Twyla Baker-Demaray (2nd Quarter, 2005)

2nd Quarter, 2005
Minority  Scholarship Winner
Twyla Baker-Demaray

Twyla Baker-Demaray was born in North Dakota and raised on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in New Town, ND. She attended college first at Bismarck State College and at the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geology & Technology and is currently a graduate student at the University of North Dakota, where she expects to obtain her M.S. in Education/Research Methods in December 2005.

She has been a Graduate Research Assistant at the National Resource Center on Native American Aging at the Center for Rural Health, UND, since January 2004. Her work includes assisting hundreds of tribes throughout the United States in completing a nationwide Native elder needs assessment to be used by tribes and government agencies in providing services and care. Her thesis focuses on elder abuse in Native populations.

Twyla is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, or the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations of Fort Berthold. She is born to the Water Buster Clan, and is a daughter of the Knife Clan. She and her husband Allan live in Grand Forks with their three children, Red Earth age five, Brings Rain age four, and Stands Holy Woman age two.

A Portion of Twyla’s Winning Essay:

Twyla Baker-Demaray

Greetings! My name is Twyla Baker-Demaray, and I am currently a Graduate student at the University of North Dakota working on an M.S. in Education General Studies. My cognate is Science, and my background is in Geology having earned a B.S. in Environmental Geology and Technology in 2002. I was recently accepted to continue on for a Ph.D. beginning in January of 2006.

Being an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations of North Dakota (I grew up on a very rural Indian reservation), I chose my field of study because I was keenly aware of the dire need for researchers in Native American communities. Education, social and health disparities exist in communities throughout the United States, however they are particularly acute in Native American communities.

Upon completing school, I plan on going home to work for my tribe developing science and technology curricula relevant to Native American students. My ultimate goal is to increase interest in all sciences; fields in which Natives are seriously underrepresented. I would also like to develop other curricula and programs for the college involving science and math studies from a multicultural point of view, an emerging field sometimes referred to as ethnoscience.

I have observed that teaching science to multicultural students works well when delivered in a manner that addresses their beliefs, culture, and needs. I’ve been involved in such projects extensively, having worked with The Dakota Science Center (Grand Forks) as a Faculty Mentor during their “Science in the Circle of Life” camp. Further, I’m very active in the UND Chapter of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES). I’ve been a general member of AISES since I was in middle school and have served as President and Vice President (U. of Idaho, 1997-1999) in other college chapters.

I am currently in my second year as Public Relations officer for our chapter here at UND. We recently saw our hard work rewarded when we were named Runner-Up for Chapter of the Year at AISES’ National Conference in Anchorage, AK last fall. I plan to continue my leadership role in AISES this spring by running for the Region 5 student representative, a position which represents AISES chapters in Manitoba, Ontario, Iowa, Illinois, Upper Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. I see programs such as the Science Center, AISES, and SACNAS as vital to increasing numbers of Native Americans in science & technology, and I plan on promoting active membership in elementary, secondary, and tribal school chapters.

My commitment to Native populations does not end here; I am also very active in research addressing the needs of our Elder populations. I currently hold a research assistantship at the National Resource Center on Native American Aging (Centers for Rural Health, UND). I am a part of the “front-line” at the Center, working directly with tribes nationwide in administering the “Locating the Needs of Our Elders” needs assessment. This assessment provides data for tribes with which they may apply for federal grants and aid in identifying problem areas. My duties include obtaining tribal resolutions from participating tribes, drawing samples for administrators, guiding them through the survey process, and when they’ve finished, processing and returning their results. This experience has proven invaluable in my understanding of not only statistics and research methodologies, but also in the art of dealing with Native populations outside my own. I hope to tie the work I do at the Center into my Master’s thesis, focusing on Elder abuse in Native populations.

To state all of my aspirations simply, I would like to take what I have learned about western science back to my own people and share it, hopefully sparking an interest within the young people of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations along the way. I want to develop a learning environment that respects the integrity of Native culture, recognizes and integrates pre-existing traditional knowledge of the area, serves the people I’m working with, and helps students and other end-users to succeed in any setting.

I believe that when students are secure in their knowledge of themselves, they are much more receptive to learning. This is true for me and has led to the success that I have experienced in my own studies. I have a deep respect for a student’s need to discover themselves and tie what they are learning to who they are. In fact, I think it is key to their success in any path they choose.

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