BOZEMAN — She’s from the Crow Indian Reservation and she is determined to take what she’s learning at Montana State University home to make a difference for her people.
Cheyenne Whiteman is passionate about caring for others. As a student at MSU she is very clear about her goals: become and nurse - and take the skills home to provide better care for her family and friends on the Crow Reservation.
“With nursing if I can do something to help people feel better why wouldn’t I?” she said.
At a time when nurses are in high demand and she could use the skills she’ll learn anywhere there’s no place she’d rather be than home, caring for other Native American families like her own.
“I really feel connected to my people,” she said.
Her inspiration is her grandmother Rosie Doyle, a Northern Cheyenne woman who spent 46 years as a nurse. “Years later we’d be out and about and people would remember her,” said Cheyenne.
Now on MSU's campus in Bozeman, Cheyenne is a long way from home but she says knowing she’s making her grandmother and parents proud keeps her strong.
She also says her busy schedule keeps her from getting too homesick. Besides her nursing classes, she’s active in many organizations and clubs and she serves as co-president of the American Indian Council.
“I love being busy, I love being involved,” she said.
Through the American Indian Council, she works to connect students, preserve her heritage and customs, and also the language. She proudly spoke some of the Northern Cheyenne language she learned from her grandmother. She says she hopes to learn more.
“It’s super important,” she said of speaking her native language. “It makes you feel connected and it’s so beautiful. It makes me so proud I can do that.”
On the MSU campus, she says most of her peers have open minds. But there are some myths and ideas she’s had to set straight.
“Coming here it was a whole new world. I had someone in my class that did not even know Native Americans were American citizens,” she said. “I politely corrected them.”
She hopes to show others her culture is beautiful and she says most are eager to listen and learn.
“There are old stereotypes and new stereotypes,” she said. “Some people have had the stereotypes in their head the whole time and they do not realize it.”
She feels MSU’s addition of American Indian Hall is a great way for people to get a taste of true Native American history and culture.
“It makes me feel so welcomed and like I have a place here,” she said. “Heritage and culture can kind of unify us. It is something to share with people.”
You’ll get to hear more from Cheyenne when we go home with Cheyenne to the Crow Reservation. You’ll meet grandma Rosie and also her mother and father.