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Leadership Lessons from Beast Mode

I recently found one of the best examples of managing success and leadership that I’ve read in a long time. It did not come from a scion of enterprise. It came from NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode. I found the nugget of wisdom while reading American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. At the time the NFL season was about to begin and the issue was dedicated to all things football.

For those who don’t follow football (and for those that are not fans of Lynch/Seahawks, etc. I urge you to keep reading, too), Lynch is the running back for the Seattle Seahawks. He is generally recognized as one of the best, if not the best, running backs in the NFL. His nickname is Beast Mode. Originally given for his running style on the field, it has evolved into something larger than football. It’s more than just a name, it’s a state of being. Lynch provided a prime example of what Beast Mode means when he made this insane run against the New Orleans Saints in 2011. Continue reading

Bryan Newland |Hot in Indian law (Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw)

Bryan Newland

Bryan Newland, Bay Mills Ojibwe

Vine Deloria, Jr. wrote in Custer Died for Your Sins “…law became a trap for the weary and a dangerous weapon in the hands of those that understood how to use it.” This concept drives my interest in law and public policy in Indian Country. Tribes need tribal members that understand how to use the law, argue the law, make laws, and influence the law. Laws, regulations and court cases greatly impact how we live our daily lives, especially in Indian Country. Dollar General v. Missississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is a case before the U.S. Supreme Court this year that people should know about.

This episode provides insight into the “hot” topics in Indian law today. Bryan Newland (Bay Mills Ojibwe) and I discuss some key pending legal cases impacting Indian Country. Bryan previously shared his personal story on the podcast. You can listen to that here.

“But I am not a lawyer and this sounds boring and/or intimidating to me. I do not live in Mississippi so why does Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians impact me? Why should I listen to a podcast about legal cases that don’t involve me or my community?”

Because they do. And the concepts at issue in each case are not difficult to understand. I am not a lawyer, and Bryan does a great job describing these cases in a way that non-lawyers can understand and digest. The three cases we discuss are entirely different topics (tax, Indian Child Welfare Act, and sexual assault of a minor), but each impacts the sovereignty not only of those involved but of all tribes.

Two of the cases discussed–if decided wrongly–can negatively impact the sovereignty of all tribes. Information about each of the cases is also provided below. This information all links to Turtle Talk, a blog of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University. It tracks different court cases impacting Indian Country. It is a great resource to track legal developments impacting tribes.

Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

A.D. v. Washburn

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Marshall Stanburg

Bryan and I also discuss other topics in this episode including: moving home after being away; where “home” really is; college football (Go Ducks!); healthy outlets; and more.

Clara Pratte | Navajo

Clara Pratte is currently Interim CEO of Nova Corporation. The company is owned by Navajo Nation, of which Clara is a citizen. Clara’s ascension is impressive in its own right. But it becomes even more impressive and inspiring when you hear her full story.

Clara Pratte

Clara Pratte

Clara is well known throughout Indian Country for her work with the federal government as a political appointee and then as an appointee under President Ben Shelly with Navajo Nation. Her work primarily has been in economic development and public policy.

Clara’s success serves as proof that challenges can be overcome. Clara’s path in college was not a “traditional” linear four years. It included a transfer to a new school and a three-month cross-country road trip. On a whim she took a public policy course in college which led to her moving away from home to pursue a Master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon. This led to a prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship and eventually to her current role as Interim CEO.

There are two key takeaways from this conversation: setting goals can keep you focused and motivated; and taking risks is an important part of personal and professional growth.   I won’t give too much away on those points (make sure to hear it straight from Clara on the podcast!), but these traits have shaped Clara’s path.

I will expand on the subject of risk, so that this point is not misunderstood. The risk should not be haphazard, however. It should be done when an individual is prepared and is ready to grow. It is not about starting a career in finance after working as a teacher, with no transition plan, for example. It is taking the new job that will stretch your existing skill set. It is moving across the country to enroll in a graduate program. It is calculated risk that will yield significant rewards.

