‘The perspective that indigenous people have is so valuable toward solving the problems of the future.’
“I’m very proud to be Shinnecock. My mom studied American history at Dartmouth and my mom is involved in my education. She would review all of my curricula, and if there was something that she disagreed with, she was an advocate for me in the classroom. The New York State curriculum has no requirements that students are taught about indigenous people, specifically Algonquin people who are the people that inhabited this island. I come from a family that has a lot of educators. I was raised to work really hard to educate people. It’s something that I’m happy to do — to share my culture, history, thoughts and perspectives.
That’s why diversity is so important because sometimes it just takes a different perspective to look at problems to get to new and better solutions.
“It’s interesting because of how I was raised in my culture; I really do have a different way of thinking about things. I noticed it a lot in law school. I went to law school in Michigan, and so my classmates were, for the most part, very wealthy, white, Midwestern people. I think only like 2 percent of attorneys are Native attorneys. And so, when the professors would pose questions to us, they would get so quiet and were fascinated by my perspective. And their comments were like, ‘This is something that we would have never thought of,’ or ‘We would never look at the problem like this.’ That’s why diversity is so important because sometimes it just takes a different perspective to look at problems to get to new and better solutions. In law school, I was able to learn about tribal sovereignty. I specifically studied indigenous law and policy, not only at my law school, but I did an Indian law summer program. It was a very small group of students with the world’s top experts.
“The perspective that indigenous people have is so valuable toward solving the problems of the future. It’s just something that’s passed down through us from our elders. But it’s a lifelong thing. When we’re young, our elders look for whatever is special in us and then help, train, guide us and put us on the path toward being able to have an impact in the world. And that’s something that I think is different than the outside culture. We’re given these roles at a really young age but also given the tools to be successful. And that’s something that I’m just grateful for.”
Interviewed by Jay Max