This August we are highlighting Native Bruin Christie Michelle Poitra, Class of 2010.
Dr. Christie Michelle Poitra graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a Master of Arts degree in American Indian Studies. As a first-generation college graduate, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Berkeley and a doctorate in Educational Policy from Michigan State University (MSU). Dr. Poitra is Latina (Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Spanish) and a first-generation descendant of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (Pembina Ojibwa) with family ties to Little Shell. Her fourth-great grandfather (Gichi Nini Poitra) along with other family members, signed the 1892 McCumber Agreement (the “Ten Cent Treaty”) under duress. Her lineage includes family that remained in Mikinaakwajiwing and others who fled to Montana as “landless Natives.” Dr. Poitra was raised off-reservation in rural Northern California–between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. She spent her formative years in the woods surrounding Hat Creek (Pit River territory).
Dr. Poitra is a flower farmer. Her farm, Nighthaven Woods, utilizes regenerative agriculture techniques to improve land health by reducing soil disturbance, reintroducing native plants, and prioritizing water filtration and conservation. Her climate-smart methods support wildfowl, pollinators, and other wildlife by expanding the ecological diversity of the land. Her business model leverages current research from the horticulture, engineering, soil science, conservation, and landscape architecture disciplines.
At UCLA, Dr. Poitra served as a graduate student representative for the Academic Senate Committee on diversity and equal opportunity. Under the supervision of Professor Felicia Hodge, Dr. Poitra was a graduate student worker in the Center for American Indian/Indigenous Research and Education and received a research grant from the Institute of American Cultures. Dr. Poitra participated in the Tribal Legal Development Clinic through the Native Nations Law & Policy Center. Professors Felicia Hodge, Carole Goldberg, and Duane Champagne served on her thesis committee.
Prior to farming, Dr. Poitra was appointed as the first woman to lead the MSU Native American Institute in its forty-year history. Her research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture. Thematically, her work centered on Indigenous equity in higher education spaces–including fostering university-community partnerships with Native Nations, and supporting Native students and faculty. Her most notable publications are (1) “Reciprocal Research: A Guidebook to Centering Community Partnerships with Indigenous Nations,” (2) “Honoring the Whole Student Workbook: Developing Space for Native American Students in the Sciences by Valuing Identity,” and (3) “The Resilience Journal: Documenting Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination, and Retaliation within University Settings.”
At MSU, Dr. Poitra served as an affiliate faculty member in the American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program, and core faculty in the Gender Center for Global Context. She was an elected member of the Faculty Senate and University Council. Nationally, Dr. Poitra served on the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Education Committee, and as an AISES Advancing Agricultural Science Opportunities for Native Americans mentor. Dr. Poitra’s efforts have been recognized with numerous fellowships and awards, including the Distinguished Community Partnership Award, Excellence in Diversity Award, Educational Policy Fellowship Program, and the Academic Advancement Network Leadership Fellowship.
“The UCLA American Indian Studies Center (AISC) played a crucial role in my development as a scholar. I had a supportive cohort of peers and I was mentored by world-class faculty. AISC taught me the importance of faculty governance and Indigenous representation in the academy.”