BOZEMAN — Recently, six Montana State University students were selected for awards given by the MSU Department of Native American Studies to honor academic excellence, community service, and leadership. For our continuing "Positively Montana" series, we are delighted to introduce you to each of the six students. In this installment, Holly Brantley brings us Allison Longtimesleeping-Reyos’s story. She is a mother of four who says her children are the driving force behind her mission to make the reservation a healthier place.
Allison Longtimesleeping-Reyos believes "strength" takes on many meanings. It’s something she strives for every day as a strong woman and a mother of four.
“You have to be proud of yourself. You need to give yourself credit,” said Allison.
Recently she set the standard among her peers as a strong leader.
“I can see everyone else’s potential and I can help bring that out. I can make sure they’re on the same level as me,” she said. “If I’m going up I’m taking everybody with me.”
Longtimesleeping-Reyos was awarded MSU’s Phyllis Berger Award for leadership, something her fellow students say she models daily as a student majoring in kinesiology and also during her two terms as co-president of the American Indian Council.
She says her desire to be a role model as a native American woman grew as she became more involved at MSU.
“I think it became more important because at first I just wanted to help everybody,” said Allison.
She says motherhood gave her the skills she needed to lead other students.
“I keep going back to being a mom,” said Allison. “I think it really helps you to be assertive and dictate people and that kind of thing,” she said.
But that fiery confidence didn’t always burn so bright—at first, she wasn’t sure college was for her.
“When I came to school I didn’t know if I would stick with it,” said Allison.
She had tried community college, several jobs, and then personal training and fitness ignited a spark. She felt a fire to help others move their bodies and reach their personal health goals, training their spirit as well as the mind.
“I mean, I’m pretty confident at how I know I can help people,” said Allison.
Through physical fitness, she says she discovered her calling and decided to pursue a better future through MSU. She says on campus she finally found her home with all the tools she needed to succeed.
“I feel like once you get there you change for the better,” said Allison.
Now, she’s setting a higher standard for herself for her future and for other Native Americans.
Allison wants to bring a greater awareness of physical fitness to reservations.
“I want to do research and make sure we have our own studies of Native American health issues,” she said.
She says she is also on a mission to end misconceptions and share the real Native American story, a heritage she holds dear.
“I feel like our identity is suppressed,” said Allison.
As for her education: “All I can say is I’m not done yet, I’ll never be done,” she smiled. “I want to continue learning.”
While Allison loves to hike and hit the gym she says she gets her inner strength from her children.
“For my kids, I just want them to know they can push themselves and act on whatever is in their heart, be strong and independent.”
She also leans on other Native American women with a powerful spirit like her own.
“Lately I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement from family back home, 'Keep going. You’re doing awesome. I’m so proud of you,' I’ve never heard that as much as now,” she said.
Allison is working toward a graduate degree in athletic training and counseling, and plans to work in schools on reservations. She still has a few years left at MSU to finish her degree.
Allison is a member of the Blackfeet, Northern Arapaho, and Navajo Nations.