Dr. Tarissa Spoonhunter, professor of American Indian Studies at Central Wyoming College, is focused on sharing Native knowledge in order to increase understanding and build relationships—something that resides deep in her roots growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Her Nation Building classes introduce Federal Indian law and policy classes to help American Indians learn about contemporary issues that they are facing today in subject areas of treaty rights, national forest, national parks, and traditional ecological rights.

“Education is key to the sharing of knowledge. We share knowledge not saying that our way is the best way, but to build bridges, to share and come to an agreement. A lot of times the natives have been consulted by the Park Service for management of animals but rarely are they given a seat at the table, that’s one of the issues for instance…” – Tarissa Spoonhunter.

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At age nine, Spoonhunter was given the name Medicine Beaver Woman by her people, a name she remembers feeling came with a great deal of responsibility. Spoonhunter carried that responsibility throughout her life accomplishments. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. She earned awards from the National Science Foundation, published numerous research papers and has presented at national conferences.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Native American scholars only earned 0.3 percent of doctorate degrees. Spoonhunter feels that receiving recognition for an award from a national organization such as the Emerging Scholar will encourage fellow Native Americans to pursue doctoral degrees in the future.

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