Native Forward Scholars Fund Announces 2023 Students of the Year

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Native Forward Scholars Fund has announced undergraduate student Peter Thais and graduate student Christina Thomas as this year’s Students of the Year.

“The Student of the Year award celebrates exceptional scholars of Native Forward who have demonstrated their commitment to their education and leadership and service to their tribal communities,” said Angelique Albert, Native Forward Chief Executive Officer. “Both Peter and Christina emanate each of these qualities and more. We are pleased to call them Native Forward scholars and to recognize them as our Students of the Year.”

Native Forward’s Student of the Year Making the Grad campaign, launched in 2017, amplifies the stories and voices of scholars and highlights their impressive achievements in academic excellence and commitment to community engagement. For over 50 years, Native Forward has empowered more than 22,000 students from over 500 tribes in all 50 states by providing scholarship funding ranging from $250 to $30,000.

Peter Thais is a member of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe on the Akwesasne Indian Reservation and is pursuing a degree in Biological Engineering focusing on Ecological and Microbial Systems and a minor in Indigenous Studies at Cornell University. He is an active member of the Indigenous community at Cornell, where he is on the executive board of the Native American and Indigenous Student Program, working as an ambassador, and is the co-leader of the Indigenous Mentorship Program, which pairs first-year students with an Indigenous upper-class mentor.

Christina Dawa Kustmana Thomas is Numu (Northern Paiute), Newe (Western Shoshone), and Hopi (Tobacco Clan). She grew up on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation in Wadsworth, NV, and is an enrolled member of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. She is an Indigenous scholar, vocalist, dancer, cultural activist, language warrior and a mother. Thomas graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Minor in Biology in 2019. She is attending the University of California, Davis, as a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Native American Studies Department and earning a Designated Emphasis in Performance and Practice Studies. Thomas attained her master’s in Native American Studies from UC Davis in 2021. Her practice is rooted in the Great Basin, more specifically Northern Nevada. Her primary fields of study are historical musicology and language regeneration of Numu Yadooana (Northern Paiute language). Thomas’ research amplifies Numu ways of making music history – privileging Numu knowledge, languages, and performance to Indigenize the music studies curriculum.

Native Forward Scholars Fund has provided over $400 million in direct scholarships during its 53-year history, empowering over 22,000 scholars from more than 500 tribes in all 50 states. The organization’s alumni are among the most influential Native leaders in the U.S.