Member of the Eastern Band Cherokee and Haliwa Saponi, Dr. Michelle Montgomery joins the Equity and Diversity Department as a Native American Educator.
Who better to educate students about indigenous communities than a tribeswoman? Doctor Michelle Montgomery, a member of the Eastern Band Cherokee and Haliwa Saponi tribes, recently accepted a position at UWT as a Native American Educator under Dr. Sharon Parker, Assistant Chancellor for Equity and Diversity. Before the shift to Tacoma, she was employed with UW Seattle as a senior fellow of bioethics and humanities in the School of Medicine at the Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality.
Dr. Montgomery explains how she was drawn to the UWT campus because of its foundation, built on serving the community and its intimate—though quickly expanding—learning environment. Her career-long aspirations have been to develop community partnerships between American Indian tribes and building strong connections within tribal communities. In her new position, she will strive to empower these communities with campus resources and help provide new opportunities for them.
When asked why she chose to become part of the UWT community, she said, “Tacoma is unique because it maintains ties with historical meaning tied to land identity. It is an alluring city in an urban environment with a large number of urban natives.” It seems to be the perfect setting to educate people about issues and bring the indigenous population and local community together. For the foreseeable future, her focus will be on workshops and symposiums to meet and greet influential members of UWT and Tacoma in general, helping to bring the community to the university.
With her influence, she hopes to become a positive role model for students and indigenous peoples as well. She has been on her own since she was 17 years old, and four degrees later, she knows she would not be where she is without those who made an investment in her. Now she hopes to dedicate her education and professional skills to put resources back into the community. She plans to organize collaborative efforts with the students to work on social justice projects like food sustainability, cultural sustainability, and tribal sovereignty.
The butterfly effect is an example she uses to demonstrate her belief that “one positive contribution can lead to so many opportunities.” She wants to stress that, no matter what age [young or old], all people can be role models. She acknowledges the need [‘demand’ or ‘call’ or just a different word because you use the word ‘need’ twice in this sentence – ‘acknowledges the need for the needs’] for an ongoing response to cultural needs and not just “helicopter partnerships,” dropping in one day to check things out, only to leave again soon after.
The people surrounding Dr. Montgomery make a huge impact on her feeling of welcome, acceptance, and opportunity. Dr. Parker, an indigenous leader of the Susquehama [I am being corrected to ‘Susquehanna’] and Tslagi [This word does exist, but I am being corrected to ‘Tsalagi’ so I just want to double check that] nation herself, is a huge inspiration. Working under and being mentored by a tribal elder has impassioned Dr. Montgomery and she says, “It is an honor and a privilege to work for an elder such as Dr. Parker. This opportunity is priceless.”
She comes to Tacoma with an open mind and a fiery passion for this chance ‘liberty’ or ‘opening’ or a different word because you closed the last sentence with ‘opportunity’] to move forward with her goals. This grassroots UWT community is a new beginning, and she comes with an open mind. Tacoma is filled with charming historic buildings, a melting pot of cultures, and people who are willing to invest time in community services outside of their normal obligations. Seeing this spark of passion in her peers, leadership, and other faculty at the university she knew immediately, “this is home for me.” She works with the understanding that everything we do is for the future. So to the future we look for more exciting events and developments from Dr. Montgomery and the Equity and Diversity Department.