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Authored by Jalyn Oxendine

Colby Taylor is a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and a senior at Carolina, where he is majoring in political science. He is from Cherokee, NC, where he and his family still call home. He mentions that home is where he and his people share the same culture, values, language, and identity. Colby shares, “love is what makes a place home.

Colby has many roles within his tribe. He is a Jones-Bowman Leadership Fellow at the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute, which was established to honor the leadership and legacy of EBCI Principal Chief Leon Jones and Tribal Council Representative James Bowman. He was elected as a youth delegate for the Cherokee constitution convention of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. He is an intern at the EBCI legal aid office, which deals with civil court processes. He also played a role in building a partnership food bank for Cherokee schools and youth leadership in Cherokee. The biggest accomplishment in Colby’s life is being able to create a food security project. He mentions, “I love to give back to my community, it was the right thing to do. I get to meet people and learn a sense of professionalism in these spaces.”

What led Colby to Carolina was his grandma, and a former UNC Cherokee professor, Dr. Ben Frey. Up until recently, Carolina had Cherokee language courses which influenced Colby to want to be a part of the program and help build it. Now that he is at Chapel Hill, Colby is majoring in political science as an avenue to obtain a degree he can use to help Indigenous communities. Colby spends a lot of his time with extracurricular activities such as being a part of a global Indigeneity working group, working with the Jones-Bowman fellowship, and giving back to Native communities. Colby describes the American Indian Center (AIC) as a community. “They are super helpful, and they throw great events.” He mentions everyone at the AIC will accept you with open arms and be willing to provide help and advice whenever needed.

As a student, the rigor of classes can be stressful. For self-care, Colby loves to attend sporting events and hang out with his friends. He finds joy while hanging out at the library and attending UNC basketball games. His favorite memory from Carolina thus far was UNC’s win against Duke in 2022 which was Coach K’s final game at Duke University.

Colby has a lot to look forward to this year. He is excited about graduating in the spring and traveling this summer. As part of an exchange program, in collaboration with UNC-Chapel Hill and the National University of Chimborazo-Ecuador (UNACH), Colby will have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador where he will be able to learn about the Indigenous people there, their way of life, and governance.

After graduation, Colby intends to obtain a Juris Doctorate (JD) to work closely with tribal nations on issues such as sovereignty. He wants to tackle the legal process to better understand the meaning of tribal sovereignty and its impact within departments such as education. He explains, “I want to know how we evaluate a society where we can be sovereign and govern ourselves.” Colby said that he actively worked in his tribal government’s policymaking arm since he was little. He has always been interested in how tribal elections work, how policies impact changes, along with how much influence tribal government can impact everyday life. These experiences contributed to his decision to major in political science.

A motto that resonates with Colby is leave a place better than you found it. He mentions, “I’ve heard this statement from my grandma, mother, football and basketball coaches. It means to contribute and help out.” Colby wants people to know that Indigeneity is coming into a new space at Carolina.

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