Anishinaabe grad student wins dissertation fellowship to write results of sturgeon study, Great Lakes climate change
A University of Colorado Boulder PhD candidate in ethnic studies with an emphasis on Native American and Indigenous studies has received the 2022-23 Henry Roe Cloud Dissertation Fellowship at Yale University.
Natasha Myhal was chosen based on the quality of her work and her project’s significance for Native American and Indigenous studies. The fellowship provides funding for Myhal to write her dissertation.
An enrolled citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Myhal works with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Manistee, Michigan, on tribal natural resources with a focus on understanding how tribal members are affected by the Earth’s changing climate. Her work employs an Indigenous political-ecology approach, which centers Indigenous ways of knowing and their ecological systems to better understand environmental issues.
The Dissertation Fellowship at Yale honors the legacy of Roe Cloud, a member of the Winnebago Nation of Nebraska and a 1910 graduate of Yale College. A critic of federal Indian assimilation programs, Roe Cloud advocated for increased educational opportunities for American Indians. His leadership helped transform American Indian higher education.
The fellowship facilitates the completion of a doctorate by a scholar working on pressing issues related to the American Indian experience.
Myhal’s research involves sturgeon, a fish that is important to the culture of the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potowatomi) people. Nmé, or lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), is the oldest fish species in the Great Lakes and is central to the subsistence and spiritual and cultural practices of many Anishinaabeg peoples.
The tribal natural resource’s department is restoring the lake sturgeon population to the Big Manistee River and the 1836 Treaty Reservation in the Great Lakes region.
“I’m interested in how the relationship between the tribe and the fish has shifted over time, because they are bringing back a fish into an environment that has changed,” Myhal said. “So, I’m tying the two research interests together: the community-based work and resource management.”
Myhal’s research interests include ethnobotany, Indigenous environmental studies and Indigenous approaches to ethnographic (the study of people’s customs and cultures) research. While earning a master’s degree from the University of Kansas, Myhal interviewed a Dine' (Navajo) elder and a Hispano elder in New Mexico, as well as Forest Service land managers.
I’m grateful for this important opportunity. From a graduate student’s perspective, writing a dissertation is a big undertaking. I’m grateful to have that time to focus on the writing. And I’m grateful to be able to do it with the Yale Group for the Study of Native America.”
These interviews served as the basis of her thesis to understand the cultural importance of the oshá plant (Ligusticum porter), which is used to treat such aliments as colds, flu, upper-respiratory infection and gastrointestinal problems, as well as the co-management strategies employed by the Forest Service.
“Receiving this fellowship means a lot to me,” Myhal said. “I’m grateful for this important opportunity. From a graduate student’s perspective, writing a dissertation is a big undertaking. I’m grateful to have that time to focus on the writing. And I’m grateful to be able to do it with the Yale Group for the Study of Native America.”
Myhal attributes her trajectory to her undergraduate degree in environmental studies and American Indian studies from the University of Minnesota, Morris, a former Native American boarding school and the only federally recognized four-year Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI) in the Upper Midwest. The training she received at UMN-Morris in Indigenous environmental issues provides the foundation on which to build her graduate work.
Myhal will graduate from CU Boulder in late spring, 2023. Her plans are then to enter academia with a goal of becoming a professor so she can teach and mentor students while continuing her research.