Twin Fond du Lac brothers share twin dreamsThe Dunlap brothers have overcome cultural and economic obstacles on their journey through life — and hope to return to Carlton County to share their talents.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Twin brothers Caleb and Jared Dunlap graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 2009, and their sights are now set on medical school. But, the two say, they’ve come long way already.
They were born in 1983 to Patricia and Craig Dunlap and grew up on the Fond du Lac Reservation with one older sister, Rebekah, and two older brothers, Jeremiah and Jacob.
“Growing up in a large family, as well as with many relatives, provided a foundation,” said Jared Dunlap. “The foundation was built on teachings, stories, history and prayers. My mother and father wanted to provide us with a consistent childhood where we could grow up close to our relatives and also with friends who we would know from the time we were young until we were adults.”
Jared and Caleb started out at Churchill Elementary School in Cloquet.
“I can remember that I was shocked to know there were so many other kids outside of my home, my neighborhood, and my reservation,” Caleb Dunlap said. “Though I was scared at times that I would not fit in, I can remember my mother always instilling in the two of us that ‘no matter what situation you two find yourselves in, God has given you each other for a reason and no matter what, you have one another.’ “
Jared Dunlap also credits the help and support of the Indian Education liaisons in the district, especially the late Pat DeFoe.
“She never stopped me from asking any questions that I may have had at my early inquisitive age, and she encouraged us to talk about our Ojibwe history and culture,” he said.
The Dunlap brothers attended Cloquet Middle School and Cloquet Senior High School, graduating with the class of 2001.
“During our younger years, it was fairly evident how natives were treated different than the non-native students,” Jared Dunlap said. “I never was in Gifted and Talented programs growing up, but I still turned out well. … Being a first-generation college student, from a low income and minority background, it was not often we got the privilege to experience the plethora of books, travel, museums and more. Instead, imagination and dreams drove my success.”
Jared and Caleb’s eldest brother, Jacob, was the first in the family to go to college and, in doing so, gave the others motivation to do the same
“His choice in doing that would forever change my thoughts toward going to college and believing that Native Americans could pursue higher education,” Jared Dunlap said.
The Dunlap brothers ended up in Sacramento, Calif., where their father lives, and in November 2006, they applied to UCLA. In May 2007, they each received their acceptance letter.
For the twins, learning at college went two ways.
“Often, there is an imbedded stereotype about Native Americans that we are drunkards, impoverished, lazy, or that we all look a certain way,” Caleb Dunlap said. “Throughout my college experience I believe I served to educate and help a large amount of people to see that native people are fluid in their identity and that we always have been and will continue to be intelligent parts of our own society and within the rest of society.
“One thing I always remind myself of still is ‘Always respect the image of yourself among others because you never know if that is the first time those people have ever met a Native American person,” he said.
The two also appreciated the diversity of races, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, sexualities and personalities of the international student body at the school.
“There would be times where I would be standing at the top of Janess Steps and realize that I was standing where John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. gave profound speeches to UCLA and L.A. community,” Jared Dunlap said.
The Dunlap brothers were among only 40 American Indian students in a student body of about 40,000, but they found kindred spirits by joining the American Indian Student Association. Both admit, however, that it was challenging being 1,500 miles from Minnesota.
“I did not know where I was going to get the next tuna casserole, bratwurst or wild rice hot dish,” Jared said, “but I soon found that carne asada tacos, pad thai and chicken with waffles complement the kinds of meals we ate back home.”
Caleb and Jared Dunlap graduated from UCLA in spring 2009 with degrees in American Indian studies, with a focus in pre-health/medicine. An accident after graduation caused Caleb to return home to Minnesota, where he ended up working at Fond du Lac Human Services helping on task forces for suicide prevention, diabetes and youth tobacco policy. Jared worked for the California Rural Indian Health Board as an epidemiology research assistant for the California Tribal Epidemiology Center.
This summer, both were involved in the Native Americans Into Medicine Program through the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at the University of Minnesota Duluth Campus School of Medicine.
They are now back in California, preparing to take their entrance exams for the next phase of their education.
Both plan to pursue master’s degrees in public health and are currently testing for that program. Afterward, they hope to pursue a medical degree, working in family medicine, back home on the Fond du Lac Reservation, they hope.
“I know my future lies in health care and helping to restore balance and wellness to my own life, that of my family, and of my tribal community,” Caleb Dunlap said.