Micronesian and Makah Health and Education Advocate, MichaeLynn Kanichy | Supporting indigenous students to become successful community contributors
Born and raised on the Makah Reservation and of Pohnpeian (Federated States of Micronesia) descent, MichaeLynn believes in the importance of supporting young indigenous people in exploring their paths. She also believes all students can become independent and successful contributors in their communities. After graduating from Stanford University with her B.A in Science, Technology and Society with a focus in Life Sciences and Biotechnology, MichaeLynn immediately returned home to Neah Bay, WA, eventually becoming the Project Manager for a SAMHSA Native Connections Grant, which focused on preventing suicide and substance use for indigenous youth. After spending 3 years working with her tribe to decolonize mental health approaches for Makah youth, she returned to school and is currently pursuing her M.A in Education for School Counseling at Seattle University.
Tell us about yourself and your educational background.
I am a Stanford graduate from the Makah reservation at Neah Bay, WA. While at Stanford, I pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Science, Technology and Society. After graduation, I immediately returned to serve in my community and began working in Public Health developing a system of care. Through this work, I realized my community was in need of Makah service providers which influenced my decision to return to school to get my Masters of Education in School Counseling and Mental Health. Too often we see providers come in and out of rural communities like the one I am from making it difficult to sustain system reform.
What were some of the barriers you faced in college?
One of the barriers to academia is the lack of indigenous representation. Academic institutions are based on a foundation that represents the majority, being rich, white, men and to perpetuate racism. As I continue to study, I have to work harder in order to decolonize mental health. I am having to peel back the many layers of colonization that I have been indoctrinated with to understand the world around me.
What was your dream career in high school? What is your dream career now?
In High School, I imagined myself becoming an environmental scientist and being able to work in the Department of Natural Resources for the Makah Tribe. Today, I dream about working with my community to develop a center for restorative balance. Something that has stuck with me is the negative associations we can make about our environments and home. But I think indigenous communities have strengths and power that can heal our people. I dream about traditional values and how they can replace elitist, materialistic, and capitalistic views.
What advice would you give to students preparing for college?
Explore your passions and invest in them. Society has a way of telling us who and what we should be doing in order to be successful, but success is a social construct. Be brave enough to believe in yourself.