A Dream Deferred: Strength, Determination and Fortitude

LaNada Peppers has taken the long way around, but she’s finally reached her goal: earning her BA in journalism and Native American studies.

Peppers, a Northern Cheyenne and Crow member who hails from Lame Deer, Montana, wanted to be a writer since she could hold a pen. As a child, she interviewed her friends for fun.

“That was weird for a little Indian girl,” she laughed when retelling the story.

When she was 14, she got her first taste of professional news media – her mother signed her up for an internship with the Native American Journalist Association. She got on a plane and headed to Minneapolis for a week of intensive training in putting together a newspaper.

It was a revelatory experience, and she continued to be involved with the organization through her teen years. “I am still friends with some of the people I met there, including Jason Begay, who is a professor at UM now,” said Peppers.

She started at the University of Montana’s School of Journalism right after her senior year of high school. Then, the unforeseen happened: she found out she was expecting a baby. She put her educational goals on hold.

“I clung to the hope that I could still fulfill my dream,” she said.

LaNada Peppers and her childrenShe started by completing an AA from Chief Dull Knife College, something she could accomplish while also working and raising her growing family. Her determination to be involved in journalism never waned; she and a friend, John Youngbear, started a local newspaper. She worked as the tribe’s social media director, museum curator and as an academic advisor.

Still, her enormous drive to complete her bachelor’s degree did not dim. Nine years after she registered for her first course, Peppers made it back to the mountain campus. This spring, she proudly walked across the Commencement stage and received her UM diploma.

It was the culmination of years of effort, but Peppers says she’s not done yet. She hopes to continue her education with a master’s degree in journalism or perhaps a doctorate in indigenous studies, which would help her report on indigenous communities worldwide.

She recognizes that donors to the University have made a difference in her ability to finish her degree. Peppers received the Gannett Foundation Native American Scholarship, provided by the Great Falls Tribune.

“As a mother of six kids, things are tight. With scholarships, I don’t have to worry about being a mom, and going to work, and going to school.”

Her professional future could take her anywhere.

“I want to work all over the world,” she says.

Pictured above: LaNada Peppers with her six children at UM's 2016 Easter celebration on the Oval.