Diné graduate to help curate at Arizona State Museum

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 2, 2014

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Martina Dawley

D iné student Martina Dawley was one of six students given high honors during the University of Arizona's fall commencement on Dec. 21.

Dawley received the Centennial Award this past Saturday in addition to walking away with her doctorate in American Indian studies.

The award recognizes students who have demonstrated integrity and overcome enormous challenges to achieve a college education while making important contributions to their families and community, according to the university's website.

"It really feels great and I can't believe it. I can't believe that I just got started and here I am now," Dawley said of her recent success. "It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. It was tough because I have four kids and I'm working at the same time. But it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be."

Dawley said it was good preparation growing up on the reservation, where even trying to catch the bus to school was a challenge.

"I remember watering the animals in the corral bucket by bucket every day even on cold days, the playground bullies, and no Internet. These things and other harsh memories toughened me up and kept me going," Dawley added.

Dawley said what made her educational career exciting and fun was the fact that she was interested in what she was studying.

"Having this interest in museum studies and American Indian studies made it really fun, interesting and exciting," she said. "I feel really empowered and I can't wait to start mentoring students and working with Native communities."

Dawley said she wants to be able to provide undergraduate students the same support she got.

"We are so proud of her," said Shirley Beecher, Dawley's mother.

Martina completed all her studies at the University of Arizona -- first her Bachelor's of Art in anthropology in 2007, then her Master's in American Indian studies in 2009, and her doctorate's in American Indian Studies with a focus on museum studies.

Dawley was also named the assistant curator for American Indian relations at the Arizona State Museum, part of the University of Arizona.

The Arizona State Museum is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest, established in 1893 by the Arizona Territorial Legislature, its website states.

Dawley started work at the museum this past July. She manages the Southwest Native Nations Advisory Board, oversees the American Indian Internship Program, facilitates tribal consultations that are related to programs through the museum and provides training and technical assistance to tribal museums, libraries, archives and cultural centers.
Martina lives in Tucson, Ariz., but her family is from Salina, Ariz. She is Tl'aashchi'i, born for Hualapai.

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