The constitution of the Cherokee Nation established a cabinet-level role for the secretary of natural resources, responsible for resources and environmental protection, land-use practices, and sustainability initiatives.
He may have been raised in the city, but Dr. Clint
Carroll has always felt most at home in the woods. From Texas to
Arkansas, and Oklahoma to Colorado, Dr. Carroll’s love of the land
developed at a young age. Now an associate professor at the University
of Colorado Boulder, Dr. Carroll, Cherokee Nation, uses his knowledge of
the land to address tribal environmental issues.
Growing up in metropolitan Dallas, Dr. Carroll could have become
enamored with big-city life. Instead, he gravitated toward undeveloped
land. “Perhaps because of my father’s rural upbringing, we got out of
the city a lot to camp,” he explains. With his father’s guidance, Dr.
Carroll learned to appreciate the land around him. “My dad taught me at
an early age to respect the land and the other-than-human beings we
share it with,” he adds.
That affinity guided his academic journey, even when he wasn’t sure
where that journey would take him. “As a Native scholar representing the
first generation in my family to seek an advanced degree, I didn’t have
many models for what success looks like in academia,” he says. The same
was not true for family loyalty though. “As a single mother to my
brother and me throughout most of my childhood, my mom showed me what
strength and dedication to family looked like and has always supported
my goals, even if they took me farther away than she’d prefer,” he
Dr. Carroll first attended the University of North Texas but dropped
out after his first year, having no sense of direction. After some time
away to travel and work outside the academy, he returned to school,
taking courses at a local community college in Dallas. “It was there
that I found my direction, and with the guidance of one of my
instructors, pursued my studies in anthropology and American Indian
studies,” he says.
From there, with the support of his family, he started college at the
University of Arizona, where he found his passion for environmental and
social science along with a supportive Native community. “The American
Indian Studies Program, Native American Student Affairs, and Red Ink Magazine were invaluable for my well-being and success,” he says.
As an undergraduate, he traveled to Mexico and the Bahamas to work on
environmental issues. Dr. Carroll came away from these trips knowing
that he wanted to do more. “I developed a passion for understanding and
addressing environmental issues through the lens of local knowledge and
community-based, applied research,” he explains. “As I was preparing to
graduate, I sought ways to use these experiences and skills in the
service of my Cherokee community in Oklahoma.”
After graduating with a degree in anthropology, Dr. Carroll worked
with the Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Programs department. Tasked
with developing a tribal ethnobotany project, Dr. Carroll became even
more engrossed in environmental science. By the time he made his way to
the University of California, Berkeley, for graduate school in
environmental science, policy, and management (ESPM), he was confident
in his goals and excited about what lay ahead.
Still, post-baccalaureate study proved to be more difficult than he
had anticipated. “Graduate school at Berkeley was daunting,” he recalls.
“I was often intimidated and unsure of my intellectual abilities
because the culture there could be competitive.” Luckily, he again found
a welcoming and supportive community in the American Indian Graduate
Program, the American Indian Grad Student Association, and AISES. “They
are a support system of peers and faculty who understand why we do what
we do and its importance to our families and communities,” he says.
“We hope to formulate lasting methods for maintaining Cherokee land-based knowledge.”
As a graduate student Dr. Carroll threw himself into his work. He was
a member of the ESPM Diversity Council, and helped to create the
Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers — a small group of elders who work
toward the continued use and revitalization of their land-based
knowledge. In 2011, he completed his PhD.
Dr. Carroll wanted to stay in higher education and spent the next
four years as a post-doctoral associate and assistant professor at the
University of Minnesota Twin Cities. In 2015, he joined the Department
of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder as an assistant
professor. Now an associate professor, he sees that his reach extends
far beyond the university’s walls.
Working closely with the Medicine Keepers, Dr. Carroll is
coordinating a land education program and overseeing a study about
Cherokee plant gathering in Oklahoma. “We hope to formulate lasting
methods for maintaining Cherokee land-based knowledge,” he explains,
“and to better understand how Cherokee people are negotiating access to
land due to complex ownership patterns and the impact of shifting
climate conditions.” In 2015, he published a book about this work: Roots of Our Renewal: Ethnobotany and Cherokee Environmental Governance. He also serves as a mentor in the AISES program Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM.
Dr. Carroll is focused on using his knowledge to help his community.
“My experiences have shaped my approach to service leadership among the
Cherokee Nation,” he says. “I see this as a lifelong commitment to
cultivating within myself the qualities of a community-focused Cherokee
intellectual — didehlquasgi (learner and observer).” From the halls of academia to the hills of Oklahoma, Dr. Carroll is doing just that.
The boundaries of the 14-county jurisdictional area of the Cherokee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma are now labeled on Google Maps and available to researchers around the globe.
Luke Schrimsher is using alignment lasers to build
an optical X-ray system. “That’s the fun part of the job,” he says. A
citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Schrimsher works as an
engineering technical associate in the Nondestructive Evaluation Group
at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.
His team’s ultrasound, electromagnetic, and X-ray tools reveal how
manufactured materials will perform under stress by examining them at
the micron level (a human hair is 70 microns wide). “These machines
aren’t something you can buy in the store!” says Schrimsher.
