Ambassador Keith Harper & Standing Rock

In lieu of a new podcast episode this week, I thought it worthwhile to point you to a previous episode. Ambassador Keith Harper, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council joined the show in 2015. Recent events compel me to share some thoughts on his work and the serendipity of the universe. He took the time to share his life experience and it’s worth a listen. Because Ambassador Harper is in a position to facilitate Chairman Archambault bring awareness of Standing Rock’s fight to the world stage.

The Plateau and the Big River

The Plateau and the Big River

The response to assist Standing Rock’s effort to block the Dakota Access Pipeline (#noDAPL) has been strong. Thousands have circulated through the camp to help protect the Missouri River. These people have been on the front line of this effort.  But the effort has included those that are not on the front line, but are working to help nonetheless. (Side note: they needn’t be mutually exclusive.) Lawyers are filing motions, exploring legal options, etc. Journalists are covering the events. There are those working to counter inaccurate narratives. There are people sending supplies. There are people educating their coworkers, neighbors, and others. Continue reading

Brian Gunn | Low Key Lawyer

Brian Gunn

Brian Gunn is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. He is a Principal at Powers Pyle Sutter & Verville PC in Washington DC.

Brian is someone you can learn much from. In addition to being a lawyer that has taken on several large cases and initiatives as part of his work in Indian Country, he is low key and always maintains his sense of humor.

Brian Gunn

Brian Gunn

Brian discussed how his general low key demeanor has positively impacted his clients’ cases. It reminded me of the saying “you can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin it once.”

Brian grew up in Omak, Washington. He attended Washington State University. He served on the school’s newspaper and as part of his work, he decided to reach out to Bill Kunstler for an interview. To his surprise, the well known civil rights attorney agreed to speak with Brian for 45 minutes or so. The conversation sparked his interest in the law. This is one of the best nuggets of information from our conversation. Brian’s story demonstrates that it’s usually worth the effort to email someone, approach them at a conference or connect via social media. Nine times out of ten you may hear nothing back, but occasionally you will connect and the encounter can change your path or theirs, and that’s worth it. Continue reading

Jacqueline Wilson | Classical Native

Jacqueline Wilson Highlights

Some highlights from my conversation with Jacqueline Wilson:

“The thing classical music and being Native have in common is reassuring people we are not obsolete.”

“Even if what you do is unorthodox, or unexpected or outside of the box, what you do and who you are is important and you should share it with other people.”

Classical Music in Indian Country

In Indian Country, we often discuss being “traditional,” but in today’s episode, we get to hear someone who is “classical” while also being indigenous. That person is Jacqueline Wilson, a “classical Native”

Jacqueline Wilson is Yakama.

Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson, Yakama

She is an Assistant Professor at Southeast Missouri State University and is a professional bassoonist. She also is the creator of the website Molto Native Music, which promotes Native musicians in classical music.

I really enjoy finding people that I can have a conversation where I learn not only about their own experience, but to learn about things I have very little exposure to, and this is one of those shows.

Jacqueline started playing the bassoon after a high school teacher suggested that the instrument may be a way for her to earn a scholarship to attend college. She started learning the instrument, and before long she enrolled at Eastern Washington University. But her first semester, she took an F in her orchestra class. Her professor essentially told her she didn’t belong.

That statement fired a spark within her, and she spent several months practicing several hours each day. The very next semester, she earned an A with the same professor. That spark carried her to Boston University for her Master’s, and to the University of Iowa for her Ph.D. She is now a professor and professional musician. Quite the journey from her first semester of college

After sharing her personal journey, where we dove into many topics, Jacqueline entertained some of my “101” questions about classical music. She shared some tips about what to listen for when listening to music (repetition and musical tension i.e. dissonance).

Native Music

Jacqueline shared some Native musicians to check out, and they are great.

Connor Chee (Navajo) Navajo Vocable 9

Juantio Becenti (Navajo) Divertimento No. 4 for Piano Quartet

I’m so happy that she shared these pieces with me, I’m fascinated already and look forward to learning more about Natives doing their thing in this space. Have a listen.


Lance Morgan | A Business Revolution

“If you are interested in Native issues, do what you need to do. One person can make a difference.”- Lance Morgan

If you listen to NextGen Native, chances are you know Lance Morgan. Lance is the CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc, a corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. He also is the managing partner of Frederick Peebles Morgan, and teaches at Arizona State University Law School.

Lance Morgan

Lance Morgan, courtesy of Ho-Chunk Inc.

I worked with Lance and his company in my last job and had the chance to get to hear his story a bit as he told the story of Ho Chunk Inc. The two are intertwined.

After studying economics and earning a law degree (official bio below), Lance moved back to his tribe and within a few years, started to implement the idea he had been tinkering with to create a tribally owned company. It’s a bit crazy now to think that not too long ago, this was a revolutionary idea.

Lance grew with the company, and it’s currently generating about $250 million in revenue. It’s a shining success in Indian Country. And not just because of how much it earns, but what it does with its profits, creating housing on the reservation, running a used car company to help tribal members build credit.

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Stacy Leeds | Cherokee Dean

“We never control the timing of our opportunities.”

“ I always thought about the removal with anger or sadness…and now I think about survival and resilience.”

Stacy Leeds

Stacy Leeds is a Citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is also Dean and Professor of Law at the University of ArkansasSchool of Law. Recently, the university reappointed Dean Leeds to a second term as Dean.

Let me restate that: Dean Leeds is a Citizen of the Cherokee Nation and Dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Stacy Leeds

photo courtesy of Stacy Leeds

I am excited to get this conversation on the record to share, because Stacy is one of Indian Country’s shining stars.

Stacy is from Muskogee, Oklahoma. She was active in sports, excelling in basketball. Eventually she played small forward at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. She was not familiar with the school’s prestige when the school contacted her initially, she decided to attend because it was where she could play ball.

This is a familiar theme in Stacy’s life, jumping into something full steam ahead. I’ve always found, despite my desire to learn as much as I can about an issue, the best way to do things is to dive in. Because when you dive into something you cannot allow yourself to get in your own way.

After college, she attended the University of Tulsa College of Law. During law school, she realized her desire to enter legal academia. So after school she participated as a Hastie Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Law School. When the fellowship was finished, she taught at the University of North Dakota.

Her next stop was at the University of Kansas teaching as part of the Indigenous Studies program. Here she was able to take on an interim role as Dean. It was here where she realized that she could take on this role. Soon after, she was presented an opportunity to apply for the Dean position at Arkansas.

One of my favorite parts of the conversation was listening to Dean Leeds discuss her recent experience as a participant in the Remember the Removal ride.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The challenge of choosing between two good options.
  • Finding the Native community regardless of where you live.
  • Getting burned out, and taking care of yourself to prevent it.
  • The importance of relationships in Indian Country, law, and beyond.
  • The power of relativity and connection.
  • Working “in” Indian Country, and what does it mean when opportunities arise to work beyond Indian Country exclusively.
  • The phone call she got when she was offered the Dean position.
  • The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative.

No matter where you are in your professional journey, you can take something away from Stacy’s experience.

Kayla Gebeck | Around the World for her Language

“What do [you] feel you are good at and feel you can contribute to your community?”

When I spoke to Kayla Gebeck, the thing that jumped out at me was her enthusiasm to try new things, start new adventures, with the goal of preserving her language. After not traveling far beyond the upper Midwest, Kayla traveled to a Pueblo, then to Hawaii, and ultimately to New Zealand. Her goal was to learn how different communities were working to to preserve their languages.So while she was able to explore personally, and expand her horizons, the skills she was learning would help future Ojibwe speakers.

Kayla Gebeck

Kayla Gebeck

Before it was over, Kayla studied in London and was able to connect the work people do in developing countries and relate that to Indian Country and visa versa. We talked about making connections outside of Indian Country and how these connections can create lasting ripples of interest or awareness with Indian Country.

Kayla’s story is really interesting to see all that she’s been able to accomplish already. And more importantly, that her community is the driving force for her work.

Official Bio

Kayla Gebeck is a public affairs advisor at Holland & Knight’s Washington, D.C., office and a member of the firm’s Native American Law Practice Group. Ms. Gebeck provides assistance to tribal governments and their enterprises on legislative and regulatory matters. Her areas of focus include education, healthcare, housing, social services, natural resources, environment, self-governance, trust land and federal relations.

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Ms. Gebeck served as a policy analyst for the Native American Finance Officers Association. In this position, Ms. Gebeck advocated the views and concerns of tribal governments in the areas of access to capital, tax and finance policy, in addition to preparing reports and broadcasts that alerted tribal members on new guidance and/or legislation affecting their governments and enterprises.

While attending the University of London, Ms. Gebeck served as a photographer for the Global Coordinating Group Indigenous Media Team, which covered the preparatory meeting for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in Alta, Norway, and conducted research for Legal Action Worldwide in an effort to build the legal capacity of conflict-affected governments.

Amanda Tachine | Center for Indian Education

Amanda Tachine

If you need an energy boost, or your spirit lifted, this episode is for you. Amanda Tachine’s voice lifted my mood and her enthusiasm and energy lasted throughout the episode. Amanda is Navajo, and is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University.

