January 02, 2012

Sioux student earns physics degree

Yankton Sioux Student First in Tribe to Earn a Physics DegreeCharee Peters wasn’t expecting to break any barriers when she made the decision to change her major from theater to physics while an undergraduate student at the University of Denver, but that’s exactly what she did.

When she was handed that bachelor’s degree in 2011, she became the first member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe to earn a degree in physics.

“It was very unexpected. It’s very surprising that in all the generations and people that have been in the tribe, none have done what I have done,” she said. “It’s a bit distressing to know that I am paving the way for others like me, but I’m pushing through to represent my tribe and to show the world what Native Americans can do.”

Over the next five years she plans on having her master’s, wants to be working toward a doctorate in physics or astrophysics and would like to have a couple research papers published.
Charles Trimble: Indian youth share an important lesson with usThe youth on the reservations give us hope, even despite the prevalence of drugs and gangs and suicides. For example, a December 22, 2011, article from the American Indian Graduate Center heralded the following amazing fact:

“In the minds of many Americans, the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe embodies all the problems of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yet on this, one of the nation’s largest Native American Reservations, four American Indian scholars have set a standard virtually any town or city in the United States will find it very difficult to match. In 2011, four scholars who were raised in the historic village of Oglala, pop. 1290 (2010 Census), were honored for their work at the graduate level, one of whom is pursuing a Ph.D. degree and three having received Ph.D. degrees during the year. Some experts have speculated that, at least this year, it may be the highest per capita number of Ph.D.s of any municipality in the nation.”

These are the facts that need to be heralded throughout Indian Country and in the general public, for they help dispel the impression that our tribal youth wander the reservation countryside, hollow-eyed and disparaged, haunted by ghosts of our tragic history. It is often said that our youth have no Indian role models, yet those role models are everywhere, but need to be pointed out.

There are Native Americans in the White House and on Capitol Hill in Washington, in state offices, and many are unheralded in jobs of great responsibility in offices and factories across the country. And indeed there are many role models on the reservations–special people who stayed home precisely to develop the homelands and provide education and opportunity to future generations of our tribes.
Comment:  For more on Indians and education, see Native Science Nerds and Inuit Graduate Student in Accounting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is surprising. But now there's a Yankton Sioux studying antimatter and relativistic time and exotic matter. (That last one is things with imaginary mass that if you ever saw it would make you go mad from the revelation.)