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ASU Grad Wants to Make a Difference for AZ Tribal Members


Thursday, December 22, 2022   

Arizona tribal communities face inequalities every day, but a recent Arizona State University graduate said she wants to shape public policy to help change it.

Ty'Lesha Yellowhair argued changing public policy which guides social services would not only ensure tribal members receive the care they need, but also help to change the public perception of Native communities, which hold lots of strength and resiliency, despite challenges.

Yellowhair is from the Navajo Nation, originally from Kayenta, Arizona, and currently works in the Office of Health Programs for the Phoenix Area Indian Health Services as a social service assistant. She explained she wants her story to serve as an inspiration to others.

"I hope that my story being shared can change the image of what people have of Native communities, like, we too, can become professionals. We, too, can deal with policy. We, too, have the power to change what's happening around us," Yellowhair outlined.

Yellowhair comes from a family of teachers, and is her family's first social worker and public administrator. She emphasized her mother, a teacher of more than 50 years, was fundamental in helping her understand people have different lived experiences.

Yellowhair added her childhood influenced the work she does today. She acknowledged she grew up in a home with two educated working parents, and knows it was not the case for everyone. Her graduate work led her to study violence in Indigenous communities, specifically against Native women and children.

Yellowhair stressed she has not met a single Native woman who was not impacted by some sort of violence in her life, and she is convinced there must be a greater focus on the issue.

"To me, that speaks volumes," Yellowhair remarked. "That is what continues to drive me, as a person who strives to be an advocate for my community."

Yellowhair believes she has the tools to fight for justice and reparations, and hopes to give back to her community and others by advocating through policy and fighting for systemic change.

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