Amanda Myhre spent her life straddling two cultures. She was never considered white, even though she was raised in the white world, yet she was never considered Native American either. With brown skin and dark hair and eyes, she wasn't recognized for her Norwegian ancestry like many of the kids she grew up with in Enderlin, but having not grown up at the Standing Rock Reservation where she was born, she never felt like she would fit in there either.
Amanda's new endeavor, as a model for Native American designed clothing, might change that, she hopes, and give her a positive presence among other young Native American people.
Amanda recently wrapped-up a photo shoot for Native Max Magazine –a style, health and lifestyle publication for Native Americans – where she modeled a line of clothing called Rez Kid designed by Danny Butcher, who does a lot of of work to inspire young Native Americans, Amanda said.
Amanda learned of the opportunity on Facebook. When she read of the open call for Native Max, she thought it would be a good way to honor her mother who passed away a few years ago. Amanda's mother, a native from Standing Rock, was a model and an activist "back in the day," said Amanda. "She always wanted me to be a model."
At the same time, she thought she could be a positive role model for other young Native Americans.
Once she checked out the rules for the casting call, however, Amanda discovered that at 28, she was too old – the magazine was looking for models from 18 to 25. Fortunately, she had an "in" in the form of a Facebook friend who was also the magazine's founder. After sending photos, Amanda was personally invited to try out.
A lot of young women tried out for the four modeling positions – Amanda's not sure how many – but she made it to the final cut and was featured in the latest issue of the magazine.
But in the process, Amanda discovered more than how to look good in front of the cameras. She learned something about herself and the Native American culture in the process and solidified her desire to do something to bring awareness to Native American culture, and to help improve living conditions on the reservation.
Growing up, in Enderlin with her father Russ, who is the Valley City City Attorney, Amanda knew she was different. Classmates teased her about her brown skin and even called her Pocahontas.
Living in Valley City, people frequently asked where she was from, some were interested when she said she was native, some were rude. But she always felt like she belonged to two worlds. "I grew up in a white culture," she said.
But growing up in the white world, she didn't know a lot about her mother's reservation; until she visited Standing Rock. "There's gangs, there's violence, there's poverty, there's so much that's going on on the reservation that most people can't really handle.
She was quite nervous the first time she visited, "it was very shocking to be driving down the street; there were homeless people with signs, there's buildings that were torn down, window broken out – it was just a cultural shock," Amanda said. "For me it was a very real experience to know that someone of my culture; they live like this, it's a day-to-day thing. It was a very eye-opening experience."
But she was more at-ease when she went to the actual photo-shoot.
Now though, Amanda is considering getting her master's in psychology, and going back to make a difference.
Mental health issues are severe on the reservation and mental health care is taboo. Native Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest rate of suicide in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Amanda hopes to focus on that fact and eventually help improve it.
For now, however, Amanda wants to focus educating people in this area on Native American culture while learning more herself. She hopes to also do some more modeling with the photographer who did the photo shoot.
Read this story in Wednesday's Times-Record.