Native American at AU: TJ Ashes ‘27

November 30, 2023
Native American at AU

Augustana understands the value and impact that historically marginalized people have on communities all over the world — recognizing that this university would not be the place it is without these students, faculty and staff. In the "At AU" series, the university aims to showcase these exceptional people so we can all hear their voices in an effort to foster positivity and create awareness of their experiences on campus.

For the month of November — Native American Heritage Month — Augustana is featuring TJ Ashes ‘27, a history, theatre and secondary education triple major. Ashes, of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, is involved with the Augustana Theatre Department and Native American Student Association (NASA).

TJ Ashes

Q: What are your career goals/aspirations?

A: I wish to act professionally, but my degree is in teaching high school history. I am also interested in Oglala Lakota College. I hope to start a theatre group or program on the reservation.

Q: Languages?

A: English, but I am learning Lakotiye.

Q: Where or how did you hear about Augustana?

A: Through my high school, I took the teacher pathway class and got so much motivation to learn how to educate. 

Q: What is/are the reason(s) you chose to come to Augustana?

A: I grew up going to Hawthorne Elementary School (in Sioux Falls) and have been on the receiving end of the Circle of Courage, and now getting to learn how to apply it to teaching is rather grand. 

Q: Are you an enrolled member of a tribe and/or is there one with which you identify?

A: Oglala Lakota

Q: What would you like others to know about your culture?

A: It's about community and how you interact with community.

Q: What is it like to be Native American or Indigenous at Augustana?

A: With the Native American Student Association (NASA), I get to be around people of all different tribes and backgrounds. We also have similar stories, so that's fun.

Q: Are you a part of the Native American Student Association? If so, what does it mean to you to be a part of something such as this? What do you hope to achieve as part of the organization?

A: Yes. I feel a great importance to bring awareness of my culture and interact with the greater community of Augie. I hope we can achieve collaboration with the greater indigenous community in Sioux Falls.

Q: Is there someone at Augustana who has been inspirational to you or helped guide you throughout your time at AU? If so, how?

A: The Augustana Theatre community has been a good proponent of my ambition. I'm someone who finds it difficult to name just one person, but I've found comfort in theatre here at Augie, and I think everyone who contributed to that should be recognized.

To learn more about the "At AU Series," visit

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