Like many of our students, Christen is pursuing multiple disciplines in college because she knows that to meet the needs of her community it’s going to take creativity, imagination, hard work and determination. That’s why she chose to attend Montana State University to pursue a dual degree in business management and Native American studies. This degree combination will give her the educational foundation to pursue her dream of not only opening a wellness center in her community, but also keeping it funded—providing a safe space to everyone who needs it.
“I get emotional when I think about the impact your support has had on me. Just knowing that somebody out there believes in me—it’s getting a chance I didn’t know I had. I can take another step because you’re right behind me.”
A lot of my life revolves around health and wellness and figuring out where my identity fits into that. The thought of my own health and the future of my children’s wellbeing prompted me to look more closely into my family’s nutrition and welfare. I knew that I wanted to provide a wholesome life for my family revolving around wellness—whether it be physical health, mental health, or healing of intergenerational trauma. I thought, “What better way than to learn from my ancestors?”
During the last two years, I have become a lot more engaged in my culture by trying to understand what my ancestors ate and how they connected with everything they hunted and foraged. As I began looking into my history, I started to better understand the impact colonization had on American Indian people. When you think of colonization, you might often think of relocation, stolen identities, and boarding schools, but we often we forget how tied our ancestors were to the land and food.
I am a firm believer that how we think and feel daily is manifested by what we put into our bodies. Additionally, I wanted to start a more traditional diet and set an example for my son.
My recipe below is a very simple one. Given that I am a full-time student, I work, and am raising a toddler, meal prepping is a must!
Roast the sweet potatoes and veggies with Mrs. Dash no-salt seasoning. While vegetables are roasting, fry the steak on a skillet and season with salt and pepper.
I usually mix the rice and veggies together because my two-year old doesn’t like to eat the sweet potato. Mixing the veggies with the rice helps my son eat more veggies. Serve steak and vegetables with rice side-by-side and enjoy.
I highly recommend Perma Red. It’s based in the Flathead Reservation in Montana and is about a young Native woman fighting her way through life by facing and overcoming hard challenges that are presented to her.
I connected with some of the young woman’s challenges of being a Native woman, including the intergenerational trauma she endured and how she had the strength to overcome those situations.
I completely love being outside in the mountains. I often get lost in my head and in the small things that won’t matter in the future as I juggle being a student, working at my job, raising my children, and meeting everyday challenges. When I am in the mountains, I can disconnect from the worries of the world and reconnect with myself and the energy that connects me to this earth.
I find the most peace in the mountains and I love sharing these experiences with my son. Our hikes together define our mother-son relationship and will be something my son will always remember. I hope all the knowledge I have shared with him will get him through any hard times he has in life. Perhaps one day he will spend time outside in the mountains hiking to reconnect with himself when he needs a break from the world.
Come and Get Your Love reminds me of being a little girl, cruising around town with my grandmother, with Redbone on the radio, in a borrowed one-seater old Chevy pick-up truck. Not a lot of people know Redbone is a Native band. In the 1970s Native rock bands were unheard of. Because this song was such a hit and the band was Native, it really made an impression on me.
I love the story behind Blue Bear painted by Boseman, Mont. artist DG House. DG House was very ill and practically on her death bed when she received life-saving surgery. The following day, she painted Blue Bear.
I admire DG’s strength and the story behind the piece—it’s so amazing and it gives me hope. It taught me that no matter what happens, it’s up to us to decide how and what we are going to do with our experience.