PennElys GoodShield hit the ground running. She started attending Humboldt State University when she was 16 years old after finishing her home schooling. She obtained her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2003. For her, the self-designed major focused on environmental science and technology. In 2004 she completed her master's degree in Environmental Systems.
GoodShield worked with Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development while a student at Humboldt State. Immediately after completing her masters she founded an affiliate program of Seventh Generation Fund called Sustainable Nations, which promotes the sovereignty, environmental and cultural health of Indigenous Nations through community-based appropriate technology development work.
GoodShield defines appropriate technology as "technologies that are easily created and/or maintained by the people who use them, and which are designed for long-term viability, with environmental and cultural considerations in mind."
As the founder of Sustainable Nations, GoodShield initiates projects, guides projects to completion and searches and applies for grant funding. Some projects she is currently engaged with include working with an extended family in the Ah Pah village on the Klamath River. Ah Pah is a traditional Yurok village being redeveloped for contemporary use as a visionary model of sustainable development. GoodShield is also working with the Trinidad Rancheria to develop an edible and medicinal plant garden and hopes to use donated land for agricultural production.
GoodShield is Anishinaabe, a Native Nation in the Great Lakes area, and was raised just outside the Tsurai boundary of old tribal land in Trinidad. Her family kept her immersed in Native American culture and issues.
GoodShield has also been teaching courses in HSU's Native American Studies Department since 2004.
"I really like being a lecturer because teaching classes puts me in a positive learning environment. It keeps me going because I am constantly learning and relearning.
"I am often surprised about how little students know about Native American history. It reaffirms how important it is that someone teaches Native American sovereignty and strength," she says.
GoodShield credits the Indian Natural Resource, Science & Engineering Program (INRSEP), with helping her navigate through college.
"From the very get go INRSEP on campus made it possible for me to go to school. I had real issues with college. There was the perception that I was going to be whitewashed. I was 16 and dealing with conflicts between my culture and my identity. INRSEP was very influential and comfortable."
GoodShield is happy to see post-consumer waste recycled paper on campus. She would love to know what students perceive as the two biggest challenges in their communities and find out what the student-suggested solutions would be to those issues.
"Then we could apply those solutions to the city, state, and county," she says.