For The State, For Her Tribe05/14/2018
BATON ROUGE - LSU sophomore McKaila Darden spent her life on the Chitimacha Reservation in St. Mary Parish, in Charenton, Louisiana.
“We are the only tribe in Louisiana to still occupy a portion of our aboriginal land. We are famous for double weave baskets that can hold water,” said Darden.
Darden is studying Natural Resource Ecology and Management in the LSU College of Agriculture, with a concentration in wildlife ecology and a minor in forestry. She lived on the reservation until she moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU.
“I loved growing up on the reservation! I was surrounded by much of my family and really developed a sense of pride for my culture,” said Darden. “I am very fortunate to come from a tribe with such great outreach and a strong sense of community.”
In April, Darden was nominated for and received an Honorable Mention from the Udall Foundation. The foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall’s lasting impact on this nation’s environment, public lands and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
“I feel that many times native people are misunderstood and wrongly labeled. I hope to do my part to break those negative stereotypes by showing the world that my tribe values our traditions while encouraging education and progress,” said Darden.
Darden said she’s passionate about education and hopes to motivate others in her tribe.
“I hope to go back home and encourage youth in my tribe to find what they’re passionate about and really just go for it! I hope that I could inspire tribal kids to be excited and ambitious about their educational aspirations by being a positive and involved figure in my community,” said Darden. “I hope to lead the next generation in activities to show that costal restoration and environmental stewardship is important in maintaining our way of life, especially because we are on our aboriginal lands. I want the youth of my tribe to know that no matter what they pursue, they can always take their knowledge and skills home to contribute to the betterment of the tribe.”
Through her involvement with 4-H and the LSU AgCenter, Darden said her participation in coastal and upland habitat restoration projects sparked her interest in the environment.
“LSU has the best program in the state for natural resource management so it was an easy decision. My older sister was attending the university at the time and I had visited her so often that campus felt like home before I even attended my first class.”
Darden’s older sister graduated from LSU in August 2017. Their younger sister will be joining McKaila in the fall. So far, Darden said her favorite class is Principles of Wildlife Management with instructor Luke Laborde.
“I’ve been learning a lot of general management methods that are directly applicable
to my future classes and career,” she said.
Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations
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