Internship takes Molly McGill on an “excellent adventure”
Last summer fifth-year senior Molly McGill found herself in the most unusual places learning the most unexpected things—especially for a young woman who had never been west of Louisville, KY. During a six-week internship in Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota, Molly stood in awe atop Snake Butte on Fort Belknap Reservation, and dug roots near age-old tipi rings near Poplar, MT. She photographed buffalo in Yellowstone National Park, drank sacred water from a spring on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, and interviewed an 84 year old Lakota woman who had never told anyone the stories of her youth but wanted to tell them to Molly.
For most of last school year, Molly worked a few hours a week as a paid materials development intern for Full Circle Curriculum and Materials, a Montana-based nonprofit organization. During that time, she learned about Montana’s Indian Education for All Act which requires the state’s public school students to learn about the history and culture of the nations that make their tribal homes in the state. With fellow interns and education majors Tania Staley and Erica Tindell, Molly also learned a great deal about Native American history and culture and about how to develop teaching materials designed to help school children learn more.
“When the opportunity to go to Montana was presented to me, I jumped at the chance. But at the same time, I was really nervous,” she said. “I’d never been that far from home and six weeks seemed like a very long time. Thankfully, though, I overcame my anxiety and headed west.”
Each day was a new and exciting adventure for Molly. “We traveled to five of the seven Montana reservations and to one in South Dakota. We interviewed elders and worked with tribal members to develop culturally appropriate materials to support teachers’ implementation of Indian Education for All. We went to powwows and on tours led by tribal members. We visited the Indian Welcome Center at the hospital in Great Falls, the Nez Perce battle site near Chinook, and attended a Call Back ceremony in Lame Deer. I saw sights I couldn’t have imagined.”
Molly recalled another highlight of her trip. Sitting under one of the few shade trees to be found on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, she interviewed an internationally known spiritual leader of the Lakota People. “I was so nervous that I thought I’d be sick,” she said. “I knew I should give him tobacco, as is the Lakota tradition when asking an elder for information; but I had no idea what to say or when to say it. I think he could see my hands shaking because he seemed especially gracious. The interview was amazing. I was really honored when he asked that we turn off the video camera so he could sing some sacred Ghost Dance songs.”
Using what she learned, Molly developed materials currently used in Montana classrooms, wrote journal and newsletter articles, and worked with other research assistants to develop a popular board game called Montana Roadtrip. Her “excellent adventure” was made possible through funding from Roger Sell and from Full Circle.
Summing up the impact of her experiences Molly said, “This trip was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I found myself in situations in which I was uncomfortable, afraid that I would say or do something culturally inappropriate. I was awed by a land I had never seen and welcomed by people I had never met who were of a different culture than mine. I learned many things about Montana, Native American history, and most of all myself. I will always be grateful for this experience and will never forget the people I was lucky enough to meet. The things I learned and am learning will find their way into my classroom; my students will benefit in many, many ways.”
Learn more about Full Circle at www.fullcirclecm.org. Read Molly’s Full Circle articles, view clips of her interviews, and see a photo album of her summer out west on the Education Studies website at www.berea.edu/eds.