The hurdles LaPlante crossed when he got to Augsburg were far beyond financial. At first, he struggled to write papers and even quit classes for a year. It wasn’t until he read a textbook in a Native American education course that he realized the Native American style of learning was different.
“All I’ve wanted my whole life was to be noticed as a Native person,” LaPlante said.
But aside from job opportunities, LaPlante isn’t sure higher education is worth it. For LaPlante, the education college provided him came from peers and connections, not academics, such as his involvement in the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association.
LaPlante graduated in 2017 with a degree in American Indian studies and hopes to use his degree to change the way people see indigenous history on things like maps and monuments. He has a five-month internship at the Minnesota History Center doing just that for the National Register of Historic Places.
Gourneau traveled back to Turtle Mountain on May 28 to give the graduation speech at the reservation high school, which she says is where she sees the most impact of her journey to Harvard. Young students have reached out to her and told her that her story has made them realize their dreams are possible.
“(Higher education has taught me) I have a future that I can build and I have a say in that,” Gourneau said. “I can build something for my future and my people.”