Twyla Baker

Twyla Baker
Location: New Town, North Dakota Cohort Start Year: 2018 Project Topics: Behavioral and Mental Health, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Education, Environmental Justice Populations Served: Low-Income Communities, Native/Tribal/Indigenous People, Rural Communities, Women's Health
Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

Twyla Baker lives and works on her ancestral homelands on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation in northwest North Dakota. She is the President of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, the Tribally chartered college of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Twyla’s work touches a broad swath of her home reservation, and serves a number of stakeholders, including students, Tribal members, community members, and the state and region. Focusing energy on keeping her team members healthy and high functioning in a high-stress work environment is key in meeting these demands, and can be difficult, given that the campus is located in a rural, remote area with few services supporting workplace wellness. Using the traditions and values of her tribal people, Dr. Baker wishes to build a Culture of Health on the campus of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College to support holistic health and wellness for her team.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Workplace Wellness for Tribal College & Universities: Developing a Replicable Model
Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are the youngest institutions of higher education in the U.S., serving its oldest residents. TCUs came about in the 1960s, based on a movement toward sovereignty and self-determination amongst Native American tribes across the country. Thirty-seven TCUs currently exist in the U.S. and are typically chartered by the tribe of their affiliation. TCUs serve in areas with a high presence of historical trauma and often employ staff and faculty from those same communities. Therefore, team members are often responding to the impact of historical and ongoing trauma in their student populations while also carrying their own trauma. With the development of the COVID-19 virus and its impact, it is now more crucial than ever that The National Health Service Corps foster an environment of care for workers. Workplace wellness, as it may appear in other workplaces, may not be enough to ensure the health and wellbeing of team members. This project will focus efforts on one college campus, with the goal of improving health outcomes and potentially crafting a reproducible model for other TCUs.

Twyla Baker is an enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota. Born and raised on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, Twyla left home for several years and built a life away from the reservation, though she maintained strong ties to her home community. Viewing life through an Indigenous lens, her world view informs nearly everything she does professionally and personally, and she is raising her children to know, see, and carry on their Tribal life ways as they were taught to her by her parents. Given her strong grounding in her culture and identity, and the social capital that brings, Twyla is particularly suited to carrying out her work within her community. She has spent a lifetime establishing her credibility among her Tribal people and with external constituencies.