‘Emerging archivist’ adds to Indigenous record

December graduate Mikayah Locklear is a School of Information and Library Science student and “proud Lumbee woman.”

Mikayah Locklear poses, laying on brick-laden ground.
(image courtesy of Carolina Stories)

Mikayah Locklear’s journey at UNC-Chapel Hill is one of resilience, growth and a deep commitment to her Native American roots. As she approaches graduation in December, her future holds the promise of meaningful contributions to Native communities and the preservation of Native history and culture.

The groundwork for Locklear’s promising future began on campus, and she attributes the Carolina Fund Scholarship as a key factor in unlocking her potential.

“The scholarship allowed me to take part in research, build a community and prosper academically,” she said. “When a financial barrier is eliminated, it allows a student to thrive.”

Growing up in Robeson County, North Carolina, Locklear said she faced financial barriers that often hinder students from pursuing extracurricular activities and research opportunities. Her scholarship gave her the room to participate in a wide array of experiences at Carolina. She served as a peer mentor, held leadership roles within the Alpha Pi Omega Sorority and Carolina Indian Circle, and was named a GlaxoSmithKline STEM Scholar.

Her academic interests evolved, too, as she participated in meaningful research and community projects.

“I did not come into UNC knowing that information science was what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to work with technology, but outside of that, I was clueless.”

Locklear discovered unlimited applications and numerous career paths at the School of Information and Library Science. After she decided to minor in American studies and environmental justice, her dreams began to align.

“I am a proud Lumbee woman, a SILS student, an emerging archivist, an Indigenous activist, and a lover of history and the outdoors,” she said. “Through all these parts of me, I can see how my niche perspective is needed and valued.”

One of her most significant undertakings was her contribution to the Land Back/Abolition project, initiated in fall 2022 under the mentorship of professor Sara Smith and assistant professor Danielle Purifoy in the College of Arts and Sciences’ geography department. The project was born out of the professors’ realization that there was no archive capturing the rich history of Indigenous peoples at Carolina. The community-focused project was supported by the Alliance, a collaboration among the UNC American Indian Center, the UNC Asian American Center, the UNC Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black History and Culture and the Carolina Latinx Center.

Locklear became involved in the project as part of a geography class. A $2,000 William C. Friday Arts and Humanities Research Award helped her pursue her own research project, “Archiving Indigenous Life at UNC for Indigenous Futures.” She hopes to display the complete archive on campus in spring 2024 at the annual Carolina Indian Circle banquet.

“From my experience, it has been so important to just put myself out there and show up for different opportunities,” said Locklear. “This is just the beginning for me and all that I will be able to accomplish.”

Her ambitious plans include working as one of the Native Youth Grantmakers with Native Americans in Philanthropy. “My sponsoring organization for the fellowship is Triangle Native American Society, and I will be working with them in the future as it relates to supporting our Indigenous communities,” she said.

She also will intern with the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina to expand their tribal archive. She aims to pursue graduate studies in archival work or library science, further amplifying Indigenous representation and giving back to her community.

Locklear’s journey at Carolina shows how scholarships like the Carolina Fund can open doors and empower students to pursue their dreams — and how a student’s accomplishments can benefit the entire Carolina community and beyond.