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; Code.org; 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.

Jacob Aki | On the Future of Hawaii

Jacob Aki on Native histories: “When we look into our history, we have a history of excellence…and we have to reclaim that.”

Jacob Aki

My conversation with Jacob Aki sparked a lot of thoughts about how I think about leadership and solving tough problems.

Jacob Aki

Jacob Aki

Jacob’s bio below outlines well his leadership and contribution to his community at such a young age. In particular, I was taken by two parts of our conversation:

First, Jacob discussed the organization Aha Kane, which has the mission “To nurture a healthier Native Hawaiian male population by eliminating psychosocial, health, and educational disparities through activities founded on traditional cultural practices that build sustainability in the community.” Essentially the organization has formalized mentoring of young Hawaiian men in traditional teachings, but also creates a network to rely upon throughout one’s life. There is a woman’s organization, too. This seems to be an innovative approach to create formal and informal networks in the community.

Second, Jacob discusses the current debate happening in the Hawaiian community surrounding how the nation should move forward. I’m not jumping into the middle of that debate, but I thought about how we often think of previous leaders and how they were able to unify a people under their leadership. There have to be those types of people today, but do we think of their skills and abilities in the same was as we appreciate those whose contributions we can see retroactively?

The other leadership component I thought about is how young and old generations transition the knowledge and decision making in an organization/business/community/government. I think the natural tendency for young Native people is to stand back and let others lead because that is what we think we’ve been taught (and often times is what we are taught). But Jacob told a story about how once he and others got involved in different processes, older leaders expressed appreciation that they were there, and consternation about what took them so long to step up. Learning happens by doing, and I think there is a cultural estuary that we miss out on if we don’t bring different generations together to teach and correct and to learn and succeed.

This is not to say that a young person should expect to lead their people without any prior experience. But it is to say that people of any age can get involved in a variety of ways and begin to learn how to lead, learn and carry themselves.

Any thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Jacob’s bio

Jacob Bryan Kaʻōmakaokalā Aki is a 21 year old Native Hawaiian who was born and raised in Kapālama and Waiʻanae on the island of Oʻahu. He is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools and currently a senior at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is majoring in Hawaiian Studies and Language. Jacob was also a 2015 participant in the Native American Political Leadership Program at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. While in Washington D.C. he was a Federal Policy Intern at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Washington D.C. Bureau. After returning to Hawaiʻi, Jacob became a youth board member for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and Peace Child International Hawaiʻi. Jacob was the youngest delegate at the ʻAha 2016: Native Hawaiian Governance Convention. He recently returned from New York City, where he attended the 2016 United National Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where he became the Pacific Focal Point for the World Indigenous Youth Caucus. Jacob is currently a Public Policy Intern at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. He hopes to attend law school where he can use his degree to serve the Hawaiian people. His goal is to become a prominent leader in the Native Hawaiian Community.


Kekoa McClellan | Native Hawaiian Organizations

Kekoa McLellan: “We can never forget that we are native first, but we cannot ignore that we are not the only people who matter.. We have to look at the people around us. If we separate ourselves from them, we are separating ourselves from their hearts.”

Kekoa McClellan Official Bio

Kekoa McClellan is the President and CEO of Pelatron Power Evolution and the President of the firm’s Joint Venture PQ Energy, LLC.  McClellan leads the development of waste-to-energy systems in the State of Hawaiʻi.  

Kekoa McLellan

Kekoa McLellan

As part of the Pelatron Center for Economic Development family of companies, Kekoa directs the group’s external finance and government relations activities.  Prior to his work with Pelatron Power Evolution, Kekoa was the Chief of Staff to Honolulu City Council member Stanley Chang, managed an independent political consulting firm, and worked as a commercial banking officer at Central Pacific Bank.

Kekoa has served on numerous community boards including The March of Dimes and Hawaiʻi Maoli, and he is currently a director at One Hawaiʻi In Action (OHIA), a Native Hawaiian think tank founded by Senator Daniel K. Akaka. Kekoa is a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Hawaiʻi Pacific University, and an Executive MBA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Shidler College of Business.  Mr. McClellan’s wife, Makana McClellan is the Public Information Officer for the Queens Health Systems.  The McClellan’s are Ma’ili residents and together have two children – Emma Sophia (3) and Brinton Thomas (2).


