Yakima Valley College honors Bonnie Labbee with Emeritus Faculty Award
Yakima Valley College is excited to honor Bonnie Labbee with the 2021 Emeritus Faculty Award. First started in 1981, this award recognizes retired and retiring faculty who served at least 10 years of full-time employment at the college. A committee overseen by the President’s Office makes the selection from nominations submitted by students, faculty, staff and community members.
Labbee was born on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation, at the Old Agency, now known as Eagle Butte, S.D. She is an enrolled member of her father’s tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Tribe (Lakota), and her mother was a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe (Dakota).
“My father worked for various Indian tribes across Indian country, consequently, I have wonderful childhood memories living among Lakota, Crow, Hupa, Apache, Navajo and Yakama people,” stated Labbee.
She attended Wapato Schools and at the age of 18, according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1855, was granted a Sioux Benefit with the value of $1,056 along with an attached “government” letter instructing her to buy two mares, two cows, a wagon with seat and top box, harness, harrow, plow, pitchfork and an axe. Instead, Labbee used the funds to enroll in college.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University majoring in ethnic cultural studies and sociology. She later earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Fort Wright College of Holy Names, now known as Heritage University.
She worked at Yakima Valley College for 37 years as a guidance and career counselor, while also teaching ethnic studies courses which focused on women’s studies and Native American, African American, Asian American and Mexican American history and cultures.
“I especially enjoyed working with other faculty and my daughter, Dr. Chani Phillips, providing diversity training and workshops for students and community,” stated Labbee.
In addition, Labbee served for many years as the advisor of the Tiin-Ma Indian Club, which at the time was comprised of students who represented at least 20 different tribes each year.
“I was deeply committed to supporting their transition and success — academically, socially and personally in the college environment. Our Native American students always demonstrated immense pride in sharing their culture [and] traditions while providing cross-cultural awareness and activities to include all students and community. The major accomplishment of Tiin-Ma members, tribal members and myself was to finally eliminate the YVC (dehumanizing) Indian mascot and was changed to YVC Yaks,” stated Labbee.
During retirement she has enjoyed traveling, gardening, collecting/selling antiques and countless challenging games of Scrabble with her husband Jack. Together they share five children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandson with a great-granddaughter on the way.
“One of the highlights of my retirement was attending the Lewis Clark State College Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring [my] sons Lonnie and Montie Phillips. We are looking forward to resuming family gatherings as soon as possible,” continued Labbee.
“As I reflect on my YVC experiences, I wish to express my gratitude to those who helped make my career possible and memorable: Dr. Linda Kaminski, Roger Carlstrom, Bill Faller, AFT and many community supporters. “
The emeritus rank provides use of the library and participation in academic, social and other functions.