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"Miss Indian MSU" aims to serve Native American healthcare

Maleeya Knowshisgun, from the Northern Cheyenne reservation
Maleeya Knowshisgun, from the Northern Cheyenne reservation
Posted at 8:00 AM, Oct 27, 2021

BOZEMAN — This week our Native American student spotlight focuses on a young lady on a mission to change the world of healthcare: Maleeya Knowshisgun, from the Northern Cheyenne reservation. She was just accepted to the nursing program at MSU. MTN’s Holly Brantley learned her passion for helping others began when she was very young.

"Miss Indian MSU" aims to serve Native American healthcare

“My grandma and my dad have diabetes and they’d bring me over and have me help give them shots; that was a rewarding thing for me to feel like I was helping them,” said Maleeya.

That’s where her dream to bring better health care to reservations began. Maleeya says watching her family deal with diabetes made her want to become a nurse and one day return to the Northern Cheyenne reservation to open a dialysis clinic.

“Hearing the stories and seeing that people with diabetes had to ride the bus at 4 a.m. and make the 2-hour commute is what made me really want to bring the dialysis clinic back home,” she said.

She was just accepted to the nursing program at Montana State. To say the least, she is excited. She says watching her brother play football for MSU made her want to attend the university.

“I have been told I make the family proud,” said Maleeya with a smile.

Beyond nursing, she is active in numerous organizations such as the American Indian Council to network with other natives, honor and preserve the heritage, and spread awareness to others.

She also holds a special title: Miss Indian MSU.

“It’s so exciting that I’m able to represent MSU and my people I get to advocate for the MSU students and natives overall,” Maleeya said.

Missing & Murdered Indigenous People and Every Child Matters are causes close to her heart.

“For the MMIW I would say having the documentation of all of the missing and murdered indigenous women would be significant. There’s a lot, but there’s a lot undocumented in the system,” said Maleeya. “Seeing the cases and the cases that have not been resolved makes me scared that could happen to me, it could happen to any of us.”

Meanwhile, she wants to send a message: Native American customs - from their dress to their beliefs - are sacred.

“I would say I could bring up Halloween, because that’s coming up, wearing the headdresses and war bonnets—that’s not OK at all,” she said. “I would hope that would be something people would educate themselves on.”

One way to learn more: American Indian Hall, which recently opened on MSU’s campus. She says it’s a place she hopes people will visit to experience the beauty of her people and her heritage.

“It was amazing; it was honestly surreal to see the magic come to life,” Maleeya says of the building’s opening day.

She says the design exceeded her expectations and now she hopes when people see her representing Native Americans on campus it will serve as a reminder to others to look beyond the surface to learn about people and cultures other than their own.

“Educate yourself about native people, everything from cultural appropriation to MMIW—just everything you can,” she said.

Maleeya says the best resource for accurate information is directly from Native American people. She says most are happy to connect and share.

Meanwhile, you’ll see her on campus representing Native Americans as Miss Indian MSU.