Alumni Profile: Autumn White Eyes '10

posted on August 9, 2012

This profile is part of an ongoing series about particular Red Cloud alumni, and what they have been doing since graduating.

1. Talk a little bit about your childhood: where you grew up, where you went to school, how many years you attended Red Cloud, etc.

I was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and I lived there for the first 5 years of my life. My parents were both going to college around this time. As a young child I remember going through many Head Start programs. We moved to Pine Ridge when I entered kindergarten at Red Cloud Indian School. We lived with my grandma for a short time, and later on we found our own house. I went to school at Red Cloud until I graduated high school. I had many neighborhood friends, but the majority of my friends I found at school. I was a happy child, always playing outside or with dolls.

2. What have you been doing academically and professionally since graduating from Red Cloud? What have been some of the high points?

I’ve been going to school at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. I’m currently going into my junior year of college. Some high points would be the rare A’s that I get in classes and joining a sorority. I plan to study abroad in Glasgow, Scotland this fall for one of my majors!

3. Please describe what are you currently doing academically or professionally.

My majors are Native American Studies and English with a concentration in creative writing. This past year I was involved in the Dartmouth Powwow, as the lead student coordinator for the event. I was also a liaison for the Native Community on campus for an organization call Inter-Community Council, which works towards bringing communities together on campus to learn from one another and facilitate conversations having to do with social justice.

In addition, I was also a part of a multi-faith based alternative spring break trip that did community service working with homeless families in Washington, DC. During the upcoming school year I will be working as a student leader for an alternative spring break trip to Denver, CO, doing community service with Native American families.

This past school year I worked briefly with a Reader-to-Reader online mentorship with St. Michael Indian School located on the Navajo reservation. This past summer, I worked as a Summer Institute counselor for the Indians into Medicine Program at the University of North Dakota. I would like to someday work professionally with Native American adolescents.

4. Describe the path you took to get from graduating from Red Cloud to where you are today. How did you develop an interest in what you are doing nowadays, and how did you make your dream a reality?

Graduating from Red Cloud was a great opportunity, one that I would not have been able to achieve without the support of my parents. I was very independent in my choices and motivation to go to college. I applied to a program called College Horizons in High school; a weeklong program for Native students that assists in the application process for my upcoming senior year. This program was held at Yale University where I met a college admissions officer from Dartmouth College.

I was instantly interested in the school because I heard of the strong Native community and the great Native American Studies department. I was always interested in Native American studies because my father was the Lakota Studies teacher at Red Cloud. Growing up, I would always ask my dad questions about Native American Studies and history.

After my first quarter at Dartmouth, I took a great liking to the Native American Studies program and it became one of my majors. As for creative writing, I was always interested in writing poetry and short stories. In high school, I took a creative writing class and it was a new experience for me to learn about the different techniques one can use in creative writing.

The summer before I went to college I was able to go to a poetry slam competition in Los Angeles California, called Brave New Voices. It opened my eyes to whole new genre of poetry writing, and I began to work on slam poetry. I took one creative writing course my freshman year of college, and decided English with a concentration in creative writing would be my second major. I know that I someday want to work with Native American adolescents professionally, which is why I’ve been trying to work in jobs where I can be a mentor and role model for Native students.

5. What obstacles did you have to overcome, or what were the greatest roadblocks you encountered?

My greatest obstacles that I’ve overcome to this point in my life have always had to do with money. Our family doesn’t have very much money, which is why I was very lucky to get the Gates Millennium Scholarship for college. On my breaks at home, I always try to get jobs to help out while I’m at college. Another great obstacle that I have is that I go to school so far from home. I miss home a lot and want to come back sometimes, but I keep my head up and try to stay focused on the great opportunity that I have in being able to go to college.

6. What do you see yourself doing over the next year? The next five years? Ten years? What are your greatest hopes and aspirations for yourself?

Over the next school year I plan to finish up strong and stay focused on my schoolwork. I need to complete important course for my majors. Within the next five years, I hope to be working with a non-profit in order to get experience of working with such an organization, because in the next ten years, I plan to create my own non-profit that works with Native youth. My greatest hopes and aspirations are to be a role model for kids on the reservation, to show them the beauty of where we come from. I aspire to bring art, change, and voice to our reservation.

7. How did your educational experience at Red Cloud prepare you for the life you live today, in terms of skills, values, attitudes, etc.

I think the greatest values I’ve learned from Red Cloud have been that I am very open-minded to others, and my attitude towards other religions has always been open. I can respect and learn from people of multi-faith backgrounds because of classes I’ve taken at Red Cloud. I think I’ve learned leadership skills from clubs that I was in at Red Cloud, which prepared me for leadership roles in college. I also learned the importance of community service at Red Cloud, which I’ve kept as part of my experience in college.

8. How does Red Cloud continue to be a part of your life?

I know that Red Cloud will always be a part of my life because I’ve met some of my best friends there. All of my siblings graduated from Red Cloud and I expect my nieces and nephew to do the same. My sister and my father work there and keep me updated on events that happen there.