Rising Yale senior Charelle Brown grew up in public housing on the Kewa Pueblo near Santa Fe, New Mexico. She lived with her mom and grandparents in a standard-issue, single-family HUD house with cinder block walls and small, boxy rooms. Brown could also walk to another dwelling in the pueblo—an adobe “village home” with curves and an open floor plan—that her family had built, rebuilt, and shared over many generations. “I always watched my aunties replaster the house in the village,” Brown says. “It was so intimate—a space where I could connect with all the women before me just by touching the walls.” By age 16, Brown was already reflecting on the difference between the two homes, and how design has the power to support or hinder traditions like family meals or art making. After excelling at a drafting class in high school, she set her sights on one of the top architecture schools in the world. “I was obsessed. I changed my phone wallpaper to the Yale bell tower. I was doing anything I could to get into spaces people like me haven’t been in,” Brown says.
To her amazement, when she got to Yale, Brown wasn’t the only indigenous woman in the architecture program. Anjelica Gallegos, a Jicarilla Apache woman from Santa Ana Pueblo, was pursuing a graduate degree, and Summer Sutton, a PhD candidate from the Lumbee Tribe who had taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, was there researching the ways Native practices could deepen architectural education . . .