Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College Graduation 2022

By Brian Heskin,  

MHA Times Reporter

The Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College held their 2022 Graduation at the MHA Interpretive Center May 13. In all, thirty two students were honored at Friday’s ceremony. Candidates for graduation received diplomas or certificates for Native American Studies, Addiction Studies, Business Administration and Management, General Studies, Environmental Science, Welding, and General Education Development. 

The event was originally planned to be held in the new amphitheater on the MHA Interpretive Center grounds, but strong winds and rain forced college administrators to change the graduation ceremony to be held indoors instead. Friends and relatives of the 2022 graduates packed inside the Interpretive Center to see them receive their certificates and diplomas. Seating was mostly filled and many attendees had to stand in the back to see the graduates on their special day. 

The ceremony began with the Color Guard, compliments of VFW Post 271, with the processional song played by the Little Shell Drum Group.

The Nueta, Hidatsa, and Sahnish prayers were done by Bheri Hallam, Selena Finley, and Braden Allery. 

NHSC President, Dr. Twyla Baker, gave the 2022 Welcome Address to those in attendance. “This is kind of like the finish line,” Dr. Baker said. “This is the best part of what I do. And I’m sure it’s the best part of what our faculty and staff do as well,” Dr. Baker said as she spoke about the joy of making it to graduation. “Graduates, this is the day you have worked so hard towards. Families, I’m so glad you’re here to witness this on the graduates behalf.” 

Dr. Baker went on to thank the hosts of the 2022 Graduation Ceremony, the MHA Interpretive Center, and that the weather forced them to make last minute changes, but that they were able to adapt accordingly. 

She also thanked the family, friends, and faculty for helping support this year’s graduates. “Every graduate that walks across our stage is a community effort. When I say these are our graduates, I definitely mean that in a much broader sense than that they’re simply just NHSC Graduates. Especially over the past few years. Our school and our Tribal Nation has a long history and lifeway of mutual aid and caring for eachother. It’s written about in the history books. You could almost say we invented it on this continent.

Dr. Twyla Baker President NHSC

Cassandra Hopkins VP of Student Senate

Pansy Goodall faculty of year

Dr. Ruth Anna Buffalo

Patricia Dubois Student of year

Sasha Sillitti President Alumni Assoc

That is still true on our campus and for our students. As the President of this institution, I come to work each day and witness the care and energy of our staff and faculty and what they pour into these students, Dr. Baker said.

She ended her welcome address by telling the graduates what she sees in them as they prepare to make their mark on the world. “We are sending you out as warriors of peace, armed with knowledge to help bring all of us into a better and brighter world,” Dr. Baker said before congratulating the class of 2022 and introducing keynote speaker, Rep. Dr. Ruth Anna Buffalo.

MHA member, Dr. Ruth Anna Buffalo has served in the North Dakota House of Representatives since 2018. She serves in the House Agriculture and Judiciary Committees and is a public health professional and educator. She has introduced laws on human trafficking and MMIP prevention. She was the original bill author of the new law that now requires Native American history to be taught in all ND schools. In 2019, she was also named North Dakota Woman of the Year by the North Dakota Women’s Network.

Dr. Ruth Anna Buffalo’s keynote address began with congratulatory and complimentary words. “You may have struggled or stumbled, or may have even fallen down, but you got back up. You dug down deep and you found it within yourself to keep pushing forward. So, I just want to tell you that you are amazing,” Dr. Ruth Anna said.

She went on to say that she has no doubt that the 2022 graduates are well prepared for what the future holds for them, but also advised the graduates to remember to take care of themselves. “As you turn the page to the next chapter in your life, please remember to take good care of yourself. I know we often get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of everyday living, often putting the needs of others before our own, because that’s what we do. We take good care of each other. It’s in our DNA to be a good relative. But we must not forget to be a good relative to ourselves,” she said.

Dr. Ruth Anna Buffalo described how in another chapter of her life she once coached basketball, taught, and led a wellness program at a tribal college for seven years. She helped students in the entire campus community get on personal wellness plans. “It was a lot of fun and very rewarding to see our beautiful relatives making lifestyle changes for the better so they may live longer and healthier lives. We need you here, graduates and community, family members, and friends. We need you here for a long time. And, I know I don’t have to tell you why. Well, because quite frankly, we’ve got work to do, and we need you, Dr. Ruth Anna Buffalo said. She explained how Native Americans have a lower life expectancy than other populations and stressed the importance of utilizing healthier choices so the future can be limitless.

Vice President of the Student Senate, Cassandra Hopkins, gave the Student Senate Address, while Sasha Sillitti, President of the Alumni Association, gave the Alumni Address following the keynote speech.

Dr. Constance King Gottschall, Vice President of Student Services, then presented the award of Student of the Year to Patricia Dubois.

Scholarships sponsored by various members of the community were then presented to deserving recipients within the 2022 class. The Louis Sr. and Ellen (Grinnell) Baker-Gillette Scholarship was given to Hailey Yellow Wolf and Morgan Tveter.

The Francis Beston Scholarship was awarded to Amanda Deville, Jonna Brady, Shooter Stewart, and Chelsey Raii Quick Bear.

The Emerson Baker Scholarship was presented to Iris Bird Bear Obes and Melissa Acosta.

The Maggie Youngbird Yellow Bird Mother’s Day Scholarship was given to Kylea Driver, Marie Driver, Jera Graham, Diane Primeaux, Rickilian Hughes, Zachary Stewart, Jacobi Jarski, and Keauna Fox.

Dr. Kerry Hartman took a few moments to acknowledge all the faculty and staff at NHSC. He asked them all to stand and be recognized for all their outstanding work. He took the opportunity to then introduce Robert Rainbow, Vice President of Academics, to present one faculty member with the Faculty of the Year Award. This year’s winner was presented to Pansy Goodall. She was described as hardworking and willing to travel long distances, (White Shield, Mandaree, Bismarck, and Minot), to help her students. The crowd of students and graduates let out a tremendous roar of approval when her name was called as the winner.

Dr. Jen Janecek-Hartman presented the Tree Tribute to three special people. Trees will be planted in honor of Dr. Kerry Hartman for his 30+ years of service in education, Emerson Baker who was influential throughout his life, and Harley Frueh who was a NHSC Student who passed away recently. The trees will be a way to commemorate the lives of these special men.

The ceremony closed with the most anticipated portion of the event. Graduates were called by name to finally receive their diplomas or certificates. Cheers and loud applause bellowed within the circular walls of the Interpretive Center as proud relatives and close friends celebrated the achievements of the NHSC Class of 2022.