Family and communities

My parents are Robin and David McCoy. My dad’s mom was Lila Mae Nicholas McCoy (we called her Honey), and she was born in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Her parents were Christine Villeneuve and Gideon Nicholas. They were both from Belcourt, ND. My dad is a Turtle Mountain citizen, and my Turtle Mountain relatives are mostly from the Nicholas, Villeneuve, St Clair, and DeCoteau families. My mom’s parents were/are Ray and Gloria Bruce. They were both born in Arkansas and moved to Georgia in the early 1960s, where my mom grew up.

Honey grew up in North Dakota before moving to Tacoma, Washington, like many other Native families in the 1940s and 1950s who relocated during and after World War II for work. Along with her parents and siblings, she was part of a massive wave of Turtle Mountain families who moved to the Pacific Northwest in response to federal pressures as early as 1941. My grandmother married into the army, and my step-grandfather’s army service took my dad and his siblings around the world, eventually finding a home in Georgia and, later, in North Carolina, where I grew up.

For undergrad, I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I minored in Native Studies and found a home on campus in the Carolina Indian Circle. When I returned to Carolina for my PhD in American Studies nearly a decade later, I found another family with the Native Studies faculty and the First Nations Graduate Circle. I was fortunate to be involved with the UNC American Indian Center —┬áplease check out their work!

Native Leadership Institute 2015 Cohort; Photo Credit: Jeremy Wilson

UNC American Indian Center Native Leadership Institute 2015 Cohort; Photo Credit: Jeremy Wilson

Growing up in North Carolina, I felt the physical distance from Turtle Mountain. My dad was intentional about teaching my sister and me about who we were and connected us with the Lumbee, Coharie, Eastern Band, Occaneechi, and Haliwa-Saponi communities around us, but we didn’t know any other Ojibwe people locally, and I didn’t know if we would be welcomed in our community if we ever went back. My dad and I went to Belcourt for the first time in 2015, and I’m tremendously grateful for how our family has helped me come home and continues to surround me with so much love.

In 2019, I moved to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in part to be closer to Turtle Mountain. At Carleton, I teach Native Studies courses in both the American Studies and History departments. I appreciate the opportunity to work alongside our Indigenous Communities Liaison, the Native student organization, our Dakota community partners, and many faculty and staff who are interested in building a stronger community for Native people on campus. For more on our recent work, see: