Her Lakota name, Ožáŋžaŋ Taíŋ Wíŋ, means “Appearing Light Woman.” It’s easy to see why Black Hills State University student Koty Janis was given this name. She has a special light and it’s something she aims to use to inspire others in her future profession.
Koty is studying psychology and American Indian studies at BHSU in Spearfish. She plans to become a school counselor back home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“On Pine Ridge the suicide rate is higher than the national rate. That needs to change. Studying psychology is a stepping stone for me to go back and help the youth back home,” says Koty.
With a goal to “make home feel like hope,” Koty is pursuing opportunities to enrich her education. She recently completed a paid internship with the Dakota Lakota Summer Institute where she took Lakota language classes and helped facilitate class registration. She also posted Lakota phrases on the Institute’s social media page and participated in methods classes for the instructors.
“The youth back home motivate me to want to interact more with my native language. There’s an immersion school on Pine Ridge and the children will be fluent. It’s huge – revitalizing our language and our culture. It’s beautiful,” says Koty.
Koty transferred to Black Hills State University after completing a semester at the University of Hawaii. In addition to being much closer to home, Koty says it’s more affordable to live and attend school in Spearfish.
After hearing great things about Black Hills State and the Center for American Indian Studies, Koty enrolled.
“BHSU had the American Indian Studies program I was interested in. The school is so welcoming and the Native community is strong here,” says Koty.
BHSU professors who’ve influenced Koty’s journey include English instructor Karl Lehman, American Indian Studies instructor Rosie Sprague, and emeritus professor Jace DeCory.
Sprague noted that Koty was invited to give the welcome prayer in the Lakota language at the Fall 2018 BHSU Commencement Ceremony, doing so with great confidence and grace.
“Koty has shown herself to be an excellent student both in and out of the classroom. I have no doubt that Koty will accomplish great things in the years to come,” says Sprague.
It was Nakina Mills, a school counselor at Red Cloud High School, who inspired and helped Koty in her journey to college, pushing her to do her best academically, submit applications, and pursue scholarships.
“Nakina is the reason why I’m in college. My career goal is to work in a high school back home as a counselor and do for others what Nakina did for me,” says Koty. “My goal is to be there for the future generation.”
For Appearing Light Woman Koty Janis and the students she’ll impact, the future is bright.