“I’m there for support,” Schmidt said. “I take part in the kids’ functions. I’m a friend away from home for them.” That comes through in her generosity and advocacy on behalf of Native American students, Ahasteen-Bryant said. “She shares her stories coming from the Shawnee Nation, and these connections make it easier for our students to relate to her. Randy and her husband, Dave, actively support the Center by attending our cultural events,” she said.
“They have also opened their home to offer students a home-cooked meal. That simple gesture greatly impacts students, and I know they appreciate it.” Their home, a log cabin Schmidt helped build, sits on two wooded acres on 400 West. It’s been certified by the National Wildlife Foundation as wildlife habitat, and they see everything from birds to foxes, bobcats, raccoons, coyotes and deer.“We are stewards for the wildlife,” Schmidt said. “Humans are not the crown of creation. We are here as caretakers and should have stewardship, not dominion.”
Born outside Decatur, Ill., Schmidt grew up in the country and spent a lot of time outdoors. “I found solace in nature, and animals just fascinate me,” she said. She realized young that she identified in many ways with her father, Clarence “Spike” Holman, who is of Native American heritage, and early on she became interested in her lineage. Through research, she found connections to the Shawnee, Delaware and maybe the Wyandotte. “I am affiliated with the Seneca in Oklahoma,” she said.
Her love of nature and animals has stayed with her over the years as she’s pursued various careers, which began with service in the Women’s Army Corps so she could get an education using GI Bill funding. Her degrees include art history, a master’s in library science and a master’s of divinity, which led her to posts teaching college history, serving as an animal health technician, working in wildlife rehabilitation, serving as a minister and founding the Native American Ministry of Presence in Chicago.
She’s also an artist, most often painting wildlife, and a master naturalist.
She moved to this community in 2000, where she coordinates the Tippecanoe County Women in Ministry and Ecumenical Network, was active in the Diversity Roundtable and continues to learn about and advocate for Native Americans. “This is the thing I will die with,” she said of her devotion to native heritage. “This is my way of giving back to the people.”
Mayer writes about little-known stories of people in area communities. Her column appears every second Friday of the month. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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