Jalene Uryuralria Herron, Leader from the Region

PhD Student Working to Become a Culturally Inclusive Psychologist

Storyknife, May/June 2024 edition

Jalene Uryuralria Herron, Calista Shareholder and PhD student originally from Bethel

Jalene Uryuralria Herron, a Calista Shareholder with ties to Bethel, is pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology. She is currently interning with a Pueblo community in New Mexico as a final step in
her PhD from the University of New Mexico.

Herron’s dissertation—which is a research project to fill in the gaps for the field of study—looks at how providers use mindfulness-based interventions in Native American communities and how they adapt it to make it relevant for the Native clients in those communities.

“In clinical psychology broadly, many of the interventions utilized are designed for white clients,” Herron says. “Often in mental health settings, cultural identity and who we are as Native people isn’t often thought about. It’s important to me—as both a researcher and a therapist—that we value our cultures and our communities.”

Jalene Uryuralria Herron, Calista Shareholder and PhD student originally from Bethel

Jalene Uryuralria Herron, Calista Shareholder and PhD student originally from Bethel

Mindfulness is often thought about in the Buddhist and Eastern cultural perspectives—in being present and being intentional—but it coincides with many Native traditions, Herron says. It exists in our ceremonies and our cultural ways of being, she says.

“We’re cultural beings. We’re not just our race as individuals, we have our cultural ways that we can lean on,” Herron says. “When you’re berry-picking, cutting up a moose or fishing, you pay attention to how you feel and how you act because that has a lot of power and may lead to a good harvest.”

Herron wants to pursue a career as a psychologist and is working with Native communities in New Mexico. She plans to use her life experience of subsistence fishing and berry-picking as a strength in the field. Growing up in Bethel, she saw the cultural strengths in her community and saw many people struggling with substance misuse, which led her to pursue psychology to learn how to treat problematic substance use.

“School may seem hard but I want to see more Yup’ik doctors, psychologists and teachers. Having more of us in the system is really important.”

Jalene Uryuralria Herron, a Calista Shareholder with ties to Bethel

“Current research supports that among Native people, the more culturally involved you are with ceremonies and traditions, and in speaking your language, it leads to a decreased likelihood of developing a substance use problem and other issues,” Herron says.

When people come into therapy, Herron looks at how they can honor and attend to culture. In Western culture, therapy and medical care typically comes from an evidence-based science. Herron’s work aims to honor and integrate how traditional knowledge and teachings work for people in a therapeutic manner, while working in line with current healthcare systems.

“There are multiple ways to recovery and traditional ways are important too,” Herron says.

Herron has been in school for many years, on the path to her PhD, and the Calista Education and Culture, Inc. (CECI) scholarship was key in attaining her bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Gonzaga University. She says the CECI scholarship was very meaningful as a Shareholder and it helped to buy books and pay tuition, especially early on.

“It was really hard for me to leave home and go to school, but I was always reminded by friends and family that home is always there,” says Herron. “School may seem hard but I want to see more Yup’ik doctors, psychologists and teachers. Having more of us in the system is really important.”

The mission of Calista Education & Culture, Inc. (CECI) is to celebrate and promote Yuuyaraq, the traditional/cultural way of being in the Calista Region which inspires and encourages our people to achieve their dreams through education.

The CECI scholarship program awards scholarships two times each year. The application deadline for the Fall 2024 Term scholarship is June 30, and the Spring Term scholarship application is due December 1 each year. Apply today!