By Jesse Short Bull
When Hailey Suina submitted an essay to study abroad in New Zealand, she didn’t realize that her writing would be one of out of 6,797 applications to win the full scholarship from Education New Zealand and Go Overseas.
On Nov. 1, 2018 surrounded by family, friends and instructors from the Institute of American Indian Arts community, Suina was presented with a check for $15,000 from members of Education New Zealand and Go Overseas organizations, who traveled from their offices in Berkeley, California to the IAIA campus to make the award in person.
Suina, who is from the Pueblo of Cochiti and the Navajo Nation, developed a strategy to create a compelling narrative that stood out, but didn’t sacrifice her Indigenous culture for personal gain. She worked with Jennifer Love, assistance professor in creative writing and an IAIA alum, to help edit and polish Suina’s writing.
Suina always wanted to visit New Zealand since she was little girl, and her resolve was further solidified when her high school had a sister partnership with a high school in New Zealand.
“That’s where I was introduced to the culture, the lifestyle and the people,” Suina said.
However, there is a more profound connection that links her Pueblo and Navajo roots to the Indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, almost 7,000 miles away in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Going back to our creation stories, we always look at all Indigenous people from all over the world as coming from one single people at one point in time,” said Suina.
As she learned more about the Maori culture, Suina found that the cultural and language revitalization here in New Mexico could be enhanced by learning from the Maori.
“I was inspired by how much they had saved and preserved their culture and how it was so seamlessly interwoven into their society. It was practiced, it was there,” said Suina.
While she went about her typical school day at IAIA, Suina had no idea her family, friends and the IAIA community had plotted to surprise her while she was on her way to a meeting. Her mother, grandmother, aunty, grandfather and her clan mother were there too. Judy Suina drove three hours to attend the ceremony.
“I really want the best for her, this a person that never ever asks for anything. She never asks for anything. She would be happy if you gave her a dollar or even just a handful of change. She’d be happy. She’d never ask, can I have more,” said Judy Suina, tearfully.
Suina will depart for New Zealand Feb. 6, 2019 through the summer. After returning to New Mexico and IAIA, she will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing.
IAIA president, Dr. Robert Martin was at the award ceremony and said Suina represents the strength of the educational experience students receive at IAIA.
“We are so proud of her, she came here and worked hard. We’ve got a great creative writing program and she is a reflection of that.”