Haskell graduate with a passion for the environment says her end goal is to ‘give back to the people’

photo by: Contributed Photo

Jamie Colvin is pictured in the spring of 2019 at the gazebo on Haskell Indian Nations University's campus.

For two years during her time at Haskell Indian Nations University, Jamie Colvin and a small group of students would collect food scraps from the campus dining hall every day and bring them to a composting area by the university’s greenhouse.

Colvin would take the temperature of the composting piles and weigh the amount of food they were adding each day, seeking to collect as much data as possible while studying the progress of the composting.

Once she combined efforts and funds with Haskell’s student government to use the compost, buy flowers and replant the landscaped “H” next to the cultural center.

“She’s incredible,” said former interim president Dan Wildcat. “She’s just really one of those exceptional, bright young Native women who is always really thinking of what she can do to serve her community.”

And over Colvin’s five years at the university, that community was Haskell, Wildcat noted.

photo by: Jamie Colvin

Jamie Colvin and a group of other Haskell Indian Nations University students replanted the “H” on campus one year, using flowers purchased by the student government and compost collected from the school’s composting piles.

Colvin, an environmental science major, is one of this year’s Haskell graduates. Colvin belongs to the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and is part of the Tusekia Harjo Band and the Alligator Clan. She was born in Oklahoma and moved to Omaha, Neb., at an early age.

“I love Haskell, and this place gave me a lot of opportunities,” Colvin said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I first got here but I found my path.”

Colvin was part of an “Eco-Ambassador” grant program at Haskell. In addition to the composting project, Colvin and the other interns also worked on other aspects of campus sustainability and Haskell Wetlands restoration. When the grant ended, the group of students remained together and now works on sustainability projects as a sub-committee of the student senate, Colvin said.

Over the years, Colvin was a student ambassador, participated on the student senate, ran for Miss Haskell, joined Alpha Pi Omega sorority and wrote for the student newspaper, The Haskell Indian Leader.

This summer, Colvin will take one more elective class that she needs to finish her degree, while also interning virtually with a sustainable land and water resources program through the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics 2, a summer experience she was also able to do last year in person. After the summer, Colvin sees herself “being somewhere involved with field work and gaining more experience before I go to graduate school. I really want to pinpoint what I’m going to be studying.”

After she has a graduate degree, Colvin said she wants to work with either her tribe or another tribe in their natural resource department.

“The end goal is to give back to the people,” she said.

photo by: Contributed Photo

Jamie Colvin represents Haskell Indian Nations University at the Standing Rock reservation in August of 2016.

Colvin hopes to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge — or, “Indian know-how,” as the term was explained to her by an elder — into more science practices and methodologies. She also hopes to practice and instill in others the habit of “being respectful of whose land we are on and how they want us to proceed.”

When she was in the Great Lakes region for her summer internship last year, for example, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Wisconsin requested that she lay tobacco in the water before getting in a canoe and taking samples on their land.

The most important thing Colvin learned at Haskell was how to speak up for herself and be a proud Native woman.

Growing up, Colvin didn’t always express her indigenous heritage to others. She appears white, Colvin said, and noted that she didn’t always want to explain her ancestry. Receiving the titles of Shawnee County Allied Tribes Princess and Omaha Metropolitan Community College Princess in high school helped give Colvin the courage and drive to represent her heritage in a positive way. When she got to Haskell, that courage was solidified. Haskell gave her the voice “to be proud of who I am and where I come from.”

Colvin had attended Haskell’s commencement pow wows from a young age. Her family would drive in from Omaha, and Colvin would participate in the dances.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no pow wow for Colvin.

“It’s really upsetting just because this is such a big deal for me and my family and for Native people. You don’t see a high graduation rate with us and you don’t see somebody in my family having a bachelor’s degree in science,” she said.

Despite missing out on graduation ceremonies this year, Colvin was happy to have had the experience of walking for graduation when she received her associate’s degree three years ago. She said it was her favorite Haskell memory.

photo by: Contributed Photo

Jamie Colvin is pictured in December of 2017, when she received her associate’s degree in natural science.

Colvin gave a shout-out to all the graduating seniors this year and called on her peers to “keep pressing on.”

“I look at it as what’s done is done. We can’t change it. But we got to move forward,” she said. “We just have to really keep pressing with our passions and dreams and our endeavors. It’s not the time to give up but the time to keep pressing forward.”


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