#Indegetern is our new campaign to highlight stories and reflections of Native students who have interned in businesses, organizations, agencies, and tribal communities across the country.

Title: Student Practical Nurse

Tribe: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

School attended during internship: Sitting Bull College

Year in school you completed your internship: Sophomore

Where you did your internship: University of Auckland, New Zealand

Duration of the internship: 10 Weeks

  1. What did you do at your internship?

During my internship, I worked with Dr. Gerhard Sundborn looking at the possible correlation between scabies and rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease in Māori and Pasifika children in New Zealand. Dr. Sundborn also provided me the opportunity to go out and engage with the Pasifika community to better understand and be able to properly engage with the community I would be working with. The Mahina Indigenous Wellness Research Program, who provided me with my internship, also provided opportunities for me visit sites that are important to the Māori people and learn about Māori culture and history.

  1. What did you learn?
Anitra with her presentation poster to display her research.

Anitra with her presentation poster to display her research.

During my internship I learned that Māori and Pasifika children in New Zealand suffer from alarming rates of rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease, which is surprising, since these diseases are practically non-existent in the western world. Doing research regarding this issue, I learned that rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease is caused by untreated streptococcal A bacteria, which is thought only to be found in strep throat. Recent research is showing that strep throat is not the only source of entry for this bacteria; the scabies mite has been found to secrete a protein that allows many bacteria to grow in the skin, one of them being the streptococcal A bacteria. With scabies being a difficult mite to diagnose, this leads to prolonged or no treatment of the streptococcal A bacteria which ultimately leads to rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease.

Māori and Pasifika children in New Zealand often live in communities that suffer from scabies, which may be part of the reason they suffer from such high rheumatic fever rates. It is Dr. Sundborn’s hope that further research and treatment of scabies in New Zealand will lower the rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease rates among Māori and Pasifika children.

Throughout the program I learned many things about the Māori and Pasifika people, the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). I learned that they are a very welcoming people who love to share knowledge of their culture and learn the culture of other indigenous peoples. The Māori researchers and program directors that worked with us took us to different locations that were filled with Māori history. We visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and they explained to us why the Māori treaty is such a controversial topic. They said there were two treaties that were created when settlers first arrived to Aotearoa (New Zealand), one written in Māori and one written in English. None of the Māori Chiefs signed the English document and not all of them signed the Māori document. Even today there are debates on what exactly was promised to the Māori people and whether the tribes who did not sign are included in that agreement.

We took a trip Wellington where we got to see the original treaties at the National Library. During our trip to Wellington, we also got to visit the Te Papa Museum where curators showed us traditional Māori clothing, weaponry, hunting traps, and art. We even were given the honor of seeing Tane Mahuta, the lord of the forest. Tane Mahuta, is a huge tree that plays a significant part in Māori culture, he is considered the father of all living creatures because he separated his father Ranginui, the sky, and his mother Papatuanuku, the earth; allowing all life to grow in the space between. These are just a few key things that I got to learn about the Māori people on my journey to Aotearoa (New Zealand). Things that weren’t a part of my research project but are important none the less.

  1. What was the most challenging or scariest thing you encountered during your internship?

The scariest part of the internship was finding the courage to go to another country knowing absolutely no one else that was going.

The Mahina Indigenous Wellness Research Program is a program separate from my college and any other program I was a part of. I found out about it through a good friend of mine, who sent me a link and told me she thought it would be a great opportunity.

I wasn’t sure about how legitimate it was, to be honest it seemed too good to be true. I applied anyway, not sure I was going to be accepted.

When I got the call saying that I was accepted and to pack my bags because I was going to New Zealand I was in absolute shock and a bit terrified. Though I seemed unsure about it at the time, I am really glad that I took the chance and went. It was the most amazing experience that I’ve ever had.

  1. What was the most rewarding thing you encountered during your internship?

There are too many things about this internship that I personally found rewarding. If I had to narrow it down it would be being given the opportunity to work under and learn from highly educated Indigenous researchers trying to solve Indigenous problems in a way that is Indigenous.

The University of Auckland is a huge western institution in New Zealand, that has a whole department dedicated to Māori and Pasifika Health with Māori and Pasifika people leading the way. Coming from a tribal college, I often hear negative things about my college because it is not a Western institution.

To see a Western institution have a whole department for and run by Indigenous peoples was amazing. It showed me the true potential that we have as Indigenous people, how we can make full use of the academic system to help better our tribes and still remain true to ourselves, our tribes, and our culture.

  1. What information or advice would you share with others wanting to participate in an internship?

To other students who are wanting to participate in internships I would say to not be afraid of taking the chance to participate in that internship because it may turn out to be one of the best things you’ve will ever do. I would also say not to go into the internship with a set mentality, but to keep an open mind to the things you will learn not only from the internship but also from the people you will meet during the process.

Where you work now: 

I am in my second year of studying in my practical nursing program, so I decided not to work this year. This year will be a busy one and the last one I need to complete my associate degree, so I decided to use all the free time I can to study.

Link to information about my internship.