Native American Studies
by Caroline Lupfer Kurtz
Currently she is winding up a research project on the Blackfeet starvation of winter 1883 under the guidance of Professor Richmond Clow in the Native American studies department. Next year she plans to design a masters program combining anthropology and communication studies and then hopes to enter a doctoral program either here or perhaps at the University of Arizona.
Ultimately she envisions a career in education on the Blackfeet Reservation or anywhere there is a concentration of American Indian students.
The time has come to learn about our culture the good, the bad and the ugly and expand our world view that way, Juneau says.
The possibilities for gaining this knowledge now seem limitless, thanks in part to the McNair Scholars Program.
In addition to the regular undergraduate requirements, McNair Scholars must complete and present a research project of their own devising. This spring the National Conference on Undergraduate Research will attract a number of McNair Scholars from around the country to UM for three days of presentations and workshops.
According to UMs McNair Program Director Larry LaCounte, the aim of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented groups in the professoriate. As more students from other McNair programs come to UM for their graduate work, LaCounte hopes to see a rise in the number of undergraduate applicants here.
A key element of the program is the student-mentor relationship, LaCounte says. A partnership based on mutual respect and interest is critical because a faculty mentor must support the academic goals of his or her students by teaching them research methods and strengthening academic weaknesses.
When the time comes to apply to graduate school, LaCounte says, the program can help with GRE test practice, while mentors use their professional networks to link students with positions elsewhere.
A growing legacy
Clow helped Juneau define her research topic and pointed her in the direction of Special Collections in the Mansfield Library.
My central question is, What was the turning point in Blackfeet history where we became so totally dependent on the federal government? Juneau says. What happened to bring us to that point and what happened afterward?
Juneau thinks the events of the winter of 1883 were pivotal because of the sheer number of Indians who died of starvation as a result of Congress failure to deliver promised annuities and the pressure of mining and cattle interests to further reduce reservation territory.
To me this seems to be where the people lost their way, Juneau says. She likens it to post-traumatic stress disorder and says that stress of broken promises, and loss of family, language and culture is still being dealt with today and is still hard to talk about.
Juneau says she had known little of that history before undertaking this research. She plans to finish her work this year and publish the story in some form or another, if only for the Blackfeet tribe to use in its high school and community college.
I want to tell the story of Blackfeet resilience in the face of severe hardship, she says. That people didnt talk about it was a way of self-preservation, of coping. But we are still here because those earlier generations pulled themselves together and re-emerged as a new Blackfeet nation. Its time to learn about these heroes.
I would not have been able to focus on my higher education without this scholarship and its demands for academic excellence, the support of my mentor and other faculty, and [the scholarships] financial support.
Juneau says her experience at UM has been an awakening and has led to her understanding that there are people in the world who care about your learning and want to help, and they come in all colors and backgrounds.
I think its the hardest thing for Native American students coming here to school to overcome the habit of mistrust, but they must. Some students dont succeed because they never have that awakening, that feeling that I can make decisions about my own life, can choose to be anything, and that people will help me.
Its inspiring to me that if we know our story and know our strengths then
we can take control over our own destiny. We dont have to rely on others to make our
decisions for us.