Editor’s Note — This is part of a conversation series highlighted as part of Native American Heritage Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and beyond.
From a young age, Mariah Dawn, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, knew she wanted to help others.
Now, the pre-health student from Lincoln has set her sights on becoming part of a small percentage of Native American nurses and using her skills to improve health care on reservations.
What originally got you interested in nursing?
I always knew I wanted to work with people and help others who needed it the most. My mom has been a nurse for about 20 years at Madonna and my uncle and sister are nurses as well. I feel like growing up with my mom’s influence has had an impact on my career as well. I wanted to be a dentist, but I wanted to be closer and be able to communicate with patients more. This is why I figured nursing was the right path for me. I also wanted to go back to my reservation or just be a travel nurse for other reservations in need to give back to my community and help support other Native Americans.
Overall, I feel like nursing was an opportunity for me to be who I am and do what I love the most, which is to help them to make their day better when no other family member can be there. I enjoy putting a smile on patients’ faces and seeing how happy they are to see me help them. As a nursing assistant right now, I enjoy coming to work so I know nursing is the right choice for me to pursue a career I love.
Talk about your goal to improve health care on Native reservations.
I want to go on reservations and give back to my community. Most reservations are very poor and have limited health care along with poor living conditions. Poor living conditions can lead to numerous health problems. I want to help communities and I want them to feel like they are taken care of and that they do matter. Native Americans are highly at risk for diabetes and suicide so having better health care like access to insulin and meds for health problems along with psychological help can decrease the number of deaths. I also just want to make an impact and do what is good but also help out and support other Indigenous people throughout their journey in life.
You’re part of UNITE. How has joining this group shaped your college experience? Any favorite moments/memories thus far?
By joining UNITE, I have felt like I am around people who understand me. Going to a college and being the minority in a majority of white students can be intimidating. It is hard to come into a classroom and to feel lonely and misunderstood. But with UNITE I felt like I had a chance to be who I was and have them understand religious and cultural aspects of my life. I am able to talk to them about problems, hang out and do fun activities with everyone and just learn more about other tribes and who we are as a whole that make up a small portion of UNL.
I really do feel like UNITE has shaped my college experience for the better. I feel like, with this group of amazing people, they inspire me to keep going when things get hard and overall, it is great to have other Indigenous friends. Some favorite moments from this year is going on a trip to South Dakota for Wounded Knee, Badlands National Park and Windcave National Park. I loved looking at the historical aspects and being around the people who make me laugh and smile.
What does Native American Heritage Month mean to you?
Native American Heritage Month means celebrating our culture and tradition among all my Native people. It also is a time to be recognized and show people that we are still here even after all the hardships. It is an opportunity to teach the importance of our culture and embrace who we are. Native American Heritage Month is a time to recognize everything our ancestors did for us.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
Some things I wish to accomplish in my lifetime is to be more connected with my culture and to learn the language of the Lakota people. I also want to get my master’s in nursing and maybe even go past that. I also want to visit my reservation more and help out as much as I can, not only with health care but also with volunteer work.
What or who inspires you?
Someone who inspires me is my mom. She works day after day and makes sure to put food on the table and help out even after long eight-hour shifts. She comes home and always gives unconditional love. She is a hard-working mom who does everything for her kids and doesn’t expect anything in return. I look up to her and aspire to be like her, from her bubbly personality to her goofy jokes. I love that on her worst days, she still makes everyone else’s the best because that is who she is and that is who she will always be. I adore her and she will always inspire me.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus?
My advice for other students looking to make an impact on campus is to find something you are passionate about and go for it! Be the person who makes the change; be the person who people look up to and recognize that you trying to make an impact. Don’t look too hard to find something to make an impact about because deep down, you should have something that you are passionate about and are willing to embrace and show the whole UNL campus. I would also suggest to never stop showing your support for what you are trying to make an impact about and never stop trying to share and make the impact known. A little can go a long way and you never know who is looking up to you and how you are impacting them.