My name is Kimberly McKeehan and I am graduating from the University of Montana in May 2016 with a Master’s of Social Work. I describe myself as a mother, a poet, a scholar, a chaplain, and a social worker. I have been married for 21 years and have two children. I also have a large extended family, and friends who I consider family. Relationships are very important to me. After working for my tribe, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, I was fortunate to expand my network of family and friends from Missoula to the Hi-Line, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Turtle Mountain in North Dakota.
While I was born in Bozeman, I consider the entire beautiful state of Montana my home. My father’s family is from the Ojibwe/French people known as the Metis in Canada, the “landless” Indians of Montana. He was shuffled around a lot but landed here in Bozeman when he was 15. He met my mother, whose family originally owned a homestead over by Hysham. Although my parents loved me very much, their struggles with alcohol addiction made our lives tumultuous. They both died very early, tragic deaths. Luckily, I had a Grandma who convinced me that things could be different.
Receiving the Native American Graduate Scholarship means that there are a couple of philanthropists in the world who think American Indian people are a good investment. In a financial sense, the scholarship has made it very easy for me to focus on school because I don’t have to work. I can put my energy into my family, schoolwork, and practicum. I also feel proud to represent my tribe as a scholar because I want children to know that education is important and possible, and that there are people who want to support them to get educated and believe that they can do it. Finally, I have been able to make deeper connections with the professors in my department through the assistantship part of this award.
Upon graduating, I plan to empower individuals and groups to express their divine creativity and uphold the value of human dignity. I came to school to get the letters I needed to get a job with hospice, but after working with the justice-involved population and community behavioral health, I am open to where I am guided. I would love to work with Native women in prison or jail; or in a statewide Indian affairs office. It is important to me to give back to my communities. I am also hoping to help write a multi-language children’s book about the history of the Little Shell Tribe.