Interview with Emily Washines, MPA Tribal Governance Alumna

Emily Washines Photo

Emily Washines, MPA Tribal Governance alumna, founder and CEO of Native Friends, and mother of three, grew up in Toppenish, WA. Emily is enrolled in the Yakama Nation and is also Cree and Skokomish. She is the former Miss Yakama Nation, Miss National Congress of American Indians, and first runner up for Miss Indian World.

Emily earned her Bachelors at Central Washington University where she majored in Public Policy and minored in Political Science. She learned about Evergreen’s Master of Public Administration program from a traveling graduate prep program. Emily wanted a degree she could complete while maintaining ties to her job and her community. She also wanted to have professors that had worked with tribes and/or Indian Country and would be familiar with their policies and administration. Emily actually applied for MPA at Evergreen twice, once in 2005, but decided to work. The next time in 2009, when she felt ready to continue her educational journey.

Initially, Emily shares that she felt unsure about evaluations, but they ended up being a big part of how she was able to reflect on her coursework throughout the quarters. She studied a variety of topics with the professors outlining different points and giving guidance of study. She would pick up a newspaper and see what was going on. If it was a process she did not understand or have much familiarity with, she selected that topic to learn.

Emily’s Advice to Current & Prospective Students

“For prospective students, it will be tough to set aside so much time. If you work full-time and go to graduate school, you will miss birthday parties and everything due to studying. In advance, let your family and friends know about your goals and remind them it is only for 2 years. I spend Easter and Mother’s day in class, both were my daughter’s first. It was okay. I had to keep thinking of my long-term goal.” 

“Current MPA, I would recommend to study a wide variety of topics, utilize post-it notes in the books even if it’s a question or comment. This will help you during discussion when you were up tired and forget for a moment that point you wanted to make in the 3rd book you read last week. Also, I finished my second year with a newborn. I did homework in labor. If I can do it, you can. Just finish the paper. Turn in your assignments. The feedback you get helps you push further. Even with all of that, you will miss something one time, read the wrong book, completely misunderstand the assignment and it will be commented and red marked and at that moment, you will want to give up. Keep going. It happens. Sometimes, we need gentle reminders or to go through a phase of learning.” 

Post MPA

Emily wrote a case study for Evergreen’s Native Cases and has another in progress. She joined a couple non-profit boards centered on environment, Columbia Riverkeeper and Yakima Environmental Learning Foundation. She also started her own business, Native Friends, a Native lifestyle empowerment brand with a focus on language, history, and culture. Native Friends travels to speak on topics including: Food Sovereignty, First Foods, Treaty Rights, Fishing Rights Climate Change, Riparian and Wetland Restoration and Native History. This began through an Evergreen Artist development grant and then a mentorship with Louie Gong, owner of Eighth Generation. One project was recently filmed for a spot on Native America, which was to meet descendants on the other side of the Yakama War. Historic enemies standing peacefully side-by-side as pen pals. 

Presently, Emily finds herself utilizing her MPA knowledge every day in her culture and history blog projects. The program pushed her to continuously ask, analyze, and deliver.

Emily shared the following in closing:

Things will be hard at first. You will find yourself overwhelmed with deadlines for reading and assignments. You will figure out how to be more efficient, you will find what works for you. Then, you will utilize this in future work assignments. Think about sharing that work. When I completed my capstone, I thought only my classmates and family would see it. I ended up writing a case study and this year spoke eight times throughout the state on the topic. The information in my case study is used as a regional and national model.

The Evergreen community has been generous with their time and opportunities both throughout the MPA and after. You can get a lot done when people believe in you.” 

Checkout Native Friends here: https://nativefriends.com/

For more on Emily: https://www.nwpb.org/2018/11/29/a-yakama-womans-promise-to-her-elders-sheds-light-on-a-forgotten-northwest-war/