His work also involves operating those systems, gathering data,
advising on their quality and safety, and mentoring. “We’re on the
leading edge of manufacturing science solving the nation’s most
challenging problems using our technology,” he says. “We are often the
only ones in the nation chasing these research questions.”
His fascination with the structure of things began as a boy growing
up in the east Texas town of Longview. “I was raised to understand
nature and to have a very dear respect for the land,” he explains.
Felling trees and chopping wood to heat his family’s home taught him
that red oak’s tight grain makes it difficult to split, but its density
makes it slow to burn. White oak, on the other hand, splits easily and
“It’s the same here with the materials we evaluate,” says Schrimsher,
whose microscopic exams are related to the national defense. “Do you
want something that has more compressive strength like concrete or
something like metal that won’t snap? The same basic principles apply
whether you’re in nature or a lab.”
His career has followed a non-traditional path. After graduating from
high school in 1988, he joined the Army, became an Apache helicopter
mechanic and inspector, and served in Desert Storm. Then as an airframe
and powerplant mechanic and member of the safety management team at
Gulfstream Aerospace for 18 years, he performed in-service inspections
of corporate jets and did quality control and assurance work.
His father was an aerospace manufacturing worker, and
Schrimsher appreciates the “fantastic opportunities” offered by trade
schools and the skilled trades. “Our nation is starving for technically
skilled individuals,” he says.
Schrimsher's college degree came slowly. He started at Eastern New
Mexico University in 1998 and took a single online class at a time. At
one point he had to stop. “I had to work full time in aviation 60 hours a
week, take care of my family, and pay the bills,” he says. After
getting an associate degree in 2003, he earned his BS in applied
aviation science in 2016.
“I see education not as a means to a goal but as a journey,” says
Schrimsher, who is now working on a master’s of education. Growing up,
he never thought he would go to college, even though many of his
relatives were teachers. His father was an aerospace manufacturing
worker, and Schrimsher appreciates the “fantastic opportunities” offered
by trade schools and the skilled trades. “Our nation is starving for
technically skilled individuals,” he says.
But whatever career paths present themselves to students, he urges
them to follow those opportunities. “You may have the opportunity to go
to trade school or college, or you may just have to find the best job in
labor,” he says. “Do your best. When the Creator shows us a path, we
don’t see the end of the path. We just see a choice of paths. We make
our best choice, and we follow that path as best we can.”
FOX LAKE CREE NATION
The motto of the Fox Lake Cree Nation is “the land and the people are one,” and since at least the receding of the last ice age their land has been the area around Fox Lake and the Lower Nelson River of Manitoba.
Melissa Anderson says her academic work at the
University of Manitoba is right in line with her “extreme interest” in
engineering and physics. Anderson is Ininew, from the Fox Lake Cree
Nation in northern Manitoba, and her path into higher education reflects
her consistent passion for STEM studies.
A mother of four, Anderson says her interest in science was “ignited”
in the seventh grade when a teacher observed that she had great math
and science skills. Anderson remembers this teacher’s confidence in her
to this day, and she used that energy to complete her undergraduate
degree in physics at the University of Winnipeg in 2020. In her second
year, she received a National Science and Engineering Research Council
award, which included a summer research assistant position. “I was
unsure what path to take for my master’s degree,” she says, but that
experience in research proved to her that work in the lab can be both
fascinating and fulfilling.
During her undergraduate studies, Anderson found that her passion for
the sciences was doubly fueled by her involvement in AISES. Another
student at the University of Winnipeg had introduced her to AISES and
encouraged her to travel to the .caISES 2019 Second Annual National
Gathering in Montreal with a small group of three students. “Prior to
that, I thought that we Indigenous students in the sciences were few and
far between,” Anderson says. “I was amazed at how many other Indigenous
students are in sciences, and the resources and opportunities that were
presented to us.”
When she got back from the conference, she worked to help start an
AISES student group at the University of Winnipeg. The group has
continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic, meeting online to provide
volunteering opportunities, support, and cultural teachings. Even
though she’s at the University of Manitoba now, Anderson has hopes that
the chapter she founded will continue for years to come — and she has
attended their online Netflix viewing parties, and medicine teachings
“I was amazed at how many other Indigenous students are
in sciences, and the resources and opportunities that were presented to
When a professor from her undergraduate program suggested she look
into biomedical engineering, something clicked. “The opportunity to use
my imagination, creativity, and intuition fit my medical and engineering
passions,” she says. “Ultimately, I would love to be a researcher,
studying an illness or a disease that is crippling Indigenous
Starting graduate studies during the coronavirus pandemic has been a
challenge for many students, Anderson included. “I am used to talking to
professors in person, especially about assignments,” she says. But she
has found the academic world willing to help and meet via Zoom whenever
she needs. She has also been working to establish a new community and
meet new people with social distancing in place. “You don’t get to know
classmates in the same way,” she says. “If you mishear something, you
can’t lean over to other students and ask for clarification. But,
thankfully, social media has made it possible to stay connected to
people far away.”