for all the good memories over the past years. I am now a WSU alum, and plan to be active in the Ku-ah-mah Alumni Society. Go Cougs!!!”
Faith wishes that she could say good-bye in person, but unfortunately, we cannot gather at this time. Faith’s last day at WSU is May 15th. Additionally, I would like to congratulate Tony Brave on his acceptance to New York University Steinhardt’s Media, Culture, and Communication doctoral program which he will be starting this upcoming school year. We will miss Faith and Tony but trust that WSU will hire great individuals to continue their work.
As all of us figure out our “new normal” in work and life, please remember that our staff cares and is here to support Native American students, families and communities. We look forward to hearing all of your stories of resilience over the next year. Unfortunately, we have been through pandemics before. And, we are still here, and we are still strong!
Zoe Higheagle Strong, Ph.D., (Nez Perce)
Executive Director, Tribal Relations/Special Assistant to the Provost
Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology-College of Education