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AddRan College of Liberal Arts


Haylee Chiariello, left, poses with TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini, Jr., Ph.D., on Reconciliation Day in 2021

Chiariello’s Cherokee Heritage Runs Through Her Campus Advocacy Work and Plans for the Future.

Haylee Chiariello has been a busy woman lately. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma citizen is wrapping up a season as TCU’s featured twirler and was recently featured alongside Native American Nations and Communities Liaison Scott Langston, Ph.D., on NBC-5. To top it all off, Chiariello is active in several student organizations, including the Native American and Indigenous Student Association and Race and Reconciliation Initiative (RRI). 

As she studies dance and Native American expression, Chiariello plans on combining her education, performance skills and advocacy to improve health outcomes for Native Americans.

Chiariello poses with the TCU Native American Land Monument.
Chiariello poses with the TCU Native American Land Monument.

Health Scare Leads to Health Focus

A brush with a serious health incident led Chiariello led to focus on health, especially for Native Americans.

Chiariello grew up in Oklahoma City, outside the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation’s 14 county area in northeast Oklahoma. During a regular eye exam at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, doctors discovered the then-high school freshman had hydrocephalus, also known as “water on the brain.” Brain surgery would eventually correct the problem.

“It helped to save my life,” Chiariello said.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives have some of the worst health outcomes of any demographic group in the United States, according to the Indian Health Service. Chiariello believed she could help improve outcomes for people like her.

Through her work as Miss Oil Capital 2022, Chiariello runs “Good Sports,” a program designed to help children be active and involved in healthy lifestyles. Chiariello also serves as a volunteer health and wellness coach at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.

“I get to show these kids my passion and I’m also getting to pass down some baton twirling skills to the next generation of native athletes, which I think is so fun!” “Chiariello said.

Chiariello poses with Frederick Gooding, Ph.D., chair of the Race & Reconciliation Initiative...
Chiariello poses with Frederick Gooding, Ph.D., chair of the Race & Reconciliation Initiative.

Native American Advocacy

While TCU does not have a Native American degree program or minor, Chiariello believes that classes in AddRan can be a help to Native students seeking to express themselves.  

“It plays a huge role to be able to learn more about your culture and your history by taking those classes in college,” she said. “So that helps me to be able to have that voice to know what I need to say and how I need to say it to connect with my audiences.”

Chiariello serves as a student member of the Race and Reconciliation Initiative. As RRI goes into its second year, Chiariello said RRI was still gathering information about TCU’s past relationship with the Native American community.

“As with many institutions, there are long histories that it takes a while to go through them and to analyze the situations and make sure that we have full context and gather all the necessary details,” Chiariello said.

She also reflected on her own story and its connection to the RRI’s work.

“It's important as Dr. G (Frederick W. Gooding, Ph.D. Dr. Ronald E. Moore Professor in Humanities and RRI Chair) has said is that we don't need to be scared of the facts. We don't need to be scared of our history. That's going to make us stronger,” Chiariello said. “And that's something that I grew up with hearing in my Cherokee home. That knowing who I am, knowing my ancestors’ story is going to empower me because I know their resiliency and I know just how much it means for me to be here and to be a voice.”