Winds of Change - Summer 2017 - 13

Buck was steeped in tradition and respect for
Mother Earth and the Creator at a young age.
Buck poses with his
10-year-old daughter,
Tatiwyat (pronounced
tuh-tee-wyatt).

he didn't receive the necessary
support in high school to help
him figure out his future plans.
Luckily, Buck's parents and
elders encouraged him to live
within his traditional culture.
Buck agreed, and began
spending his time shadowing
the elders, his father, and his
mother. "My goals at that
aises.org

time were to spend time
with them and help
strengthen my community
and revitalize our traditional
culture, language, and
ceremonies," he says. "My
time with them motivated
me to pursue the highest
education."
It was during this period
that Buck became aware of
changes in the growing
seasons for native plants that
were staple foods and medicines for the community. He
noticed that growing seasons
were beginning much later
and becoming substantially
shorter. The community was
hard-hit by these changes, as
members relied on various
plants for their diet, traditions,
culture, ceremonies, and
medicines. Buck knew he
wanted to help his community,
and he soon realized how
to do it.
In the fall of 2014, at the
age of 36, Buck enrolled at
Northwest Indian College to
pursue a bachelor of science
degree in Native environmental science. He is also part of
the interdisciplinary concentration option, which allows
him to work directly with
faculty who share his research
interests. The program is the
only one of its kind in the
nation. According to Buck, "It
helps me strengthen who I am
and identifies how I can
contribute to solving challenges around biodiversity and
indigenous traditional
knowledge."
His love for the program
aside, college was a shock for
Buck. As a first-generation
college student, he didn't
know what to expect and had
a difficult time adjusting.
"Culture shock and homesick-

THE WANAPUM

The Wanapum, or "river people,"
made their home in the Columbia
Plateau along the Columbia
River. The tribe is determined to
maintain its traditional culture
and has chosen to remain
unrecognized by the federal
government.

ness were hard to get through,"
he recalls. "My new culture
was going to class, doing
homework, and spending time
behind a computer - a stark
contrast to life in my village,
where I was fishing and
hunting most of the year."
Buck also has the added
responsibility of being the
father of a young daughter. He
made the difficult decision to
relocate himself and his then
seven-year-old daughter,
Tatiwyat, to Northwest Indian
College's main campus. "I
thought my academic goals
were out of reach because of
my responsibilities to provide
for my daughter," says Buck.
"The move was essential to set
myself up for academic success
in a supportive, immersed
environment."
Having now finished his
junior year, Buck has created a
strong support network and
become an integral part of the
Northwest Indian College
community. With another
student he founded the Red
Power club, whose mission is
to "through education,
promote and protect the
holistic well-being of indigenous people and land." Buck
is also a member of AISES, and
has found his experience with
the organization - and more
specifically his involvement
with AISES's Lighting the
Pathway to Faculty Careers for

Natives in STEM program
- gratifying. "I've received
support to pursue advanced
degrees, and been able to
work with peer mentors,
including receiving mentorship from a distinguished
Native faculty member who
helps with professional
development and advice,"
he says.
Buck is taking the
mentorship to heart, as he has
accepted an offer from the
2017 Harvard Forest Summer
Research Program in Ecology
in Petersham, Mass., to work
on a project explaining
variation in the seasonal
changes of trees. Buck is also
considering applying to a PhD
program in environmental
engineering and a JD program
focusing on environmental and Indian law. "My
ultimate long-term academic
career goal is to become a
scientist, engineer, and
attorney," he says. "I hope to
lead a team to study how we
can protect, preserve, conserve, and enhance our water
supply. I will also lead this
team in restoration efforts
located on my ancestral
homelands."
Between school, internships, and his personal life,
Buck is very busy. Nonetheless,
the ways of the elders and his
ancestors are always at the
forefront of his thoughts. "My
ancestors were visionaries,
drummers, and dreamers," he
notes. Buck is now following
his own dream, and he has
some advice for others looking
to follow theirs: "Prioritize
your academics, and if you
need help, find it - and
always practice #FierceAnd
RadicalSelfLove."
- Alexa D'Agostino

SUMMER 2017 * WINDS OF CHANGE 13


http://www.aises.org

Winds of Change - Summer 2017

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