Dartmouth student interning in tribe’s garden
Nineteen-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen and Dartmouth College student Taylor Armbrister works in the CN Seed Bank garden on July 2 as an Environmental Resources summer intern. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Taylor Armbrister, a Cherokee Nation citizen and summer intern for the CN Environmental Resources Department, enjoys nature and plants so much that he earned a scholarship to Dartmouth, an Ivy League school.
How he arrived in Tahlequah, via his hometown of Kansas, Oklahoma, by way of Hanover, New Hampshire, is nearly as impressive as the higher education institute he attends.
“How I got here was by hearing from other Cherokees. I’m interested in environmental studies and Native American studies, and I needed something to do this summer. So I checked out Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Resources Department and spoke with Secretary Sara Hill,” Armbrister said. “She then got me in touch with Senior Director Pat Gwin and cultural biologist Feather Smith Trevino. They told me what I’d be doing, and it sounded interesting. I mean this would be a good first step learning what Cherokee Nation is doing when it comes to the environmental aspect of it.”
He said the then drafted a proposal to the Dartmouth Native American Studies Department because it funds unpaid internships, which includes paying for housing, travel and food.
“Anyway, they decided to fund it, so now I’m out here working with Feather until the end of August,” Armbrister said.
And Smith Trevino said she’s happy to have the extra help. “This is actually the first time since I’ve been working in the garden that we’ve had an intern. It’s really helped me out because things that can take me all day long to get done. Taylor and I can knock out in about half a day.”
Armbrister’s duties include weed eating and watering, but he also helped mulch the garden and is helping redesign a rock garden.
“You never know how people are going to handle Oklahoma heat. It’s really starting to get hot now, but so far Taylor’s done really well. And I appreciate the extra pair of hands,” Trevino Smith said.
Regarding his future and the college he attends, Armbrister said he’s taking things slowly.
“So my plan is to have a double major and possibly go to law school afterwards, and maybe go into environmental law. I received a generous merit scholarship, so luckily I won’t be owing anything afterwards, which is why I’m considering law school. I’ve got time,” he said.
According to its website, when Dartmouth was founded on Dec. 13, 1769, its charter created a college “for the education and instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in this Land and also of English Youth and any others.” But this central tenet of the college’s charter went largely unfilled for 200 years as Dartmouth counted only 20 Native American students among its graduates prior to 1970.
When Dartmouth’s 13th president took office in 1970, he rededicated the institution to education Natives. Following recruitment, Dartmouth welcomed 15 Native American students that fall. Also, a group of students voiced the need for an academic program dedicated to the study of Native American literature, culture and history. So a committee was formed to look into the creation of a Native American Studies program. The department recently celebrated its 4oth anniversary.
The college’s refocused effort to educate Native Americans has given Taylor and other tribal citizens great opportunities.
“Dartmouth now houses more Native Americans than any other Ivy (League school). The opportunities are endless,” he said.