December 11, 2010

Crichton thriller inspired Navajo student

Local Native woman inspired by novel finds home in Michigan

By Nancy StidhamApril Yazzie is at home in an unexpected place. She is a Gates Millennium Scholar at the University of Michigan. The Native woman found the diverse population of Ann Arbor enabled her to blend into the community. Most people think she is Asian and are surprised to learn she is Diné. At the University of Michigan Yazzie is the only Native American and the only woman studying aerospace engineering, a field populated mostly by male students.

Yazzie was inspired to become an aerospace engineer by the reading of a novel for pleasure. When she was a freshman at Many Farms High School in Arizona, her older brother, Lance, recommended that she read Michael Crichton's Airframe. Yazzie was captivated by one of the characters, a female aerospace engineer, and decided to pursue that career.
Comment:  Other careers Yazzie might've pursued:

  • Andromeda Strain => biologist
  • Jurassic Park => paleontologist
  • Timeline => historian
  • Congo => gorilla hunter (?)

  • This is an excellent story for busting people's stereotypical perceptions of what Native women are--and aren't. They aren't princesses who are judged on poise and makeup. They aren't pretty young things in feathers and headdresses. They aren't whores, sluts, and junkies who become victims of crimes. No, they're normal people with a range of professions: banker, writer/artist, business owner, nurse, actor/activist. And aerospace engineer.

    For more on Indians and feminism, see Women and Indians as Peacemakers and Lovejoy Faces "Buckskin Ceiling."

    Below:  Not your typical Lovely Indian Make-Up Girl.

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