From Surviving to Thriving: Sisseton Wahpeton College Fellows

Oct 8, 2020 | Blog, Community Planning, Indigenous Visionaries, Student Success, Women’s Leadership

Indigenous Visionaries 2019-2020 grant updates laverne white bear

Sissteon Wahpeton College Fellow: LaVerne Whitebear (Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux)

LaVerne Whitebear (Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux)

Tribal College and University: Sisseton Wahpeton College
Degree Major: Behavioral Science

I am a 46-year old wife and mother of seven children, some grown and some not, and a first-generation college student. I have attended the Sisseton Wahpeton College since 2016. During that time, I have faced many hardships, including losing multiple and close family members due to addiction. This loss has further reinforced my chosen educational path to provide therapy to survivors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction.   

As an older student it was challenging to return to education from the work force. I knew that if I wanted change that I needed to embody that change. It was difficult to attempt to rewire my brain. It was work to remember how to comprehend, utilize, and sustain the knowledge that I was receivingbut I did it. 

The American Indian College Fund (College Fund) made it possible for me to dream big and focus on the possibility of also becoming a traditional quillwork artist in addition to my chosen careerIt provided me necessary tools and funding so that I could really focus while helping my family financially.  

My growth as a student, woman, mother, and teacher is indelible. The guidance, patience, and trust the College Fund provided me has truly left an impact that nothing could replace.  

I came to Sisseton Wahpeton College unsure where my path would lead, what dreams I would realize, and what wonderful people I might meet. There is nothing like being in a room filled with like-minded, indigenous, smart women to get your heart pumping and setting your mind on fire. I told my mentor, Erin Griffin, Director of Dakota Studies at Sisseton Wahpeton Collage that once I used to think that I had been living under a rock for many years or perhaps I had been asleep, only surviving, when I could have been thriving.  

LaVerne Whitebear (Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux)  Tribal College and University: Sisseton Wahpeton College  Degree Major: Behavioral Science

LaVerne Whitebear (Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux)

Finding the courage to continue when times were hard was an intense experience, yet I knew I had responsibilities to myself, my children, future generations, and those who believed in me even when I did not believe in myself, expressly the College Fund. 

The College Fund team, Erin Griffin (Director of Dakota Studies), Traci Rosenberg (English Instructor) and others have assisted me to be forward thinking, a dreamer, and a doer. I now am a quillwork artist working towards the preservation of this indigenous art form. I am now also a published writer with a book of fiction and a book of poetry in the works.   

I have found the courage to do what I never thought possible and believe in myself and others like me.  

To read more of LaVerne Whitebear’s writing, see her recently published student blog titled Offering Tobacco in the April 2020 edition of the Tribal College Journal 


Felicity Nicolar (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate)

Tribal College and University: Sisseton Wahpeton College
Degree Major: General Studies 

Felicity Nicolar (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate)  Tribal College and University: Sisseton Wahpeton College  Degree Major: General Studies 

Felicity Nicolar (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate)

I’m from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and am currently in my third semester at Sisseton Wahpeton College. I’m taking my general studies courses with a curve towards science and Dakota language.  

During my work with the Indigenous Visionaries program I learned how to make connections and extend my professional career. Seeing the way my mentors connect with the people who ran our workshops taught me how to speak to people in a way that I can create lifelong connections. Along with our workshops, seeing the way my mentors were able to multitask and create environments where people could learn inspires me to do the same.  

I hope to continue to develop and create new networking relationships. The Indigenous Visionaries program has given me the tools to create them. I also hope to become better at multitasking and one day to plan and host my own workshop. Overall, I believe that this program is highly beneficial towards learning skills that will benefit those attempting to further their professional careers 

“From my experience this program gives women the opportunity to share their knowledge in traditional art forms with both men and women. With workshops being led by women more and more, this program is creating a positive environment for women to lead cultural workshops.” (FN) 

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