Kate Beane: Returning home, restoring a name
The epitome of a lifelong learner, Kate Beane has worked tirelessly to understand the links between the historic and contemporary experiences of her Native community.
Kate Beane is explaining the arc of her early life story, from her birth at the Indian Health Service in Phoenix to a youth spent in Nebraska and later the East Bay area in California. She then describes living out of her car for a few years, traveling the country, and working a bunch of odd jobs including waitressing—serving others—when she had a revelation:
“I realized at a certain point that I didn’t want to serve other people; I wanted to serve my people.”
And that’s what she’s spent most of her adult life doing. Beane, Flandreau Santee Sioux, has a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, is director of Native American Initiatives at the Minnesota Historical Society (where she’s also part of the leadership team), and an instructor in the American Indian Studies department at the U.
She’s already been the epitome of a lifelong learner, but ironically she left school at age 16 (after taking the California High School Equivalency Exam), in part because her education didn’t feel relevant.
“As young Native students we were always taught about ‘manifest destiny,’ as if our demise was inevitable. We were taught that we came from a conquered nation of people,” she says. “We knew that wasn’t accurate. It was still hurtful, and it had an impact on us as young Native students.”
“Given that we’re also the grandchildren of boarding school survivors, we already had a large amount of distrust for the United States educational system.”
Through her own educational thirst, Beane became aware of her family’s rich legacy. Her great-great grandfather, Charles Eastman, was the second Native American medical doctor in the United States. And she’s also a descendant of Cloud Man, a Dakota leader who formed an agricultural village in the early 19th century at the lake known then as Bde Maka Ska, later to be named Lake Calhoun.
Her family decided to move to Minnesota to connect with their Dakota roots, and Beane dove into furthering her education. She decided to pursue a doctorate in American Studies at the U of M, in part because it offered a great path for researching and telling her own story.