Sasanehsaeh Pyawasay, Menominee

Photo by  URBANE APERTURE   Earrings by  Andrea Preston  & Cowl by  Maggie Thompson


Earrings by Andrea Preston & Cowl by Maggie Thompson

I am an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation, from the Menominee Indian Reservation of Wisconsin. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my undergraduate degree in Sociology and American Indian Studies and a graduate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. I received my PhD from the University of Minnesota in Organizational Leadership Policy and Development with an emphasis in higher education. I have also worked in education for over 10 years both with college and high school students and currently at the University of Wisconsin System as the Coordinator of Native Student Success.

As I wrapped up my Ph.D., at the end of summer 2017, in doing so I presented my research to a number of colleagues and friends and in that presentation, I explained that “I didn’t do this work to be called a doctor, I did this work for my community.” Community has always been super important to me, not only in my individual success but also in what continues to drive and motivate me in my daily work. 

I was away from home for nearly 15 years, I have come to realize how fortunate I am to come from such a supportive community and family. Through the continued support of my family and the Menominee community I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to not only attend college but to achieve my Ph.D. Through that support, I have also been very fortunate enough to gain a number of great experiences and also meet a number of an amazing people to guide me to where I am today.  This community has especially supported me and cared for me during my doctoral process. Which has been one of the most intellectually and emotionally challenging things that I have ever been through. I certainly could not have done it without the support of all of my communities near and far. Because my research was close to my own experience as a Native woman going through educational institutions, my research sometimes became overwhelming but also provided tremendous personal insight. In the middle of investigating the 19th  and 20th  century educational policies concerning the Native community, it hit me. I am a product of deculturalization and for more than the obvious reason of successfully navigating the educational system. Rather it is even more deeply rooted in my identity as a Native woman. The way in which I was choosing to identify myself was by primarily using the English version of my tribal name (Suzi), instead of my tribal and legal given name (Sasānēhsaeh). My conscious choice to use English and not my native language is a product of successful educational and federal polices to assimilate Natives. Those educational policies of colonialism and assimilation worked to assimilate me, as colonialism still exists in our current social systems. For that reason and through the support of all of my communities, I have committed myself to work that seeks to create authentic and significant change for my community and Indian country.