The Navajo Dory | Natalie Benally

“You give everything you got. It’s hard, It’s super challenging. You give all your life force to your art. so when you see the tiny moment when people are smiling, laughing, or being proud…”-Natalie Benally

Natalie Benally

Natalie Benally at the premiere of Finding Nemo. Image courtesy of Benally

Natalie Benally at the premiere of Finding Nemo. Image courtesy of Benally

Natalie Benally, Navajo, wears many hats. Or maybe the better metaphor is…dance shoes. Natalie is a member of the Native American contemporary dance company Dancing Earth. She also served as the voice of Dory for the remake of Finding Nemo, or Nemo Hádéést’į́į́. Oh, and she also has a full time job as the teacher of the arts back on Navajo Nation.
Natalie and I connected while Dancing Earth was visiting Crystal Bridges as part of a special exhibit on dance. We had a wide ranging conversation. Continue reading

Be Productive NOT Busy: A Mindset

On Not Being Busy

Jaclyn Roessel, Navajo, is many things. She is the Public Programs and Education Director at the Heard Museum. She is is one half of Schmooze: Lady Connected. She writes for the fashion site Presence 4.0. She curates her own website Grown Up Navajo. She’s even a previous guest on NextGen Native. One thing Jaclyn isn’t? Busy.

Jaclyn Roessel

Jaclyn Roessel

That doesn’t mean Jaclyn doesn’t have a full schedule or a lot going on. Quite the contrary. What it does mean, for her, is that she is mindful of what the word means and that people often use it as a crutch. Jaclyn has been on a minor campaign to remove that word from the lexicon of those around her. I appreciate it. I had the same revelation a few years ago. Continue reading

Art, Politics and Bryan Newland


Thougthful Political Discourse

Bryan Newland joined NextGen Native the day after the election in 2016. We discussed a variety of issues about politics, from the election itself, what it means for tribes, and broader ideas and actions around politics generally.

Bryan NewlandIt’s not your normal take on politics, which I think is a good thing. Not that there is anything wrong with the “normal take,” it’s just that people are used to it. If you want to hear some in depth conversation about these issues, to hear some thoughts that should challenge people on any side of a political debate (in a good way), than this conversation is for you.

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Sara-Jane Small Wood | Promise Zone and President Obama

“There’s nothing holding you back except what’s in your mind”-Sara-Jane Smallwood, Promise Zone Coordinator and Policy Director.

Sometimes you speak with someone that has so much positive energy that it’s bound to rub off on you. Despite a massive headache during this conversation, I came away feeling energized after speaking with Sara-Jane Smallwood.

Sara-Jane Small Wood, Promise Zone Coordinators

Sara-Jane Smallwood

Sara-Jane is one of those people that had a clear goal from a young age and pursued that goal and was able to realize that goal: returning home to work for her tribe. She did so in a big way, working on a very high-profile program that eventually resulted in a visit from President Obama to Choctaw Nation. Continue reading

Charles Galbraith | From Dugout to White House

Charles Galbraith: “We’ve been conditioned to think that we have to compete with each other…which is not the case.”

Charles Galbraith is Navajo. Currently, Charles (aka Charlie) is Counsel at Kilpatrick Townsend Law Firm. Previously, Charlie spent several years working at the White House for President Obama and before that he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney and a staffer in the U.S. Senate.

Charlie grew up in Phoenix. His parents both prioritized education and so Charlie knew at a young age he’d go to college. He ended up playing baseball and studying at the University of Chicago.  

Charles Galbraith

Charles Galbraith, Navajo

His baseball playing taught him endurance and the knowledge that not everything would break his way in life. It taught him how to dig in for the long haul, and how to keep a cooler head when things weren’t going his way. These two lessons would suit him very well in his career.

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Jose Acevedo | Finding Arizona Podcast

Jose Acevedo of Finding Arizona is back on NextGen Native. One episode wasn’t enough to capture his energy and excitement.

War Cry Warrior

Jose Acevedo, host of Finding Arizona Podcast

To be honest, two shows probably isn’t enough, either.! On the first show, we talked about his life. This time, we can skip the details (where you from, etc.) and dive into various subjects.

Jose is the host of Finding Arizona, a podcast focused on entrepreneurs in Arizona. He is also part Hopi. We have a lot of mutual experience and energy to share amazing stories through our podcasts. You should check out his podcast and listen to the ways that disparate business people share common experiences, what their drive is, etc.
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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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