James Halliday was ready for a change. After many years of working in restaurants, as a truck driver and as a plumber, he enrolled in college.
“I didn’t want to make a living with my back anymore,” James says. “I wanted to make a living with my brain.”
James has 20 years of experience working with tribal organizations and has a good understanding of the culture. But he found you can only go so far without a college degree.
Now he has one. James graduated in 2014 with a degree in social science from OSU-Cascades, Oregon State University’s branch campus in Bend.
He’s currently working as a vocational rehabilitation counselor at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon.
James’ American Indian roots are important to him. He loves to travel for gatherings and powwows, and he celebrates the history of his ancestors by continuing their tradition of fishing and hunting.
“We have respect for the natural resources of Central Oregon,” he says.
James is also a board member and culture advisor for the nonprofit Stewards of Indigenous Resources Endowment (SIRE). The organization raises awareness of Native American land issues, with a focus on estate planning and preserving what tribal members have for future generations.
Having completed his bachelor’s degree, James is now cheering on his son, an art student at Central Oregon Community College (COCC), which partners with OSU-Cascades.
“We used to be a team, but since I’m not going to school anymore, he has to get to school on his own, but he’s doing it,” James says. “I really give him credit for returning to school because it’s a big challenge for a lot of Native American students.”
As a social science major, James’ coursework focused on social, political and economic issues important to tribal communities.
“From gaming to taxation to federal programs to water, it all ties together,” he says. “It’s an interesting dynamic how the state, federal government, county and tribes interrelate to each other.”
James remains thankful for the opportunity to complete his education in Central Oregon.
“Studying at COCC and OSU-Cascades allowed me to stay close to my family and get to know my professors on a personal level,” he says. “It was a really fantastic experience.”