Category Archives: Uncategorized

Raina Thiele | Obama, Standing Rock, and the Start of Gen-I

Raina Thiele

Raina Thiele

Raina Thiele, Athabascan and Yup’ik, is President of Thiele Strategies. Before starting her own firm, Raina worked for President Obama in the White House Office of intergovernmental Affairs.  Raina joined the show to share her story that led her from Alaska to the White House and now to her current work. Raina’s story is a great example of how hard work, willingness to take on new challenges, and timing can come together to present amazing opportunities. Raina certainly capitalized on her experience to advance the profile of indian Country.

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Brian Howard | Uncomfortable Growth

Brian Howard is Research and Policy Analyst American Indian Policy Institute. He is Pipash, Akimel and Tohono O’odham. I’ve always respected Brian for his humility, knack for policy, and his commitment to Indian Country. During our conversation, I got to know more about his personal story, which I think includes a key lesson for everyone: being uncomfortable in order to grow.

Brian Howard

Brian Howard with U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva

Brian shared a few stories during our conversation that shared the theme of growth and trying something new. What I found unique about the experiences was that he was able to combine the new experience with a familiar one so that the new challenge does not seem to have been as challenging as it could have been. For example, Brian traveled to Australia and New Zealand for a study abroad program when he was 16 years old. It was a big transition, but he spent much of his time in communities with Aborigines and Maoris, a familiar experience that helped him in his experience.
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Nebraska v. Parker | Vernon Miller Breaks it Down

The Story of Nebraska v. Parker

Vernon Miller is Chairman of the Omaha Nation. Recently, the nation has been in the news as it successfully defended its sovereignty before the Supreme Court in the case Nebraska v. Parker. In this episode, we discuss the background of the case, the strategy put together for the case, and the impact the case will have on his own nation, across Indian Country and on the Chairman’s leadership experience.

Vernon Miller, Nebraska v. Parker

Vernon Miller, Chairman of the Omaha Nation

In recent years, Indian Country has been timid to bring cases to the Supreme Court because it has been viewed as an unfavorable, perhaps unknowledgeable, about Indian law. But this case turned out very different. The recent decision ruled in favor of the tribe. Unanimously. It was an important victory for the Omaha Nation and for all tribes.

This is a great episode for people that want to learn more about current issues, but may not be a lawyer (like me). Continue reading

Sharice Davids | Thunder Valley | Ho-Chunk

Sharice Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. She also is a lawyer, a former used car dealer, an entrepreneur (Hoka! Coffee), Chair of the board of directors for 12 Clans–Ho-Chunk’s Section 17 holding corporation, MMA fighter, and the Deputy Director for the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. Phew.

Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk

Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk

Sharice Davids is a great example of how one’s journey can take curved routes. After spending many years abroad as a military child, she went to six different colleges before earning her degree. The remarkable thing about this though, is that each transfer was for a specific purpose such as to learn about computers, learn sign language, or play sports at a collegiate level. It was very focused, and contrary to what I think is often perception when people move around to different colleges.

Eventually Sharice earned her degree but it wasn’t long before someone at a coffee shop urged her to go to law school. Sharice attended PLSI in New Mexico prior to law school. While at PLSI, a mentor urged her to apply to Cornell Law School. Sharice doubted whether Cornell was the right school, at the time she had applied only to one. But she was admitted and ultimately went to New York.

After law school, she landed in Kansas City at the law firm now known as Dentons. She learned a lot about the law while at the firm from Steven McSloy. But Sharice also credits McSloy with showing her how to use and maneuver within spaces of power and that she could question people, institutions and even the law. Moreover that she did not have to accept it as it was. She cites this as the most valuable professional lesson she has learned. It is incredibly powerful to learn that you do not have to accept things in the world just because. I think this is a fundamental aspect of being a NextGen Native-that you have the ability to alter the course of your own life, of your career, of your community. Things are not set in stone.
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Michael Adams | Gourd Jewels | Hopi

Michael Adams is Hopi. He is also the the owner, along with his wife, of Gourd Jewels. The company is a jewelry business that sells online. We caught up just before Black Friday

Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Side Note: As the Holiday season begins, think about supporting businesses like Gourd Jewels and many other Native businesses. Gourd Jewels is having a black Friday sale, so check out their website for a discount.

One consistent theme from the conversation with Michael was his ability to analyze situations and make tough choices based on analysis and not emotion. For example, Michael attended Occidental College to play football. His goal was to make it to the NFL but after suffering an injury, he realized he should plan for something else in life.

Another example came while studying for a Ph.D. in psychology at Northern Arizona University. He realized his heart was not in it and that it was not worth the time, energy, and cost to pursue this career he thought may have been for the money. Continue reading

When Fry Bread is Not Powerful

Franzia © Power!

Imagine if I had a shirt that celebrated boxed wine and sold it in Indian Country. What type of response would I get? My sense is I would be castigated for promoting something that is “not traditional” and has created so many issues in our communities. But…isn’t that what we are doing when we celebrate fry bread? Open the floodgates…

Don’t get me wrong. I love to indulge and down some fry bread from time to time. I prefer mine simple with butter. If I’m at home, slather on some huckleberries, please. But it is not earth shattering to say that it is not really part of  “traditional” cultures.  Or rather, it has been incorporated into our modern version of our culture (another blog post). But, for several reasons, I do not consume it regularly. Among those reasons, I realized many years ago that it is not traditional, so I do not feel compelled to eat something on a regular basis, that while delicious, is not healthy or traditional. Continue reading

Louie Gong | Eighth Generation

“It wasn’t all about spirituality, all about mother nature or charity. It was  ‘I’m a Native person, here are my values and I’m going to kick ass.’ It was a much more three-dimensional view of who Native people are.”

