(Riverton, WY) – Central Wyoming College students in the first year of the Tribal Wisdom Society program were celebrated along with two community members, Richard Brannan and Jason Baldes, on February 10.
Students of this inaugural year included: Laramie Azure, Wiyakaskawin Brown, Arturo Carrillo, Zariah June, Constance Lehi, Natasha O’Neal, Melanie Oldman, Skyla Shakespeare, Shatoni Shoyo and Darious Tillman.
They spent the last year learning about the contributions of tribal people and communities through governance, history, and contemporary issues. They visited Albuquerque, New Mexico and Billings, Montana in addition to learning about the people of the Wind River Reservation.
CWC’s Tribal Education Coordinator Ivan Posey founded and led the TWS program.
“The theme of the Tribal Wisdom Society is contribution and responsibility back here in our tribal communities,” Posey shared during the celebration of tribal contributions Friday.
As part of the program, students were required to do a community project. A few of the students reported on their projects during Friday’s celebration.
Darious Tillman shared a little bit about his spiritual journey.
Some students incorporated art into their community projects. Larami Azure, who plans to become an art teacher, wants to teach the younger generations about film. Shatoni Shoyo wants to provide Native art throughout schools to inspire and uplift the Native students.
“With native paintings throughout the school, I feel like students can be reminded of their tribe and background and maybe feel inspired or motivated to keep going to school to keep going on their educational journey and hopefully even inspire future artists,” Shatoni explained.
A reservation cleanup is in the works for Arturo Carrillo.
“We don’t like trash, yet it’s everywhere we go and that’s why I want to do a cleanup. The main reason why I’d like to do it out there on the reservation is because we’ve got to protect our environment. That’s one of the most important things we can protect anywhere. When you’re driving down the highway, you see trash dumped all over it’s like wow, that really disrespects our land and our way of life that way. There’s no reason for us to be dumping trash. It’s better to just pick it up, and put it where it needs to go. That way the environment and the people who live in that environment can be happy and healthier.”
Zariah June organized the Tribal Wisdom Society Round Dance in December 2022.
“(A round dance) is a social gathering that typically takes place in the wintertime and where we gather for song and dance. It is also considered healing for individuals mentally, physically and spiritually.”
“The purpose of my round dance was to bring the community together and since it was like the wintertime and it was during finals, I thought it would be a really fun idea for the students, and the families of the communities around here.”
Constance Lehi gave a presentation on what a healthy native family looks like in today’s modern world.
“What I see happening is a lot of our families are struggling and it seems like we somehow drifted away from our teachings and upbringing. What I would like to propose is that we need to go back in both of our families one on one and help them to gain back their culture and language and their ceremonies.”
Natasha O’Neal is focusing on children with her community project.
“It’s important for children to be active and have skills outside school. But most importantly my goal is just for kids to have fun and not worry about anything.”
Richard Brannan and Jason Baldes were selected by the Tribal Wisdom Society to be recognized for their contributions to the tribal communities.
Richard Brannan is the CEO of Wind River Cares, which has expanded and is providing a lot more health services to the tribal communities, Posey shared.
Jason Baldes was recognized for his efforts in the reintroduction of buffalo on the Wind River Reservation.
“They’ve been gone for 100 years and I know he’s worked a long time to get them back,” Posey said.
Both of them were presented with a plaque of appreciation for their contributions.