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UND alum Laine Lyons attends first White House Native American Heritage Month celebration

During the first celebration of Native American Heritage Month held at the White House, UND alum Laine Lyons (left) met U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who spoke at the event. Photo courtesy of Laine Lyons.

As with most people who receive an email invitation to attend an event at the White House in Washington, D.C., Laine Lyons was at first suspicious.

Lyons, a 2016 UND graduate and the director of development for the College of Arts & Sciences with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, wasn’t sure if the invitation from the First Lady – Dr. Jill Biden – that arrived on Nov. 4 was real. She was asked to attend the first-ever White House celebration and reception for Native American Heritage Month that took place Nov. 15.

“Initially, I thought the email was spam,” Lyons recalled. “I asked our IT guy to look at it to make sure it was real. When it was confirmed to be real, I felt instant excitement and confusion because I had no idea why I was being invited.”

On the appointed date and time, Lyons was at the White House to represent UND, UNDAAF and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her first time in the residence of U.S. presidents, Lyons felt as if she was “walking in the hallways of history.”

“I had the distinguished honor to attend the first Native American Heritage Month celebration at the White House,” she noted. “At the event was a room full of people who have worked so hard for Indigenous people to be recognized and celebrated.”

Among them were Sam McCraken, founder and general manager of Nike N7 and a 2022 Social Innovator of the Year. She met model and activist Quannah Rose Chasinghorse-Potts and Lindy Waters III, a professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I met so many amazing people – people I idolize because they have paved the way for someone like me,” Lyons related. “I hope that everyone realizes that your possibilities are endless, and you have the ability to achieve whatever you set your mind on – even if you are a reservation kid like me.”

Continue reading this story at UND Today.