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'The People' Make All the Difference

February 6, 2019

Chrissy Pettit is a mom first (over 18 years!); in March of 2015 has decided to go back to college to study archaeology. Her three kids were either in or close to high school and her volunteer involvement dropped as they got older. Pettit decided it was time to pursue her dreams as long as she could have a flexible schedule for the kids. With the support of her husband and kids, Pettit embarked on a journey that will result in her, next spring, earning her BA—as a double major! 

Over the course of her education, Pettit has had the opportunity to work with the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) in three different fellowships. The first was the American Indian Museum Fellowship. This particular experience drove her to add American Indian studies (AIS) as a major and her first focus. Pettit feels that there is so much misunderstanding in the anthropological field (and the general public) in regards to indigenous perspectives. She believes we need more of us in the field to help shift the way people think of and work with Native communities. Her passion is to share what she knows, what she’s learned, and be ready to receive new knowledge, as we all continuously learn throughout life. She is amazed to see an institution like MNHS be on the forefront of changing the narratives told from a museum perspective, along with their outreach work. It’s truly unique and Pettit wouldn’t be an AIS major without her experiences at MNHS.

Graduation year: 2019
Majors: American Indian Studies, Anthropology

What brought you to the University of Minnesota? 

I was fortunate to work with several people at the University during my time at Normandale Community College. After I graduated, I knew the U was the place I wanted to go to further my archaeology/anthropology studies. As a mom with three kids in high school, the (fairly) easy commute also factored into my decision.

What made you decide on your majors? 

I began my college career knowing I wanted to work with archaeology and I have always held a special interest in the discourse between the field and indigenous communities. My original major was anthropology; after an American Indian Museum Fellowship at the Minnesota Historical Society, I realized how much more I could do if I blend the two fields of AIS and archaeology. As an Ojibwe woman, I feel it is important to learn as much as I can so I can help be a bridge between science and indigeneity. 

What do you love about your studies?

The people, hands down. Whether it is a professor who introduces me to new research, new ways of thinking or classmates who become best friends, the people I have met have created an amazing support group. They make this study possible. In addition, through several projects, I have met some amazing people in the indigenous communities that make up Minnesota. Talking about indigenous rights and wrongs is not a popular topic, especially when talking about archaeology, so it has been wonderful to find a community of friends/professors/classes where we can discuss these difficult subjects. Also, I feel like my family has a story to tell as well, and I want to work to help those voices not be lost. 

How have your experiences prepared you for the present and the future?

I would not have the opportunities I do without the support and education of the American Indian studies department! I have worked with professors and staff of the department in many capacities, everyone focused on helping us students graduate with the tools needed to go out into the job market. Personally, I’ve had professors work with me while dealing with some family situations, professors offer to help plan for grad school, worked with professors to create a new student club… There really isn’t anything that this department won’t do to help its students succeed. 

While archaeology is still a passion, I definitely feel like I have found a home in the AIS department. Not only do I have access to a high-quality education, but I have also found a new family that I know will support and help me as I move forward—during and after my time here.

What goals do you have for your future?

My plans are to go to graduate school. Due to a change in our family circumstances, I am unsure as to where that will be—although the public history grad program at the U is the top of my list. As for what happens after that, I am still open to the opportunities that become available to me. I’ve worked extensively in museums with a variety of fellowships/internships so I expect that this field will definitely be in my future. As I stated earlier, my hope is to work with indigenous communities to bridge the gap with the scientific community. I have a unique perspective as an indigenous archaeologist and I hope to use that for the betterment of all Native communities. 

What do you like about campus and living in the Twin Cities?

This is a fun one to answer: I grew up in the suburbs and have visited the campus several times in the last six years as a parent of athletes who had camps or meets on campus. I never imagined that I’d be a student here, let alone actually figure out how to navigate my way around the area! I commute now, but for the next year I will be living on West Bank. I like having everything so close, knowing that the U provides great resources for navigating shuttles, and that so many events/activities/food options are less than a half hour away in any direction.