Who could get Natives to buy fewer Pendleton blankets and instead buy blankets created by Natives? Louie Gong.

Louie Gong is creating his own energy right now, and I’m digging it. Louie is Nooksack, and grew up both in Canada and the U.S. He also runs Eighth Generation, a company that makes blankets, jewelry, phone cases and more. His stuff is fresh and more importantly, Native designed and owned! The journey to business owner and cutting-edge designer was not a straight path. Louie lived on his own in high school. Like a previous NextGen Native, he used this independence to hone his grind and hustle. Rather than falling through the cracks, he played sports, but then had to find ways to get home, pay rent, etc. His grades did suffer, however. Louie admitted that he did not like learning the way the school was trying to teach him, resulting in his poor GPA.
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John Pepion | Up and Coming Ledger Artist

One of the tensions NextGen Natives experience, I believe, is whether your work faces outward to the broader world or inward towards Indian Country.John Pepion By focusing on efforts that face outward, your goal is to broaden the exposure of Indian Country to others, to educate, to transcend. Efforts inward may focus on addressing an issue, or empowering, etc. but perhaps with little support or focus from outside Indian Country. John Pepion is currently straddling both, and may be on the cusp of getting BIG.

  John Pepion is a member of the Blackfeet Nation. He grew up in Birch Creek on the reservation. John is a young ledger artist. His work is captivating and incorporates both traditional scenes one expects from ledger art, and contemporary scenes captured in a familiar medium. I came across John Pepion after someone retweeted a blog post written about John’s work. This wasn’t just any blog, it was Instragram’s blog. As a fan of ledger art I dove into his Instragram account. I reached out to him to be on the podcast. He agreed and we had a great conversation.

Yakima Men Fishing The Columbia 2015 (custom order) @merrilie_g #pepionledgerart A photo posted by John Isaiah Pepion (@johnisaiahpepion) on

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Why I Take Cold Showers

Why I take cold showersI’ve always been “warm blooded.” More bluntly, I am always hot. Even as a baby. My mom tells a story about how I would go crazy in a onesie because I was too hot. I would try to rip it off my feet. It’s no surprise I would like to take showers to cool me off. But over time, I’ve developed another reason for cold showers: Self-discipline. It may be a mental trick I am playing on myself, but I think forcing myself to take a cold shower each day has helped my self-discipline.

Before I started taking cold showers, I would take “normal” showers like most Americans. (“Let me bathe daily in instantly hot water.”) But a hot shower is a bad way to start your day if you run hot. Especially when I lived in DC where the combination of humidity and suits is already disastrous. I would start my day flustered because I was hot from the inside out. So I started taking cold showers, or at least ending my shower with cold water and then letting the water evaporate naturally instead of using a towel. (pro tip: stand in front of a fan and expedite the evaporation.) Then I read the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I will skip the various tested reasons provided by Ferriss for taking cold baths or showers, but suffice to say they include better sleep, fat loss, and more.

But I discovered recently another reason for cold showers. I noticed it only as summer waned and the need for a cold shower to cool off became less necessary. The cold showers became routine, but I found myself less and less eager to jump into cold water. I force myself to take the cold shower. At first, I did it for the benefit of waking up fast in the morning, or to cool myself off before bed.

However, during the last few weeks I noticed that these cold showers have another impact, at least for me. I find my discipline just that much stronger. I’m not saying that I can hold my hand over a flame, or anything superhuman. It was small, daily decisions that I found were improved: the healthy side salad instead of fries; the immediate task completed instead of procrastinating. The more I forced myself to take a cold shower, the easier some of the other decisions later in the day. I’m not sure if the cold shower is the reason for this effect, but it seems that it is a daily habit I have instituted, often times against my own will. I will leave science/psychology to discern if that is the real reason. Even if the cold showers are not impacting my self-discipline, I plan to continue this habit. It helps wake me up and I feel great afterwards. And that alone is worth it.

Other people may have different routines to do the same thing. But for me the cold shower is a daily task to complete that has ancillary benefits besides the self-discipline imposed upon myself. Perhaps that’s why it is so great. It is not self-discipline for its own sake. There are other benefits for me, and the self-discipline is just a by-product. Either way, I plan to continue with cold showers. Who knows, a few months from now maybe I will find myself with my hand over a flame.

How to Ask Good Questions: Why vs. How

One of the key lessons I’ve learned during my career (to date) and through conversations on the podcast is the importance of asking good questions. Some may view asking questions as a sign of weakness. This could not be further from the truth.

First, there is truth to the phrase “knowledge is power.” Second, asking questions shows insight into understanding an issue or problem. Third, asking questions also demonstrates leadership; there may be several people that have the same question, but are afraid to ask.

While I believe that generally there is no such thing as a dumb question, I do believe that some questions will yield higher quality answers than others. Is it really hard to ask a good question? How do you ask good questions? It’s important to understand what type of information you seek and what you want to do with the information. To demonstrate, this I will highlight the subtle yet powerful differences between questions that start with “why” versus “how”? Continue reading