Understanding and learning from others through cultural immersion

  • The 2018 NBCC MFP Fellows
    The 2018 NBCC MFP Fellows  including Nancy Chae, front row, third from left.  Ashley McDaniel, NBCC Foundation
  • The 2018 NBCC MFP Fellows
    The 2018 NBCC MFP Fellows  visited the Circle of Life Academy, a K-12 tribal school on the White Earth Reservation.  Ashley McDaniel, NBCC Foundation
  • Smudging,
    Smudging,  a sacred ritual, led by Theda New Breast.  Ashley McDaniel, NBCC Foundation
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Second-year doctoral student Nancy Chae spent six days in August getting an immersive experience in the First Nations culture through the 2018 White Earth Institute for Education. Chae participated in the program along with 22 other recipients of the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) 2018 Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) from across the nation. The Fellowship is awarded to doctoral students who are committed to serving underserved minority populations through counseling.Nancy Chae with Theda New Breast, MPH - a leader in the field of Native American wellness as well as a teacher and healer from Blackfeet Nation in Montana.

“The week gave us a chance to learn about the White Earth community in Minnesota, and gain a better understanding of the health and mental health needs and resources among First Nations communities,” Chae explained. Chae and the fellows met with leaders and elders from the White Earth community as well as leaders from other First Nations groups in the area.

The six-day experience included attending the American Indian Mental Health Conference in Minnesota as well as time immersed in the tribe’s cultural practices. 

“We learned about traditional and medicinal healing practices, participated in a cedar wash ceremony, learned about and danced in a pow-wow, and participated in activities such as smudging (a ceremonial cleansing involving burned sage) and making a hand drum,” Chae said, adding that she also had an opportunity to sample local foods such as bear chili, venison burgers, and beaver hot dogs. She also observed the respect the tribe members showed for the individual animals they hunted and prepared for food. 
The 2018 NBCC MFP Fellows listen to school and community leaders during the visit to Circle of Life Academy.

“I was honored to be invited to the White Earth community and learn more about their resources, strengths, and needs,” said Chae. In addition to experiencing cultural practices and celebrations, the group sat with members of the community and listened to their stories about the challenges families face in the area. As a counselor educator with a school counseling background, Chae was specifically interested in the educational system in the area.

“One of my favorite experiences was visiting the tribal college and the tribal K-12 school to learn more about the educational and college and career readiness needs of students within this population,” said Chae, who worked for six years as a school counselor in the Baltimore City Public Schools before entering the doctoral counselor education program in the William & Mary School of Education. “It was eye-opening to visit the White Earth community and learn from them, and I am also thankful to have connected with my fellowship cohort who have been and will continue to be a valuable support system and family.”