Sha’Teal Pearman knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what she wanted to do after graduating from South Dakota State University with a degree in Agriculture Business and a specialization in Finance.
“I went to school to get my degree and to come home and make a difference in my community,” she said adamantly.
Pearman, who is serving as the Finance and Operations Intern for the Intertribal Ag Council (IAC) this summer, is one of thousands of Tribal people who are demonstrating “Resiliency in Action” in a multitude of ways. At the center of her story is – service. Some of this dedicated service was ignited to make a deeper impact when she decided to face a difficult and painful situation with a solution that continues to provide hope to others.
“I lost someone who was like a brother to me to suicide when I was a sophomore in high school. Shortly after, his younger brother did the same thing,” Pearman said.
Pearman said suicide has robbed the precious lives of too many in Indian Country and that is why she created the non-profit, “Just Breathe” when she was just 16, “I just felt a sense of care. I wanted people to know there are people who care, and I got a sense of joy knowing I could help others. Just reaching out and saying, ‘I am here for you.’ People need to know that.”
“My mission is to use my voice to let youth know they have a choice,” Pearman explains in the “About Section” of her “Just Breathe Campaign” Facebook page. So far, the effort has distributed $4,500 in scholarships, held various fundraisers and they are also working on a summer youth basketball tournament.
“One person cannot do it alone, but together we can make a difference in saving the life of a loved one. It’s time to step up, so no one feels like they have to step out!” She said, noting her mom, Nicky White Eyes, plays a huge role helping to keep the organization going.
Stepping up is something Pearman has shown throughout her journey. During high school, she also stepped into her first internship opportunity with IAC and even began the youth board which is now called the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance for the organization, “I was very fortunate to get an internship with IAC and since then I have just stuck with them. IAC has been one of my favorite things to do.”
At the IAC office, Pearman said she learned much from Donita Fischer – Director of Finance and Operations and Zach Ducheneaux – Executive Director, “I was able to get a good understanding of how things work in the organization.”
Growing up, Pearman also gained a strong connection to agriculture on her father, Cap Pearman’s, ranch, “Agriculture is what I have known my entire life, but growing up, I was more interested in numbers. Every time I saw a number, it just clicked. I would tell my mom that I remembered a person’s phone number before I remembered their name. At IAC, I remember watching Zach give a presentation at the annual conference showing how much money went back to the farmer and how much to bigger businesses. I wanted to understand better how finances work in all of Indian Country.”
Pearman’s dream is straight-forward and driven to find solutions, “In a professional aspect, my dream is for Indian Country to be treated as fairly as you would see everywhere else, when it comes to the financial aspect. Because Indian Country is considered a ‘high-risk’ spot, people don’t want to loan money to us because of where we come from. Yet, we have all the capabilities in the world to become successful.”
Pearman’s educational and professional experiences also include time working for Akiptan. She describes it as a Native Community Development Financial Institution started by Skya Ducheneaux, “They do loans nationally for Indian Country. I really like that I was able to help with the loan process there and meet clients and go out and do compliance checks.”
With plans to continue stepping up her skills to serve others and make the world a better place, Pearman is demonstrating resilience and a vision of service in everything she does, “I am going back to college in the fall to begin earning my Masters. There are two different paths I could go; I am a little undecided right now – Ag Education with an Emphasis in Leadership because I want to be an advocate for agriculture. Or, I could get my MBA. Never know, I might do both.”
Follow the Just Breathe Campaign at: