Category Archives: blog

Lakota Voices | An Overview of a Special Series

Launching Lakota Voices

Pine Ridge is WAY TOO FAMILIAR with the tired narrative of Indian Country as poverty porn. It is ground zero for media that perpetuate the narrative. It’s also the example used by those trying  to counter itBut there’s another story about Pine Ridge and Indian Country generally. It’s our story told by us. In general, I call this story NextGen Native. And I’m excited to launch a series that focuses on this story in a specific community. The series is called Lakota Voices.

(ed note: I know the pic below is of kids from Standing Rock Sioux, but they are with FLOTUS which is awesome. Let’s roll with the flow)

A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

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Jim Gray | Reforming Tribal Government

Jim Gray is Osage. Not only is he Osage, he is the former Principal Chief. Jim is one of the few (so far) elected leaders to appear on NextGen Native.Jim served two terms as Principal Chief from 2002-2010. During that time, he led significant reforms to the Osage government, eliminating almost one hundred years of U.S. government say in who was an Osage.

Jim Gray

Jim Gray

I’ve shied away from interviewing elected leaders on NextGen Native. The reason is there are so many people serving or working in Indian Country that are not elected leaders that I thought they needed a spotlight of their own. However, I think Jim’s story as a former leader, in particular one who accomplished what he did as a young leader, is worth sharing his story.

It’s amazing to see how small events cascade and facilitate into life changing moments. Jim did not seriously consider college until he realized he could play tennis at the collegiate level. Sport is what pushed Jim into college and set him on his course.

Jim’s first job was with his tribe as a grant writer. Eventually he found a job in the newspaper business where he found the work suited him. He continued working for the Tahlequah Daily Press for about ten years. An opportunity arose to buy his own newspaper, the Native American Times. At the time, there were only a few papers in Indian Country that were not owned and published by tribes.The Times was able to cover all tribal issues in Oklahoma and across Indian Country with a unique viewpoint.
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It is Not the Critic Who Counts

NextGen Natives focus on action. For several years I’ve worked to steer my life towards action. It’s a constant struggle for me, while it may come easier for others. I am inspired by those that do on a regular basis across Indian Country.

I found recently a famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt that hit home for me. It captures so well what I am exploring with NextGen Native that I want to share it with you. (While Mr. Roosevelt only focuses on the masculine, I apply it equally to both genders.)

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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Maria Givens | Udall Intern to Hatfield Fellow

Maria Givens

Maria is a member of the Coeur d’ Alene Tribe and currently works for the National Indian Health Board. I was excited to interview a fellow tribal member for the first time! This is also the second Mark O. Hatfield fellow to appear as a guest on the podcast in addition to yours truly, who was also a Hatfield Fellow. Maria’s talents have been recognized and she has used her experience and network to go from a summer-long experience as a Udall Intern to serving as the Hatfield fellow and living full time in Washington, DC.

Maria Givens,from Udall Intern to Hatfield Fellow

Maria Givens, Coeur d’ Alene

*history lesson* The French called my people Coeur d’ Alene. It translates “Heart of the Awl.” The awl is a tool used to punch holes in leather. French traders supposedly called us that because of shrewd trading skills. In our language we are Schitsu’umsh.

Maria attended the University of Washington after transferring from Loyola Marymount entering her sophomore year. She realized that it was not the right place for her and decided to move closer to home. What is amazing to me is that instead of disengaging from school or losing focus, instead she turned towards her academics even more diligently to help herself through the first year.

Transferring to the University of Washington was the right choice for her. In addition to her academic experience, Maria also organized the University of Washington powwow, which is one of the largest university powwows in the country. All while she was a double major in political science and American Indian Studies. She was drawn to each major independently but realized that the two could be combined into a single interest. She was a Udall Intern where she was worked for Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). This experience ignited an interest to pursue work in Indian law and policy.

Maria’s experience is a perfect example for other NextGen Natives. She excelled in school and happened to come across the Udall Intern program. During her time in the Udall program she met a friend in the program who later urged her to apply to the Hatfield Fellowship. Her hard work and preparation was meeting her network to provide her a great opportunity. She will begin the Hatfield Fellowship this Fall.

In addition to her great personal story, Maria provides some great specific advice about how she handles stress, manages to stay organized, and the value of spending time with your own thoughts. Oh, and taking action.

Maria is definitely one to watch, and I don’t say that just because we are cousins!

Small Decisions…Big Impact

Small decisions can have a big impact in one’s life. This is not a ground breaking proclamation. In fact, the butterfly effect theory is pretty well known (thanks, Jurassic Park). Still, it is easy to under appreciate their impact. Small decisions can result in big changes in different parts of our lives. Let’s explore a few.

On the NextGen Native podcast, we have heard multiple examples that demonstrate the impact of small decisions. Bill Cornelius discussed how he randomly decided to stop by an advisor’s office one day and learned that his application to select his college major was due that day. This small decision had a huge impact on his studies and professional career. Bryan Newland told a story about a phone call he answered that led him to take a place at a  new indigenous law school program under the leadership of his future colleague Del Laverdure. If he did not take that call, or did not entertain the meeting, this small decision may have drastically altered his life. Finally, the small decision for me to join the Native American Student Union during college resulted in me stumbling across a flier for a fellowship underneath a couch. Without that flyer, I would probably not be in Washington, DC today. These are just a few examples of how seemingly small decisions can shape our lives in ways that may not be easily recognizable in the moment.

Small decisions can have exponentially positive or negative impacts on our lives.

One area where this is especially powerful is personal finance. Small costs can add up to large costs over a ten year span. To calculate, simply multiply one of your weekly expenses by 752, or monthly expenses by 173**. This will help you determine what the true cost of an expense is, plus the opportunity cost you are paying by not investing that money. Let’s assume you pay  $80 per month for cable. To calculate the ten year cost of your zombie inducing television, multiply 80 by 173. I’ll save you the time calculating that, it’s $14,640!  Some may think that saving $15,000 is a near impossible task but in reality, if you decide to cancel your cable bill and sign up for Netflix or Hulu at $10-$12 a month, you can significantly cut your monthly costs and your total costs over a ten year span.  You can still enjoy your favorite shows, but also save or invest the difference you are spending on Netflix instead of cable. One small decision can re-align your investing priorities with your spending habits, giving your the financial independence to make more decisions for yourself.

You can do the same with almost any expense in your budget. I can, and likely will at some point, get further into personal finance issues on this blog. But the point is simply to note that “small” decisions about expenses can and do have a significant cost over the long run.

The impact of small decisions applies to personal actions, too, even if it isn’t measured in money. Do you have a friend that you hang out with regularly even if you make questionable life decisions when you are with them? (For example, there is a concept that some believe you can at least average out the impact of such people on your life.) A small, but questionable life decision can escalate into a life changing one in those instances. Is it as easy to quantify as your monthly expenses? Not necessarily.

This is not a lecture. This is not gospel. Though a chunk of it is simple math. The point is to get you to think about the small decisions you make every day and how they impact on your life. If you are not cognizant of the impact of decisions in your life, then you cannot make well informed, conscious decisions about your life. This NextGen Native wants to empower other young Native people to take control of their lives. And knowing is half the battle.

**I am a huuuuge fan of Mr. Money Mustache. I hope to cover different aspects of personal finance on this blog, but you should find your way to his blog, and at least read his “Where to Start” page.