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Meet Bryanah Lopez, a member of the confederated tribes of Grand Ronde and a Freshman at PSU.

Public Health undergraduate student Bryanah Lopez

Student Spotlight: Bryanah Lopez

In the heart of the bustling urban campus at Portland State University (PSU), nestled against a backdrop of skyscrapers, one young woman stands out as a beacon of tradition and resilience. Meet Bryanah Lopez, a member of the confederated tribes of Grand Ronde, a descendant of Molalla, Kalapuya, and Eyaka nations, and a Freshman at PSU. Lopez’s passion for native health is not just a personal pursuit but a legacy she’s determined to uphold.

Lopez’s journey began long before she set foot on the university grounds. Raised on the Reservation, she was deeply influenced by the stories and wisdom passed down through generations. However, it was her great great grandmother, Kathryn Jones Harrison, a revered leader and advocate for federal tribal recognition and honorary doctorate of Humane Letters at PSU, who sparked the flame of inspiration within Lopez.

“[My great great grandmother] inspired me to do something for our people by all the amazing things she accomplished within her life to restore our tribe and keep our traditions alive,” says Lopez. “I look up to her and hope she sees how I’m trying to follow her footsteps in becoming a tribal leader.”

Majoring in Public Health while focusing on indigenous health gives Lopez a platform to combine her academic pursuits with her passion to provide accessible healthcare to the communities living on the reservation. When Lopez participated in an externship for tribal health scholars with Katie Harris Murphy, Program Coordinator of Tribal Health Scholars, she learned about the difficulty of access to healthcare and the importance of having natives at the forefront of health policies and equity for native communities.

As Lopez navigates the complexities of her dual identity as a college student and a guardian of her cultural heritage, she remains undeterred with the support of her family, friends, and her community. She envisions a future where Native American communities thrive and their health revitalized through decolonized public health practices.