Donovan Begay

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Yá’át’ééh shi éí Donavan Begay yinishyé. Naaneesht’ezhí Náádąą’ Diné Táchii’nii nishłí. Baa’o’ogeedee’ t’aa iiyisi nasha. Greetings I am Donavan Begay. I am from the Zuni Corn People – Red Meeting Water People Clan. I’m originally from Whitecone, Arizona.

I am enrolled with the Navajo Nation. I was raised in a bicultural setting in my home community. I am currently serving as the Assistant Coordinator of the Circle of Indigenous Nations for the University of Minnesota. I received a Family Social Science Bachelor’s of Science from the College of Education and Human Development in fall 2011. I hope to continue working in higher education specifically in counseling and student personnel psychology. I am passionate about mentoring and assisting Native students during their undergraduate careers.

After receiving recruitment calls from the University of Minnesota in my senior year of high school I was hesitant about personal involvement in the Native community on campus. I figured I was raised on an Indian reservation why would I want to be around other Natives when the University is a diverse campus of 50,000+ students. I decided to decline partaking in the American Indian Cultural House Living Learning Community and joined the Biology House. Separating myself from Natives was the first major decision I made as an uninformed young adult. I was a first generation college student. I came from a solo parent home and never experienced independence beyond the four corners region of the Southwest.

After completing my first year at the University of Minnesota, I realized I needed a Native community. I became connected with students from my first year, mostly with students who participated in the living learning community for Native students. They were living together and learning in the same residence hall. I stayed connected with those students and started actively seeking leadership opportunities or a sense of student engagement through student groups. I became involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and the American Indian Student Cultural Center (AISCC). These student organizations were the only existing student groups that allowed me to make the University a smaller close-knit community. With encouragement I went on to serve both student groups as an elected board member.

The student organizations provided me with opportunities to get involved with indigenous communities. I volunteered in the Twin Cities by visiting American Indian communities. I had the opportunity to visit the diverse communities in the Midwest region. There were many Ojibwe, Dakota, and Lakota nations; it was my first time meeting Hochunk, Menominee, Oneida, and many urban Natives. Those experiences allowed me to think critically about the Native communities that I impacted through acquisition of diverse lenses: from the family unit, the community level, and what I now understand to be as Indian Country.

In spring 2011, I applied for graduation and continued to mark my calendars with all the different celebrations and banquets that I was invited to. Each uniquely celebrating the accomplishments I made throughout my undergraduate career. Like the other celebrations, I do have specific memoirs of the 25th Annual American Indian Graduation Banquet. The banquet was held for the first time in the newest addition to the campus, the TCF Bank Stadium. The American Indian Graduation Banquet was well attended by my fellow colleagues and many other Native scholars from throughout the Twin Cities area. I was happy to listen to the keynote speaker, the entertainment, and the anticipated gift of a Pendleton stole, certificate, and sweet grass braid. It was a surreal moment for me to experience the walk to the podium when I heard my name. You did it Donavan! I shook hands with the representatives, hugged my supporters, and received my beautiful Pendleton stole.

I may have completed my undergraduate degree, but I still continue to make connections in the Twin Cities American Indian communities. I want to make sure I can make create changes for the betterment of my community, my elders, that I am dedicated to helping Natives serve Natives. One of the ways I have continued to stay connected is through my work. I serve my Native community of scholars through the Circle of Indigenous Nations. I utilize social media to keep the Circle of Indigenous Nations connected with alumni, current students, Native families and communities, and prospective students. I believe I am advancing forward with great work as I continue to welcome new relatives and acknowledge my role in the cycle of Native ways of life, knowledge, and understanding.

I will continue being a coordinator at the University of Minnesota for the Circle of Indigenous Nations. In the meantime, I am preparing for graduate school and have taken some introductory courses to higher education. Like my undergraduate degree it has proven to be difficult in my experience, for a graduate program, to find an area of study that incorporates all the knowledge needed to answer your questions. There is a larger world of opportunities that I keep in mind. I do not wish to limit my potential. I am still undecided about my prospective graduate program, but possibilities include higher education, counseling and student personnel psychology, social work, and public health. “I encourage you to ask those difficult questions. Find ways Native people can truly be sovereign. I believe that tribally operated colleges and universities are making it possible for Indian Country.”

“Ahééhee! Thank you!”

 

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