Amanda’s busy, and her accomplishments demonstrate that.

Tachine Center for Indian Education

TEMPE – September 8th, 2015 – ASU News – Postdoctoral Scholar Amanda Tachine will be recognized for her work as a White House Champion of Change in Washington D.C. and is pictured here at the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University Tempe Campus on Tuesday afternoon September 8th, 2015. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News

But much of our conversation focused on topics other than work. We discussed how she navigated through her educational career. We bonded over the physical feeling of when you go home. I mentioned a book I’m reading,  The Shepherd’s Life, and how it relates to language often associated with Indian Country. We discussed the friends that helped her navigate to her graduate degrees. Amanda mentioned others around the country involved in this field of study (e.g. Adrienne Keene). Amanda mentioned her approach of focusing on the Now, and how that impacts her life. We discuss (not) burning bridges, including the quote “you can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin it once.”

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Vince Logan | Special Trustee

Vince Logan the Special Trustee

Vince Logan (Osage) is the Special Trustee for American Indians at the Department of the Interior. He is responsible for the trust assets administered by the Department. He is a Senate-confirmed member of the administration. As impressive as that is, it’s only a sliver of his accomplishments in his personal and professional career.

FullSizeRender(30)Vince is from Oklahoma. He grew up in Norman-his parents moved there so him and his siblings could be close to more opportunities for education. Despite growing up in the town where the University of Oklahoma is located, he eventually attended Oklahoma State University.

Eventually, he ended up in New York as a lawyer. He worked for a big law firm where he focused on financial transactions involving transportation and logistics. It was a world he’d never been exposed to but he was drawn to it. He excelled in the environment and spent a lot of time working as a lawyer on these transactions. Continue reading

Justin Wilson | No Other Choice

Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson is an upbeat guy. You sense his energy from the moment you start a conversation with him. Or more likely, when he starts a conversation with you. When you learn about his life, it’s amazing to think how he can be so upbeat. But then you realize, it’s because he had no other choice.

Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson, Choctaw

Justin Wilson is Choctaw. He grew up in Southeast Oklahoma. His father died when he was three and his mom wasn’t around much. He was living on his own at age 14. He excelled at school. He realized it was his way out of the life he experienced as a kid. Having just listened to an amazing episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, I knew exactly what Just meant. The episode is titled “Carlos Doesn’t Remember” and I realized that Justin was very similar.


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Natives in Tech | Erin Spiceland

Erin Spiceland’s challenge to NextGen Natives: “Google “[Natives in] tech…; and see Native people in every field, no matter how much of a walled garden exists. They did it, you can do it.”

One of the goals for NextGen Native is to connect Native people across a variety of professions, and to tell the story of these people to place their experience in context i.e. being Native person in the 21st century. Perhaps no one best exemplifies this to date than Erin Spiceland.

Erin Spiceland is Choctaw, and grew up in South Georgia. Her family ended up there after her grandfather settled down in the area after serving in the Navy. She is a software engineer  working in for a technology company in Huntsville, AL. If there is one area that every community needs to be part of in 2016, it’s technology.

Natives in tech

Erin Spiceland, one Native in tech

Specifically, preparing people to work in technology by teaching them to code. Erin has worked hard online to promote Natives in tech, and she has done so by example. But even more, in the same conversation Erin talks about the importance of coding, she talks about learning her language, and teaching it to her kids.

Erin’s journey is about more than just coding. Erin lost her mother at a young age after a battle with Leukemia. It was difficult for her to move on after the loss, but she found strength in her faith and realizing that her life did not have to be defined by what she lost.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Math and music: the connections between the two.
  • How Erin wanted music to be a major part of her life and influenced her academic future.
  • The benefit of having a support system that allows someone to challenge themselves.
  • How studying computer science in college is behind the curve when it comes to what actually occurs in the real world.
  • What is an algorithm (never be afraid to ask questions).
  • How Erin ended up at Nodesource.
  • Different resources for learning code: Khan Academy;; Coursera;
  • Erin’s perspective of being a woman and being a Native person in a technology company. And how she enjoys surprising people when she tells people what she does.
  • Natives in tech, what a variety of Natives are doing in different industries.

I learned a lot from Erin, and she pushed me to understand things just a bit beyond my grasp. In addition to learning my language, I think I’ve been inspired to learn some kind of coding program, too.

For more background, here is Erin’s bio:

Erin Spiceland is a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Choctaw and Chickasaw classically trained musician living in Huntsville, Alabama. She works as a backend software engineer at NodeSource. When she’s not hard at work writing code, she can be found under a pile of beadwork or practicing the Choctaw language with her two daughters. She also loves kayaking and Star Trek.