Comfort Zones

School has started and I’m in my comfort zone. I like to learn…I don’t like strict schedules and turning things in on time, but I like the process. If you have been keeping up with my blogs you know that while I was pregnant with my twins I soaked up all the birthing information that I could—books, movies, advice from friends and family—to teach and prepare me for motherhood. I also shared that information with my partner and his family. Heck, even my own family had to listen to me drone on and on.

My passion for education doesn’t stop at motherhood—just take a look at my previous post! Not everyone is like that though, and I realize it. I believe in pushing the envelope; even outside of a classroom you can learn by pushing a comfort zone or two.

I recently attended yet another conference; it was my second year at the Native Student Professional Development Program at the National Wildlife Society Conference. It was a blast, and in the words of my peer, Bryan Begay, “The food is GOOD!” Not that he was trying something new, but diet is a good place to start pushing those comfort zones! I have been kicking myself though. While I attended all of the talks and saw all the wildlife projects going on with tribes and their various affiliates, I did not have the courage to submit a poster for research-in-progress.

I felt as though I could have done better, like I should have known more. I felt like maybe I wouldn’t be able to find my tongue when faced with hard questions. Peer review gives students, especially undergrads like myself, an opportunity to learn. So I’m feeling as though I missed out. THIS IS IRRATIONAL. Alas, I am human…so I made an effort to push back at that fear. On my last day of the conference, we had our Native Peoples Working Group (NPWG) meeting. While discussing ideas for our group to host a symposium next year, I piped up. Most of my research has been surrounding traditional foods, and traditional foods for tribes usually involves some kind of wildlife, so I proposed this idea. I felt like it was a broad enough topic for us to find speakers who may be studying invasive species, mitigation, reintroductions, reclaiming tribal food sovereignty—the list goes on! But let me clarify that by “us,” I mean me. I took the lead and now, by me writing this, I am committed to spearheading efforts to birth my brainchild. I was happy to hear my fellow students’ excitement and offers of assistance. I have to admit, I only had the courage to do this because another student, Daniel Bird, a father and master’s student at Purdue University, had completely organized, almost single-handedly, a field trip for the entire NPWG—and believe me, it was awesome.

I think of it as us students being the poles of a tipi, leaning on each other for stability—especially as we find our own niche outside of our comfort zone. The result is the peoples’ home, Niitoyis, a beautiful, strong shelter for those who wander in search of the things that have always sustained Indigenous people.

Celina Gray (Blackfeet and Little Shell Chippewa) is a student at Salish Kootenai College where she studies wildlife and fisheries. You can read about her work at:

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