Miriam Barbour is a first-year veterinary student at the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine and a proud member of the Navajo Nation from the clan Nihoobáanii (gray-streaked ends). She is documenting her veterinary journey on Instagram @thatindigenousvet — follow along!
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we are re-sharing her first post on the account followed by a Q&A.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Navajo Nation?
Diné is the Navajo term for the Navajo people. It literally translates "the people." For me to be Diné is to be a part of the first people in this nation. It means home, community and unity with other indigenous peoples and with the land around us. There is a Navajo saying: "Live good with the earth and walk in beauty." It means a responsibility to live in harmony with all things. To be part of the Navajo Nation is to take pride in who I am and where I come from and to try my best to learn more about my culture and to share it with others.
You mention that you want to show others that you are doing what your ancestors didn’t think was possible. What is the importance of this to you, and how do you hope this will inspire others?
I lost both of my grandparents last year to COVID-19, and the most painful part was knowing that they will not be here to see me graduate from vet school. They were always supportive of my education and present to celebrate my successes. I think their pride came from knowing that I was able to achieve more academically than they could in their lifetime. My ancestors did not have the opportunities afforded to many other people groups. There is a long history of prejudice against Native people that has prevented them from being able to pursue higher education. Even when educational opportunities were presented, they came with a caveat of assimilation. My presence in this institution as a Native person, even more as a Native woman, is beyond what they experienced and more than their parents could have imagined for one of their daughters or granddaughters. This is the driving factor for me to continue pursuing my dreams. I hope my presence in vet med will show other Indigenous people that we belong here, we have a seat at the table and no dream is too big.
What is your dream veterinary job?
My dream job is to be a zoo vet at the San Diego Zoo and to be the primary care provider for their hippopotamuses. I also have a strong desire to give back to my community by starting a mobile clinic on the Navajo Nation.
What was your reaction when you were accepted to the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine?
I did not get through the first sentence of my acceptance email before immediately bursting into tears. I reread it probably three times to make sure it actually said I was accepted. I woke my husband up at 6 a.m. to tell him, and he thought something bad happened because I was crying so much. It wasn't until after reading the letter that he realized they were tears of joy. I was beyond elated, and I felt as if all of my years of hard work had finally paid off.
How has the transition to vet school been?
It has been difficult. I moved out here from Virginia with my two dogs and what can fit in my little Prius while my husband stayed back to prepare our house to sell. This is the first time I have moved away for school. Not surprisingly it has been a big adjustment. I feel as if I am only just finding my footing and adjusting to the course load. That said, I have found some really great friends who have become like a second family and have helped provide a community away from home.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to let everyone know that Native people are still here. We are strong, we are resilient, and I am proud to be Indigenous.