Spoonhunter honored by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as Emerging Scholar

March 7, 2018 by Lori Ridgway


Tarissa Spoonhunter was selected by the Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of only 15 scholars as a 2018 Emerging Scholar.


For the past 17 years, Diverse Issues in Higher Education has recognized an interdisciplinary group of minority scholars who represent the best in the United States. Each professor is selected from more than 100 nominations. According to Diverse Issues in High Education, each nominee distinguished themselves in their various academic disciplines and works to make society equitable and just.


Receiving an award like this shows that American Indians are a vital part of the community and the information we hold is within us. There is no one book you can read to find that information. ”

Tarissa Spoonhunter

As the professor of American Indian studies at Central Wyoming College, Spoonhunter is focused on sharing knowledge with other races and nationalities to build relationships to increase understanding; something that resides deep in her roots growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

“Many of my elders preserve our culture by sharing their knowledge and that’s what I am trying to do,” Spoonhunter said. “In my Nation Building classes I have introduced more Federal Indian law and policy classes. Helping American Indians learn about contemporary issues and what they are facing today in subject areas of treaty rights, national forest, national parks, traditional ecological rights; these are topics we discuss.”

At age nine, Spoonhunter was given the name Medicine Beaver Woman by her people, a name she remembers feeling came with a great deal of responsibility.

“I wondered how I would live up to that name,” Spoonhunter said. “The expectation is high. I thought to myself, you must help your people always.”

Spoonhunter carried that responsibility throughout her life accomplishments. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and a Master of Arts and a Ph. D. in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. She earned awards from the National Science Foundation, published numerous research papers and has presented at national conferences.

“Dr. Tarissa Spoonhunter stands out among her peers through her research and academic accomplishments,” said Mark Nordeen, CWC dean of arts and sciences. “Day by day she diligently works to enhance Native American students’ lives and all who take her life-changing classes.”

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education only 0.3 percent of doctorate degrees earned were awarded to Native Americans. Spoonhunter feels that receiving recognition for an award from a national organization such as the Emerging Scholar will encourage fellow Native Americans to pursue doctoral degrees in the future.

“Maybe this will help bring recognition to some of the issues Native people have and highlight that we are still here, contributing to education, resource management and government relations,” Spoonhunter said. “I am proud for the progress that we have made and that I am giving back to my community.”

The complete article from the Emerging Scholars of 2018 issue of the Diverse Issues in Higher Education can be seen online at