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Keeping her Culture Alive: giiwegiizhigookway Martin ’09

Posted on Mar 25, 2013
Earning her degree from UW-Superior in 2009, giiwegiizhigookway Martin is working to preserve her tribe’s culture and history in Watersmeet, MI.
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Keeping her Culture Alive: giiwegiizhigookway Martin ’09

Giiwegiizhigookway Martin made the decision to make use of UW-Superior's online education program, and she worked to earn her bachelor's degree with an individualized major in Human Services and a minor in Native American Studies. Though she did not graduate until 2009, Martin has been doing various types of work with her tribe, the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe, since 1986. She was a council member for many years, and then she spent a couple of years doing work as treasurer. She is now working in the position of the Historic Preservation Office Director, which she has held for the past nine years.


Communication is Key

Working as the Historic Preservation Office Director, Martin's job entails much research and requires a strong ability to be able to communicate with people on multiple levels. She must be able to work well with both the members of the tribe and its officials, as well as authorities from local, state, and even federal levels. A large portion of her job involves reviewing federal funding projects and then writing reviews on them and making reports on how the projects will affect the tribe.

Martin feels that one of the most challenging facets to her job is getting people to see eye to eye. She explains that it is difficult "dealing with outside agencies who do not believe that as a tribe [they] need to be included in consultation and coordination efforts. It takes a lot of education outside of the work day to teach these agencies why [the tribe's] voice is important and it does matter that they consult with [them]." Though these situations may take extra effort to address, they are essential to the well-being of the tribe and help to ensure that they have a say in certain affairs.

Preserving the Culture

Other than these few challenges, Martin loves the work that she gets to do for the tribe. One of the things she enjoys most is working with matters of preserving the culture of the Ojibwe. A project that she is currently undertaking involves the tribe's language and what can be done to prevent it from becoming obsolete. To address this issue, Martin has paired up with a couple of other tribal leaders in order to create a language program. She comments, "We probably currently have (at most) 2 semi-fluent Ojibwe speakers left here in our community." In order to preserve the culture, it is important to put a focus on maintaining the language and building up the number of people who can speak the language fluently. 

Martin is very happy to see her work having such a tremendous effect on the tribe, especially with the youth. "I am…excited to be involved with bringing back many of our customs and culture by implementing classes and workshops to demonstrate and teach these things to the community. I love seeing the younger generation learning these things so that they may be kept alive and passed down to the next generations."

Because of all the different types of work that she attends to, Martin never feels bored on the job. She enjoys the changes in pace and loves the fact that she is able to learn something new every day no matter where her work takes her. Learning is something that she never tires of, and she feels that she wants to know more and more every day. With such an eagerness to continue her education, Martin is even contemplating doing work for a master's degree in the near future. 

A Course of Action

For people who are interested in pursuing a similar career path, Martin wants to emphasize the importance of having strong skills in both speaking and writing. Communication is essential for her type of work, yet she recognizes that it is also relevant for just about any career path. This makes cogent speaking and writing a very valuable set of skills to obtain and continue to improve upon.

Aside from these abilities, a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies, along with developed mapping and research skills, is also crucial. There are also other concentrations within the broad field that may require a slightly different course of education. For these other jobs, Martin recognizes that there are many different areas of work a person can enter into, and he or she can either work within a broad range that deals with multiple capacities or can choose to focus in on one specific area or another. Some of the more concentrated jobs would include work in anthropology, archeology, language, culture, or mapping, all which can still fall under the broader category of Native American Studies.

After working with the reservation for many years, Martin has come to realize what it takes to be successful and happy with her work. To help other's careers flourish as well, she has some advice to share. She says, "If you want it, you must work hard, and you can make it the experience of your life by being passionate for what it is you are trying to accomplish." This is a view that Martin has embodied in her own life, and it has led her to a successful career doing something she loves. 

Giiwegiizhigookway Martin was interviewed as a part of the Career Services Day in the Life project. Her full interview and those of other UW-Superior alumni can be found on the Day in the Life website, http://www.uwsuper.edu/career/students/day-in-the-life.cfm.

Interview conducted by Kristen Jasperson on February 28, 2013. Article written by Kristen Jasperson.

News Contact: Shannon Gilligan | 715-394-8026 | sgillig1{atuws}
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