Misty Taylor, ACSW is Kumeyaay. She is an enrolled tribal member of The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel located in the north east mountains of San Diego County. She hasn’t always lived in San Diego County, in her twenty’s she moved up and down California.
During her educational path and travels she attended 7 different colleges and finally finished her Associate’s Degree in Child Development at Allan Hancock College in Moorpark, CA. She transferred to San Diego State University and obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Social Work. She is now registered with The board of Behavioral Sciences as an Associate Clinical Social Worker and has completed 3,200 hours and took her first exam to be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Misty shares her heartfelt story of why and how she became interested in the field of social work, that goes back to her ancestors:
“My mother never knew her father growing up (both from Santa Ysabel Tribe) and when my mother went to college on a Bureau of Indian Affairs Scholarship she chose social work. She then became one of the first tribal social workers in CA in 1983 only a few years after The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed. I did not decide to go into social work until I finished my AA degree and began working for my tribe as a tribal social worker. ICWA is such a powerful law that I came to cherish and believe in. Both my mother and I worked to prevent the injustice and illegal removal of Native American children from their tribes who would then have been taken from their homes and placed with non-Indian families. Shortly after I started my work a cousin of ours told both my mother and myself that she knew my grandfather (my mother’s father) and told us his story. The story is he was taken from the reservation and placed at Sherman Indian Boarding school against parent wishes. He was then moved from foster home to foster home and died the year I was born without me ever meeting him. I believe my interest in social work came from my DNA as we carry our ancestor’s DNA in us both the peaceful times and the traumas. I believe my mother and I became social workers (without knowing his story) to correct the injustice of our ancestors and to ensure illegal removal of Native American Indian children does not continue.”
What initially drew Misty to SDSU was that she spent several years in Tribal Star, which is a training and technical assistance program of our Academy for Professional Excellence, SDSU School of Social Work that focuses on building collaboration that improve outcomes for American Indian/Alaska Native children in child welfare. There was also a professor at SDSU, Amy Okamura that would also attend Tribal Star and pushed her to apply to our Title IV-E program. Misty remembers that she used to laugh when Professor Okamura would pull her aside and encourage her to apply. Till this day she still wonders if she knows how far she made it. During her time here at SDSU she completed the BSW Title IV-E program while working and completed the MSW Title IV-E program while being in our Advanced Standing one year MSW program. Her interest was both in clinical practice and child welfare. Although she could not work during her MSW due to the intensity of the program, she won several Native American Scholarships including the Indian Health Service Scholarship and was given stipends as well. She remembers being very fortunate.
During her time here at SDSU her favorite course was her MSW clinical practice course. She learned to love studying human behavior and has always been intrigued by anything psychological, and she still enjoys learning about it. Although she was not as active on campus, she was member of CAL-NARCH and NASA. The time she felt most connected to SDSU, was when she met three new friends and fellow classmates who were all going into social work to help their own people. They were from different ethnicities and they supported each other’s causes. She also felt connected to faculty and she felt the support when she needed it the most. She felt very cared for especially in the Title IV-E program.
Currently she works for Indian Health Council on the Rincon Indian Reservation in North County. She works as a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Therapist Intern under the Behavioral Health Department. She has achieved an award in assisting clients in serious crisis and then making a long term plan of care with many additional support resources. The most challenging aspect of her current work is that being from the local tribe and the clinic where she works is the clinic she went to as a child. Her tribe is part of the consortium of tribes the clinic services, so she knows a lot of people who come in for services and many are related to her. It’s challenging for her to make decisions about dual relationships. It is very possible for her to see her clients at the local store, funerals, traditional events, and she may be on the same committees.
Another challenging part of her work is the loneliness of being a therapist Intern. She says we are, “carriers of secrets” and it is important that she always seek supervision. There is an added emotional element of working with her own people because the amount of trauma Native American’s experience is astounding and this be painful for her at times. The most rewarding part of it all is moment to moment connections of having the honor to hear client’s stories and witnessing the growing of hope when things can be at their darkest. Misty believes in that in therapy, both people heal in the room. She is also actively involved with the Tribal Governmental Council for her tribe as a legislator for the past four years.
In the future Misty hopes to become a certified Trauma Therapist, since there is in a need for her tribal communities and may one day go into private practice locally or contract with various tribal agencies. She hopes other Native Americans students are reading this Spotlight and may feel some encouragement and hope that they too can succeed in college. She has created a list of scholarship and resources that circulate around and will help anyone considering going to college because it is possible. She says, “If you are Native American Indian it should be easy to find me.”
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Written by Melissa Sanchez, BSW