“My Harvard career has been a very ethnocentric one,” says April Youpee-Roll ’08 with a big smile.
Youpee-Roll, the former president and current alumni coordinator of Native Americans at Harvard College (NAHC), is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Sioux tribe, the center of her ethnocentric life.
“She has a strong sense of self,” says Mark D. Doolin ’08. “Her Native American identity is at the forefront of how she approaches her academics, her job, her activities—there is no way to separate it from her.”
Doolin adds that Youpee-Roll also has mad skills on the Nintendo Wii.
“She definitely defies the stereotype that girls aren’t good at video games,” Doolin says.
Growing up on Fort Peck Reserve in Poplar, Mont. Youpee-Roll was quickly exposed to the economic struggles of much of the Native American community in the United States. Her mother, Florence, describes the reserve as a “depressed, dysfunctional society where it is hard for kids to grow up and be successful at anything.”
Despite growing up in this poor community—in a single-parent household, to boot—Youpee-Roll says she had plenty of support from her mother and her 11 aunts and uncles. Youpee-Roll’s family has a history of involvement in tribal politics, and she certainly isn’t reserved about getting involved in the Fort Peck Reserve.
Youpee-Roll plans to pursue a law degree and a master’s in public policy with a focus on federal Native American public policy.
This comes as no surprise to her mother. “She always knew that she had to do something to help this place,” she says.
Youpee-Roll’s dedication to her Native American culture doesn’t stop there. In typical Bostonian fashion, Youpee-Roll applies her interests to the city’s defining feature: the Red Sox. Youpee-Roll focuses her attention on Native American Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, whose mother is Navajo.
“If Ellsbury is traded [to the Twins], I’ll have to move to Minnesota,” Youpee-Roll jokes.
Wherever she lives, Youpee-Roll is sure to keep her home and her identity (and perhaps her Wii?) close to her heart.