We Did It

Dear family, friends, and colleagues,

The coronavirus uprooted everyone’s lives and caused major disruptions around the world. But it failed to keep this public announcement under its grip. After a mere 30-day delay, I am proud to announce that I have been selected as a 2020 University of Washington Husky 100. You can view who the Husky 100 are at https://www.washington.edu/husky100/. I want to honor Dr. Holly Barker, Lorna Hamill, Kai Wise, Jon Olivera, Tami Hohn and countless other folks who have helped and shaped me throughout my undergraduate education at UW. First Nations at UW, Research Family, and the Southern Lushootseed learning communities also deserve my full and sincere gratitude. Whether we make frybread, ponder some of the most mysterious roots of a Lushootseed phrase, or critique the shrinkage of “Exclusive Economic Zones” in the Pacific, I feel valued as a family member. Few groups at UW has been as welcoming, inclusive and deeply personal to me.

It is difficult to talk about recognition without a reflection on what is meant by “We Did It.” During my youth, I lost both of my parents to cancer: my father in 2007, and my mother in 2017. I remember when the doctors told me that never in their careers had they seen anyone who will have to live on their own without any family members. That defined my long and often rough journey to figure out what family and healing means to me. But I started the journey blind. Although I had a pretty good idea of what it meant to experience college as a first-generation student of color, I had no idea about what it looks like to experience college without parental nor kin support. No one to my knowledge has been able to articulate, in popular or scholarly literatures, the unique challenges and needs of students who have completely lost access to support from kin family.

So, when I say that “We Did It,” I really mean to say that my peers, mentors and friends at UW have generated success through their willingness to tackle the unknowns of welcoming me into their families. Their support has motivated me to contribute deeply to Native American and Pacific Islander student communities at UW through project such as my research abroad in Samoa and my project in mapping bus routes to Lushootseed place names right here at home. The Husky 100 recognition is a celebration of my UW families, who help me to heal and become more comfortable in my own skin. I attribute my success as a UW undergraduate to the sense of family we learn to create for each other, and for all who come before and after us. Family is what makes my forthcoming Honors thesis, “Expressions of Family as Strengths of Indigenous Communities: Importance of Healing, Continuity, and Relationality for Indigenous College Students’ Education Success,” more compelling today. I and everyone around me have grown during my Husky Experience.

There are four other 2020 Husky 100 whom I hold dear and precious to my heart. To be quite honest, I did not really get to know Gillian Dueñas, Autumn Forespring, Sierra Red Bow and Racquel West until Winter 2019, when I began my involvement in First Nations. They are badass womxn whom I have deep respect and the privilege of calling my family. I know each of them have their own unique stories of where they were and how they got here, and I want to honor their agency to bring forth their own voices. But I want to speak on what I observed we all have in common, and it is that we all struggled at some point in our lives. Despite the struggles we faced, we are finding a way forward as activists, curators, artists, grant writers, and academics. Along the way, we do so with empathy, humbleness, and a drive to create welcoming spaces for everyone in their respective communities. I draw inspiration from these folks, whose compassion and down-to-earth demeanours has had a great impact on me during my time at the UW. For that I am grateful.

There is so much for me to do before I graduate this Spring, so I wanted to end here by saying fa’afetai lava. I am deeply honored to have been awarded the 2020 Husky 100. Thank you in advance for riding King County Metro, and I sincerely hope to see you on the road soon after the pandemic.

haʔɬ sləx̌il,

faʔaumu kaimana

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