This was my first year in my Ph.D. program. Having lived on my reservation in northern Minnesota for nearly my whole life, I overcame culture shock and many other barriers to complete my first semester in Fall 2019 at the U of M.
I struggled with balancing all my priorities as a mother, student, teacher’s assistant and artist. Then the whirlwind of spring semester came. I was preparing to attend the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Arizona in the first week of March. Along with having an artist booth, I also conducted research on cultural appropriation with participants that I met at the Heard Market.
Shortly after I returned home, my classes and my kids’ schools transitioned to an online format. The panic of COVID-19 worsened my struggle with anxiety and depression. I toss and turn at night. During the day, I became tired quickly from worrying about my children, my family, my community and the state of our planet. I was barely keeping up. My field requires a lot of hands-on expertise and experience. I taught myself how to draft my full-size body blocks with limited instruction of the teachers.
Overall, my learning has been a major adjustment, but I made it through my first semester of the COVID-19 pandemic and my first year as a Ph.D. student.
Since school has been out, I have moved into a new place and now I am preparing for school to start once again. I have been laying the groundwork for my own space that is functional, organized, yet also relaxing and inspiring so I can be as productive as possible. My creative work is taking more time than usual; my creativity is a means of survival, financially and spiritually.
I connect with my work in a way that is healing for me. Creating takes my mind off of the outside world. When I am not creating, I focus on my home and children. I have to find new ways to interact with the kids, identify healthy boundaries and assign chores. I want to use this time to teach my children the value of life. Everyone needs to teach their children about love, compassion and understanding for all living beings.
This is the time for education and government reform. We need to create equity. This pandemic has brought to light the great gap in wealth and resources that is present in America. This is an opportunity for growth, to stay focused on the most important aspects of life. We can use this time to rest, create and reflect. We need to understand each other and be thoughtful of our communities. This is an era that allows us to focus on our home, family and our Mother Earth.
I am grateful to be able to continue my Ph.D. program to work on myself and my research. I will continue to use this experience to continue the fight for justice and peace in the world.
About the author
I am 30 years old and a single mother. I have a 9-year-old son, and I care for my 15-year-old niece. I am an apparel designer and a beadwork artist. I have been beading since the age of six, and began sewing more recently. My creativity is inspired by nature and by the traditions that have been passed down to me from my family and my Anishinaabe ancestors.
My entire life’s purpose has been dedicated to serving my community, working in education for the past eight years. I also share my creativity through the medium of textiles and beads. In July 2019, I moved to the Twin Cities to pursue the biggest opportunity of my life, to attend the University of Minnesota. I am a full-time Ph.D. student in Apparel Studies, emphasizing in product development. I dream to become a design professor with a research interest in sustainability.