The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Cheron Laughing '19

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Cheron Laughing '19 gains a new perspectives on the issues facing the Navajo Nation through her internship at at the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

Cheron Laughing '19 received the support of the Class of 1964 Fund to intern at the Navajo Nation Washington Office (NNWO) for the 2017 winter term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

This winter I interned in the Navajo Nation Washington Office (NNWO) which was founded in 1984 to more actively safeguard this unique relationship and pursue the fulfillment of all responsibilities of the historic Treaty of 1868. It serves as a direct advocate of the Navajo Nation, a tribal government entity, with Congress, the White House and federal agencies. Specifically, the NNWO monitors and analyzes congressional legislation, all the while discerning best strategies and practices concerning national policies and budgets that affect all 300,000 enrolled members of the Navajo Nation.

The first day of my internship actually coincided with the start of the 115th Congress, which was merely the first indicator of the impeccable timing of the internship as a whole. I never imagined that I would be working in D.C. during such a historic and exciting time period. Through my internship, I was able to witness the 58th Presidential Inauguration and other transitional hearings at a variety of different levels. I even had the opportunity to help plan the NNWO Inauguration Reception, as well as the Coalition of Large Tribes Winter Legislative Meeting. I also had the opportunity to attend important Congressional hearings, and I even draft a letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous ownership of natural resources. I noticed a distinct urgency within and outside of the office, because of the pivotal timing, which made the entire internship experience that much more meaningful and exciting. 

As I left NNWO on the last day of my internship, my supervisor expressed his gratitude for all of my efforts, and further expressed thanks “on behalf of the Navajo people.” This was such a full-circle note to end on. My greatest interest in NNWO was because of this direct engagement with the key policy makers and advocates of the Navajo people. As a proud Navajo citizen, I it was incredible to gain a new perspective on the issues facing our Nation and to be surrounded by those dedicated to solving them. Because of this deeply personal connection to the internship, I was able to see meaning in even the simplest of assignments. Now, leaving NNWO and returning to the reservation, I feel that so much more aware and prepared to be a better Navajo citizen.

It was an absolute privilege to spend ten weeks demystifying, reflecting, and growing at the Navajo Nation Washington Office. I know that even the most mundane and strenuous days were valuable. I also know that it is just the starting point, of even further engagement, evaluation, and hard work. I did not do it alone, in so many respects, Rocky has been the absolute resource to me throughout this endeavor. The Class of ’64 Fund has been such a blessing, and I’m confident that it will continue to be for future interns. Rocky does such a great job enabling so many students, and now I hope that my internship will afford me the same incredible opportunity.

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