Far from home, Gabriella Blatt found and fostered Native community
Yale was not Gabriella Blatt’s first-choice college until she visited the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) during a trip to campus for Bulldog Days. That, she said, was a “game changer.”
Blatt, who was accepted into seven Ivy League schools, was impressed that an entire building at Yale was devoted to Native student life. During her time at Yale the NACC became her anchor — a fact, she says, that was ironic.
“In high school, I couldn’t wait to get off the reservation,” said the graduating senior, a member of the Chippewa Cree tribe who grew up on Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana. “At Yale, the Native community has been my beacon of support. I love my reservation and love being Indigenous.”
Blatt, a resident of Ezra Stiles College, herself has been a guiding presence to others on campus: She served as a first-year NACC peer liaison, an outreach coordinator for the Association of Native Americans at Yale (ANAAY), and as ANAAY’s president. Her “crowning moment” in the latter role, she said, was to secure permanent Yale funding for a campus powwow every other year, relieving Native students of a challenging fundraising task.
A first-generation college student, Blatt participated in and later served as a counselor for the First Year Scholars at Yale program and advocated for university divestment from fossil fuels. She also held a student job as a program assistant for the Environmental Humanities Program.
At Yale, Blatt found another supportive community among faculty members and classmates in her ethnicity, race, and migration (ER&M) major. “I never felt a sense of imposter syndrome in ER&M classes or [faculty] office hours,” she said.
Her senior thesis on Indigenous comedy and modern media explores how Native people reclaimed agency via the genre. “What people usually learn about Natives is trauma-centered, focused on settler colonialism and genocide,” said Blatt, who was awarded a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship to support her research. “We never learn about what makes them laugh or gives them joy. I’m proud of my research on that.” She also takes pride in the fact that she can now return to her reservation with some knowledge of her native language, Ojibwe, which she studied through the Native American Language Project at Yale.
After graduation, Blatt will head to Chicago for a job as a management trainee with the e-commerce company McMaster-Carr. Eventually, however, she wants to become a nurse midwife for Indigenous women, who she said often receive subpar care in mainstream healthcare settings.
She has no regrets that she and Yale chose each other.
“The friendships I made here will be with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “And because of the NACC, I never felt homesick.”