Natahnee Nuay Winder considers her next opportunity a chance to continue the work started by a renowned Native American educator and reformer more than 75 years ago.
The Western PhD student, a member of Nevada’s Duckwater Shoshone Nation, with an intertribal heritage of Navajo, Pyramid Lake Paiute and Southern Ute, is heading to Yale University this week where she will become the sixth Henry Roe Cloud Dissertation Writing Fellow, a prestigious position granted to one doctoral student each year.
The fellowship, which provides the recipient the time and resources available at Yale to complete one’s dissertation, honours the legacy of Roe Cloud, a member of the Winnebago Nation of Nebraska and graduate of Yale College, 1910. A tireless critic of federal Indian assimilation programs, and a proponent of increased educational opportunities for American Indians, Roe Cloud’s leadership helped transform American Indian higher education.
“It’s very exciting for me. Roe Cloud is considered the first full-blooded Native American to earn his bachelor and masters from Yale. He did a lot of work with the Indian Reorganization Act in the United States, believed in incorporating indigenous ways of thinking into mainstream ideology. He talked about conditions of boarding schools, poverty and living conditions, living on and off reserve,” explained Winder, who grew up on Southern Ute and Pyramid Lake Paiute reservations.
“Even though that was done so long ago, it still applies today. His findings are still relevant to native communities. For me, doing the fellowship, I look at it as continuing his work, even though he started talking about residential schools and boarding schools (in 1928), I’m doing this now because those impacts are still around.”
Winder, who holds two BAs in Native American Studies from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, has focused her studies on nation building, leadership and social welfare. She came to Western for a PhD in Sociology as a direct-entry student.
“I wanted to work with a supervisor who was still working with an indigenous community, and still fostering those relationships. With a lot of indigenous communities, researchers will come in and we won’t hear from them again,” she said, noting she was happy to come and work with Sociology professor Jerry White.
Winder’s dissertation work is currently being supervised by White and Susan Hill, History professor and Director of First Nations Studies at Western.
Western was also a good fit because of its proximity to indigenous communities and the services it provides to its indigenous students, Winder continued.
Her dissertation is a comparative analysis of the residential school history of Canada and the United States, based on the perspectives of Indigenous university students using photo-voice – a process using photography to answer research questions – to gauge the impact they feel the residential school system has left in their lives.
For the study, she interviewed 30 participants from the University of New Mexico (16) and Western (14), facilitating group discussions and conducting one-on-one interviews focusing on photographs as a means to discuss how students continually feel the impact of residential schools.
“There’s not that much literature or research on how descendants feel they’ve been impacted and I’m looking at the two (American and Canadian) systems together because they were going on around the same time period,” Winder said.
Winder’s fellowship will provide her one year to finish coding and writing her dissertation at Yale. When she is finished, she hopes to work as an academic and remain active in the community.
“I’m very honoured and humbled to be here at Western. This is not my territory. I’m a guest here,” she said.
“I’m also a firm believer that I’m just a facilitator for the research – the stories the students have shared with me, I’m very privileged they felt comfortable entrusting me to share their story. Without them, the study wouldn’t have happened. I’m very grateful for that and I want to make sure I’m being a good facilitator in retelling their story,” she went on.
“I am fortunate and contribute my graduate success and being awarded the Yale fellowship to the support that I have received and continue to receive from my supervisor, family, friends, study participants, my tribal communities, First Nations Students Department, Sociology Department and Indigenous Support Services. I am successful because everyone continues to play a huge role in helping and guiding me.”