United Tribes News Speech Archives

Student Nurse Pinning Ceremony
May 4, 2007
Guest Speaker
Suzanne Shields, BSN RN, Student Health Center Supervisor

I want to thank you for inviting me to speak at the UTTC 2007 Pinning Ceremony. I am deeply humbled and take this as a great honor.

It was 16 years ago that I accepted the position of nursing instructor here. Since then I have worked at the Student Health Center. By invitation I feel I have made full circle back through the Practical Nursing Program.

I am amazed and certainly proud every year that I witness men and women graduate from our college and especially so from nursing. I have a special place in my heart for you.

You as nursing students will cross this area to receive your nursing pin marking your end of education here at UTTC and begin your practice in nursing or perhaps advancing to further your education.

The pinning ceremony is a way to formally recognize students when you finally finish classes. It perhaps appeared that it would never end, that you would never reach this point in time. The constant studying, clinicals, grades, lack of sleep, anxiety, sick children, no social life, and finally as you close this chapter another opens for you.

Pinning dates back to 1880. It signifies the integrity and tradition of badges worn by the healers and crusaders of care. Regardless of where their new careers in nursing take the graduates, their pin will represent where they earned their professional experience, displaying a profile of United Tribes Technical College.

Many years ago, I, too, ventured out into the world, away from the gentleness of my mother.

My mother is the reason I am here. My mother is the reason I am who I am. My mother is the reason I am a nurse. She was the first person to receive her GED here when it was call United Tribes Employment Training Center through the Bendix Field Engineering Corporation. They wanted her to stay here to complete a course in Nurses Aid training but she had her sights set on being a nurse. She went on to become a Registered Nurse. I followed right behind to get a degree in Medical Technology became bored at staring into a microscope all day in the state lab. I, too, was an LPN for a year but thought, as I watched RN's and said to myself, I can do that. It was hard work. I had 4 children of my own and raised my sister's children as well. She had a set of twins who were the same age as one of mine. So it seemed like I had a set of triplets. Our special time was supper time. It was a time I could count heads to see how many children I had as my kid's friends came to eat, too. Goulash can go a long way.

I attended Mary College before it became the University of Mary. I recall studying well into the night. Sometimes the last thing I would see when I went to bed at night was the alarm clock that blinked 3 a.m. only to rise at 6 a.m. to get the kids ready for school and Day Care. I know my vehicle could drive to Mary College on its own. I was considered older than average and I felt old among the young ones right out of high school. In my junior year my brother was diagnosed with cancer and only lived 13 months. I wanted to quit but my advisors and instructors thought I had very good grades so I managed through my junior year and his illness and death. I barely recall my junior year. I now wish I would have taken that year off. I hardly remember my courses. I graduated with my junior year being a blur. My beat up old red pickup truck ran poorly but took me to my psych clinicals at the Jamestown State Hospital.

And then State Board Exams!!! I took the written exam where you filled in the circles. I had nightmares about drawing circles. They emphasized that you could be removed from the testing if you appeared to look at the person next to you or across. I glued my eyes to my paper. To this day I could not tell you if a man or woman set next to me or if I sat alone at the table. Was I scared of the results? Yes, well maybe not scared but I thought I would be so embarrassed if I failed. I wonder why? Lawyers fail their bar exams and are encouraged to take them again. Accountants fail there CPA's and encouraged to take the boards and nursing students sometimes are afraid. I am here to let you know that you can overcome fear with courage and confidence. You will not fail. Even though my best friend and I said "See you next time" I knew in my heart he passed and I passed. How could I fail????? I put 4 years of hard work studying, time away from my family. I worked in the evening, too. It was all for my children.

Traditionally Native American Women held significant roles in their tribes. Native Women administered to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of her people. There were Medicine Women who could identify plants needed to heal wounds, illness and promote wellness. Medicine Women were competent healers and treated the person as a whole. Her pronouncements are next to law. Remember that Medicine Women are respected by all.

I use Medicine Women in comparison with nursing. Not to exclude men in nursing. My best friend is a nurse on Standing Rock.

We as Native Women from any culture hold a unique healing approach. Value all that you have learned as treatment of the mind, body, and spirit. Use your knowledge as natural elements to care for those seeking your help.

Be proud but humble of your accomplishments today. Take these words from an old one as I stand as testament that you can achieve anything.

I would like to end with a special prayer for you.

Wakan Tanka, Tunkashila, Sacred Grandfathers,
We come to you, in a sacred manner,
We stand before you as humble men and women,
We offer that which is sacred, tobacco, sweet grass and sage,
We thank you for placing these students on the Red Road,
We offer thanks, in any way we can, as the two legged ones, for all that you have given us, as we are the keepers of Mother Earth,
Thank you for the rising sun, as it is the giver of life,
Thank you for the blue day as it allows our hearts to rest,
I hear the spirits as they come from the four directions,
Sacred Stones, tell me always, the creation story so I will remember where I came from,
As a Red Nation, we gather with others of the Two Legged Nations to become relatives,
Take our prayers for the students
Spirit of the Eagle, take our prayers,
Spirit of the Buffalo, Give us Strength that we may stay on the Red Road,
Thunder Beings, stand behind us, give us strength and guide us on our journey,
As humble people, we pray that these students leave on a safe journey.

Mitakuye Oyasin,

All My Relatives.