Elsie went back to UNO sometime in the ‘80s, and then again in 2007. In between, “I picked up courses here and there from the community college” (Clark Nov. 2010). After Elsie’s dad died in 2005 and she had no responsibilities keeping her home, her son encouraged her to go back to UNO. She drove the one and a half hours each way from the reservation three times a week.
So much had changed by 2007—the use of computers, the buildings, the student center, and the amount of ethnic diversity in the student population. Elsie found the computer skills she needed challenging, but “those young kids were really helpful,” and her advisor found her a tutor: “If it wasn’t for her, I would have had a hard time” (Clark). That December, gas prices became prohibitive—it cost $70 to fill her tank, and she put her degree on hold, again.
Click here to hear about Elsie’s first day back in class.
Elsie has over 200 hours of credit and only needs two more classes to finish her degree: statistics and another writing course (Clark Dec. 2010). She was recently re-admitted and is talking to her advisor, insisting they give her full credit for all she has done. Adversity has taught her the necessity of advocating for herself. In her early years, “I didn’t know anything about advocating for myself. Nowadays, you go advocate for yourself, and you get help with whatever, tutoring or . . . something will come up that will help you get through. But I didn’t have that” (Clark Nov. 2010). This knowledge of how to navigate the system, know your rights, and be able to advocate for yourself, all of which are necessary to succeeding in the white man’s world, is what she wishes to impart to all young Native women on the Omaha reservation.
Elsie moved back to Macy in the early ‘80s and got married in 1985, becoming Elsie Clark. She had a son, who was 15 when she got married, and later had a daughter. Her son graduated from high school and then from UNL but is saddled with large student loans. She is encouraging her son to look at a new Obama initiative to make student loans more affordable. Her daughter, Jenette, did well in high school. She attended a 98% non-Indian school in Dawes District and was accepted to Creighton University. As Elsie describes it, “She kind of went full circle. She went to Creighton, and then she went to Haskell, and then to Little Priest Junior College. I told her she should have started with the community college” (Clark Nov. 2010). Both her children struggled with alcohol. Elsie’s son,