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Internship is great experience for tribal college students
31 August 2004
by Dennis J. Neumann

Of all the things Sonja Cain did over the summer the most rewarding was to share what she knows about quillwork. For her, the tables were turned. Instead of learning as a tribal college student, she had the rare opportunity to teach her mentors.

      "They were curators and other museum conservation workers. They were very interested in my demonstration," said Cain. "It lasted the better part of two days."

Sonja Cain
Sonja Cain, a graduate of United Tribes Technical College, spent the summer as an intern at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

      Training museum professionals how to quill was only one of Cain's experiences during a ten-week internship in the Curatorial Department at the National Museum of the American Indian.

      Most of the time she worked in the museum's Cultural Resource Center in Suitland, Maryland, not far from the nation's capitol. Some of her work helped prepare for the museum's grand opening scheduled for September 21.

      "They have artifacts you wouldn't believe," said Cain. "From my tribe, Blackfeet, and all over. Ceremonial dresses, war clubs and head dresses from the 1800s - the spiritual feeling there is very powerful."

      Cain was one of six students from tribal colleges in North Dakota who spent the summer working full time for an agency of government. The others were part of the Summer Internship Program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

      Louella L. Demaray, United Tribes Technical College, interned in the Applications Development Branch on a project examining websites for people with disabilities.

      Steven P. Walker, United Tribes Technical College, studied knowledge management, the process of discovering and generating value from intellectual and knowledge-based assets.

      Mandi Owlboy, Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, ND, focused on remote sensing and other ground based data to show how Devils Lake has expanded since the 1970s.

      Sheyenne Baker, Fort Berthold Community College, New Town, ND, studied the use of Landsat images to observe the fluctuation over time of water levels on Lake Sakakawea, which bisects the Fort Berthold Reservation.

      And Dereck Stonefish, Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND, examined potential applications of NASA remote sensing imagery and GIS for land management issues at Standing Rock.

      "Our students are part of a larger internship program at NASA involving about 100 students each summer," said Phyllis Howard, coordinator of the project for the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges. "It's the second year of our participation."

      The program is designed to encourage students to continue their work in the math, science and engineering fields. Students have access to NASA resources and they study with a NASA scientist.

      "This was really a good experience for me," said Cain of her museum internship. "I'm going on for a higher degree."

      Several days after she returned from Washington, Cain left for Santa Fe, NM to enroll at the American Indian Arts Institute to complete a degree in museum studies.


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