Rekindling her culture

Goodsky, dark hair, dark glasses, with peach-colored T-shirt with phoenix graphic, stands, arms crossed, before a building labeled School of Medicine.

In the fifth grade, Teague Goodsky and her American Indian classmates took a field trip to Duluth. They watched a presentation on Native Americans that showed them shooting arrows and dancing around a campfire in their Native American attire. Goodsky and her classmates, of the Bois Forte Band of Minnesota Chippewa, went home confused.

“I knew I was Native American, but when I saw the film, I thought maybe I’m not because I have never shot a bow or worn clothes like that,” says Goodsky, now a UMN Duluth student.  

That confusing moment 20 years ago helped motivate her to come back to UMD to study medicine. Goodsky, who holds an undergraduate degree in English from UMN Morris, wants to practice in her Native community. She also speaks Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language. In February she enjoyed an opportunity to visit a language camp.

The Ojibwe language is at a stage of revitalization, she explains. The language was lost when Native children were sent to English-only boarding schools and Native elders were suppressed from speaking Ojibwe.

“A part of the camp’s purpose is trying to rekindle that fire,” she says.

As a child, Goodsky saw white teachers and medical professionals, but no American Indians in influential positions except tribal leadership and elders. But she was determined to follow her passion to become a physician, despite the lack of role models. According to the Association of American Indian Physicians, only 20 of 18,000 students who graduated from medical school in 2015 were American Indian.

“It's discouraging when you’re in grade school and you have to write an essay about who you look up to, and you just sit there not having someone to write about,” Goodsky says. “It does a lot for Native children to see role models for themselves. You want to see people that look like you who are thriving and succeeding.”

Besides taking premed courses, she works as program coordinator for the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus. She is also active in a tutoring program at Duluth’s Denfeld High School.