NextGen Native is, among other things, a place to learn about other Native people and where they are from. Though a Hawaiian may be different culturally from someone from Coeur d’Alene or a Pueblo, there are some commonalities about how we interact with the world. And there is definitely similarities with how we’ve interacted with the United States.

Kekoa McClellan shares his wealth of knowledge about business and about his work to give back to his Hawaiian community. He does this in a variety of ways, but particularly through his day jobs at Pelatron Power, owned by the Pelatron Center for Economic Development. If you are not familiar with Native Hawaiian Organizations, this is a great episode to put your learning cap on.

Jose Acevedo | War Cry Warrior

[ed note: War Cry Warrior’s Jose Acevedo challenge to NextGen Natives was actually directed at me (and you). The challenge was for me to use the NextGen Native platform to bring  NextGen Natives together in person. If this interests you, let me know by leaving a comment here, or on Facebook/Twitter, etc.]

War Cry Warrior

Jose Acevedo, Founder of War Cry Warrior and the Finding Arizona Podcast

Jose Acevedo connects with all kinds of people through his podcast Finding Arizona. He also connects with people through the business he created, War Cry Warrior. And that does not include his day job as a landscape architect. Jose’s ability to connect with people has roots with who he is as a person.

Jose is Hopi and Puerto Rican. He lived in Pennsylvania until he was 12 and moved back to Hopi at a critical juncture in his development. He went from a place where there were all kinds of people to a place where there were far fewer kinds of people, and fewer people generally. And while he had a diverse background, no group knew quite what to make of him. Ever since he was 12 he has been building those relationships with people and learning how to do so with a wide array of people. He’s also been reconciling who he is through his personal experience, too.

This conversation did not follow the usual journey of someone’s life because it involved life tangents and going down various rabbit holes. It all flows well, and is a great conversation, but we cover more than just Jose’s personal journey.


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We also discuss:

  • Why Jose started his business.
  • The genesis of his podcast, and the impact it’s had on him.
  • Why we both enjoy the UFC and diving deeper into the stories of martial artists.
  • Our experience building relationships with guests on our podcasts.
  • Why it’s important to make mistakes, even when interviewing Ambassadors.

Sooner Davenport | Healing and Campaigning

“Give yourself six months and do the one thing that absolutely terrifies you.”

Official Bio for Sooner Davenport

Sooner Davenport is Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa and Navajo. She was born in Shiprock, New Mexico and currently lives in the Oklahoma City area.

Sooner Davneport

Sooner Davenport

She graduated with her Bachelor’s from Oklahoma City University and pursued graduate studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Master of Tribal Administration and Governance program.

Davenport is a passionate advocate for quality education, child welfare, multiculturalism and sensible economic policies. In 2014, Davenport was selected to the prestigious Native American Political Leadership Program in Washington DC. It was there that she served as a policy assistant for the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. She returned from this experience at the US Department of Education determined to continue policy work in Oklahoma. Her work with tribal governments includes the areas of taxation, economic development, oil & gas, renewable energy and government accountability. She has also completed an internship for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

Currently, she works in the non-profit sector building public awareness around the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in communities throughout Oklahoma. She is involved in many projects and organizations, the latest of her endeavors is her campaign for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in District 43.   

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Sooner got her name
  • Running cross-country in college
  • Sooner’s ability to make tough decisions
  • The importance of self-awreness
  • “Following your passion” vs. being passionate about a job
  • Native American Political Leadership Program
  • Sooner’s healing journey and how she works to help others along their journey
  • Sooner’s involvement in various non-profits, and Native Max Magazine
  • Her candidacy for Oklahoma State House District 43

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Adrienne Keene on Native Appropriations and Academics

Adrienne Keene on using your voice “Our voices will not be centered unless we fight for Native voices to be heard.”

Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee) will begin a position at Brown University this fall as a tenure track Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department.

Adrienne Keene

Dr. Adrienne Keene

She also is the author of Native Appropriations, her website that “is a forum for discussing representations of Native peoples including stereotypes, cultural appropriations, news, activism and more.” Each of these accomplishments alone is impressive. The fact that Keene accomplished both in recent years is pretty amazing. Continue reading