Cherokee Heritage motivates academic journey

by Nov 24, 2020COMMUNITY sgadugi





Chaminade (University) junior Alexis Lambert loves to see history come alive through culture.

And so when her professor tasked her with writing a research paper for History 201, a course that explores America through the Civil War, she knew exactly what she wanted to write about: her people.

Lambert, 21, is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Alexis Lambert, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians shown graduating from Southwestern Community College, is now majoring in psychology and pursuing a minor in criminology and criminal justice at Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo contributed)

She was born and raised in Cherokee, North Carolina, and still lives on reservation land there with her mother and two younger siblings. It seems a world away from Chaminade, but Lambert says the university’s online program has turned out to be a perfect fit for her—and her studies.

Lambert first applied to Chaminade while still in high school, but then decided to attend her local community college for two years. After receiving her associate’s degree, she was looking for an online bachelor’s degree program that would allow her to stay in Cherokee while also getting access to quality educational programs. She remembered what she’d read about Chaminade and decided to apply again.

“Everything fell into place,” she said.

Lambert is now majoring in psychology and pursuing a minor in criminology and criminal justice at Chaminade.

She dreams of bringing her unique perspective to her future profession just as she brings it to her courses today. “I love my culture and cannot imagine growing up any other way,” she said. “We have powwows and festivals that celebrate our food and culture all throughout the year.”

For History 201, Lambert worked with Professor Willis Moore to tell the story of her people before 1865 into the present day. The paper explores what the Cherokee people have gone through—and how they have survived to keep their traditions, customs and language alive for future generations.

It also unpacks her tribe’s laws and political structure, comparing them to the U.S. government.

Lambert said she jumped at the opportunity to write the paper for a simple reason: “I want more people to know about my culture and to know about the other side of history—the one that is not in the books. Cherokee is a federally recognized tribe in the U.S. We have our own laws and land.”

Lambert said she’s come a long way—and is looking forward to graduation and beyond.

She’s interested in becoming a clinical psychologist or a forensic psychologist. Whatever she chooses, she’s confident that she’ll get there because of having her foundation rooted at Chaminade. “I love it here and cannot wait to learn more,” she said. “I am very happy right now and very proud of myself.”