COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Rebekah Adolph is a young Colville woman;
attractive, quiet, unassertive, but you can sense her resolve when she
talks of her future, "I want to be an attorney." She leaves no doubt in the
way she expresses those words. That resolve also showed through in her
past. She left home at 14 to attend a prep school even though her mother
was against it. Adolph was already looking to her future. "I thought I
needed to go to college. My brothers have a year of college education but
they're hard workers and can find jobs, but being a girl, a Native American
girl, it was going to be a lot harder to find a job. I figured I needed a
degree, no matter what it was, so I went to Native American Prep for two
Adolph was born on the Colville Reservation in Washington to parents who
are full Colville. They later moved to St. Ignatius, Mont. on the Flathead
Reservation. It was here she decided to attend Native American Prep School
in Rowe, N.M. Two years prepared her for college but cost her some
knowledge of her tribal heritage and forced her to grow up by herself. Even
so, she took the opportunity to learn more of the traditions and knowledge
of the tribes of New Mexico.
She made many college visits including Stanford and several Ivy League
schools but costs were too high. She enrolled at North Idaho College
because it was less expensive and provided the basics. The school doesn't
charge out-of-state tuition to Indian students from northern Plateau tribes
and Adolph was the first to enroll under this opportunity. "This was our
land, our hunting and gathering location. Administrators recognized that
and granted the tuition waiver," she said. Now in her third year of college
and enrolled at Lewis & Clark State, she's majoring in criminal justice
with plans to attend law school in a few more years.
Adapting to a different culture when she started college was relatively
easy but there were some minor problems. She tells of one such instance.
"The way I was taught, the traditional way, when you're talking to somebody
or somebody's talking to you and you want to show them the greatest respect
is to not make direct eye contact except very briefly. I went to class and
am taking notes, writing as fast as I can. The instructor is calling for my
attention and I said 'I'm sorry sir, but I'm writing notes.' He thought not
looking at him was an issue and had the impression I was just drawing
pictures. He contacted my advisor about what I was doing and why I wasn't
looking at him."
Not many Colvilles still speak their Native language and the loss of the
language is a concern to Adolph. She isn't fluent and wishes she were but
she does understand the language. She talks of a school in Montana targeted
at kindergarten through sixth graders where no English is spoken in an
attempt to preserve the language and culture. She's trying to do that too,
"but also trying to learn the white ways. I use both."
Adolph finds time to do both beadwork and quillwork and is hoping to learn
basketmaking from her mother. Her beading is exquisite with small beads and
intricate patterns. It's an unusual pastime for an attorney but she said,
"It teaches you to think things through about your decisions and choices
that you make."
After law school she wants to go back to Indian country. "Any reservation,
whether it's my own or anywhere else in the country to work for a tribe."
Juvenile law may be her specialty. "Children don't really know their rights
and they're often abused in the courts. We have juvenile detention centers
for a reason, now use them," she commented.
Adolph is balanced between two cultures and able to live in either but
there's no doubt where her heart lies. Her parents left it up to her to
choose between her mother's Catholicism and her father's traditional
religion. She chose traditional.