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Riverton’s Christie Wildcat Named a Top Graduating UW Senior

May 15, 2020
woman in Native American regalia
Christie Wildcat

Of all that she has accomplished as a University of Wyoming undergraduate, Christie Wildcat, from Riverton, says having a statewide initiative supported by Gov. Mark Gordon proclaiming May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Day is her biggest achievement.

For her efforts, Wildcat, an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is among three students to receive the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri and Tobin Memorial Award, which recognizes UW’s most outstanding graduates from the 2019-2020 undergraduate class.

The award is based on academic excellence and achievement; service to the university; participation and leadership in the community and campus activities; and citizenship qualities. Wildcat will graduate this semester as a triple major in Native American and indigenous studies, anthropology and political science. She has received numerous honors throughout her UW career, and will graduate with a 3.3 grade-point average.

The other top UW graduating award recipients are Leena Hornlein, from Gilbert, Ariz., and Laramie’s Tessa Wittman.

At UW, Wildcat has strived to become a community leader and represent the university to the best of her ability.

“Triple majoring will give me the opportunity to explore multiple paths in life,” she says. “I have taken on plenty of roles on campus as a leader for the recognized student organization Keepers of the Fire or a role as big as a national executive committee member.”

Through her experiences, ranging from being a UW track and field athlete to her on-campus work and as an outside volunteer, Wildcat has taken these opportunities to educate and teach others about her Native culture and heritage.

“I hope to continue my involvement in all these activities and look forward to joining any other organizations or taking on opportunities UW has to offer, where I can spread more knowledge and awareness,” she adds. “I take all these opportunities to educate and teach others about my culture, and to simply give back in one way or another.”

As an example, Wildcat secured a position to work on digitizing records, working with Professor Emeritus Charles Reher on a tribal project.

Wildcat was a laboratory technician during the digitizing tribal project that saw the return of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal materials from Reher’s “Wind River Reservation Cultural Resource Protection Program.” Reher was the Wind River Indian Reservation archaeologist for more than 25 years, based on a UW/Joint Business Council cooperative agreement. 

“Christie has been employed by our department and by Coe Library Digital Collections, becoming an expert in several complex procedures for archiving and preserving technical archaeological reports, maps and other materials,” Reher says. “During all our work and discussions together, I have been so amazed by her UW accomplishments. My word, she must be the most impressive and hardest working student I have ever met.”

But, her most impressive personal accomplishment was to help write a proclamation for the state to recognize Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Day. She was the keynote speaker at Denver’s Indigenous Peoples March last fall.

“All of these activities are a majority of what I do within the past few years here at the University of Wyoming,” she says. “These opportunities have allowed me to have a large range of knowledge, as many of my peers have not had the opportunity to hear from someone who has grown up on a reservation or learn my native language.”

A continuation of her work on her personal project to help others, Wildcat, earlier this year, was invited to be a part of the Senate File 8 bill signing by the governor. Information on missing or murdered indigenous people in Wyoming will improve under legislation that would better manage missing persons reports and potentially coordinate work between multiple jurisdictions.

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