It was a great conversation with Clara. And for those of you that need some extra motivation (difficult to need after listening to Clara), she is one half of a couple that does more (including training for a 100 mile race) before I usually wake up. Joe, Clara’s husband, was featured on the podcast last year. It is awesome to see a NextGen Native power couple doing great things in Indian Country!

Be sure to check out Clara Pratte’s blog, Rez Girl Big World.

Celeste Terry | Thinking Indigenous, Generation Indigenous

Celeste Terry

Celeste is Oglala Lakota. She lives in Denver, CO where she will enroll in college this fall. Celeste attended the White House Tribal Youth Gathering (#WHTYG) as part of Generation Indigenous. More than 1,400 Native youth descended on Washington to take part in the event. The participants were able to hear great content including an awesome address by the First Lady.

In order to attend, participants were required to start a project or initiative in their communities. This is the best part of the #WHTYG. In only the first year, it created a wave of projects and initiatives. These projects will last well beyond a few days of events in Washington, DC. It will touch other lives. Perhaps it will inspire their friends or family to support their project or start a project of their own. Either way, I hope the experience young people will gain from both attending the event and from starting their own projects will create lasting impact in their own lives.
Celeste created Thinking Indigenous. The website will be a social networking organization for Native youth across the country. She is building the website from scratch, building out the code. She is also building a team comprised of other young Natives to grow the site. Celeste is just one of the 1,400 attendees of the gathering, and her work is growing. Just imagine what kind of change can occur with the work of the other 1,399 attendees.

Joe Nayquonabe | Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures

Joe Nayquonabe

Joe Nayquonabe is the CEO of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. This company is the economic arm of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Joe rocketed to this position at a young age after serving as the VP of Marketing for the tribe’s casino at the age of 27.

Joe Nayquonabe, CEO Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures

Joe Nayquonabe, CEO Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures

Joe Nayquonabe’s story is a great story of how his tribe has consisntently encouraged educational opportunities, and also for those that receive an education to come back home. Once back, the tribe fosters and creates opportunities for these individuals to grow into professional careers.

Joe has certainly capitalized upon those opportunities.  And his work has been recognized nationally. Earlier this year he received the CEO of the Year award from the Native American Finance Officers Association.

Joe Nayquonabe has some ambitious goals-he wants revenue from the company to match the revenue earned through gaming. He is thinking ahead about how can the tribe diversify its holdings to continue to thrive.

The last item I will highlight is Joe’s recognition that the work he does for Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures has a big impact in the community beyond providing revenue to the tribe. Joe recognizes that a stronger economy in his community will impact the social measures of the community, too. I think it is important for tribes and tribal organizations to connect to a greater degree the role that building strong economies has on health, housing, education, etc. and that those issues also impact the ability to grow a strong economy.


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Show Notes

St. Cloud State University

University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

University of Minnesota Duluth Masters of Tribal Administration and Governance

Bulletproof coffee [NOTE: I discuss some physiological stuff on the podcast. I am not a doctor and I do not play one on the Internet. This is based on my reading and understanding of how the concoction works. There is some disagreement on the efficacy of bulletproof coffee. It tastes good, maybe I should leave it at that :).]

Joe watches a lot of HBO

Mark Trahant | Trahant Reports

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is Shoshone-Banonck and runs the website Trahant Reports, his home base for his journalism. He is well known and well respected in Indian Country for his coverage of issues in Indian Country whether it was a video that went viral while asking President Bush a question about sovereignty, or complex issues such as the Indian health system.

Mark Trahant

courtesy of Mark Trahant

We cover a variety of topics in this episode. Topics include: Mark’s transition to new media from the newspaper business; his website; social media and its impact in Indian Country; elections and the Native vote and more.

What is fascinating about Mark is how his work transcends any one medium or field. For example, Mark was a newspaper journalist by experience but his work includes movies and documentaries. Recently he has taken on stints in academia both at the University of Alaska and the University of North Dakota.

He will continue to be a thought leader in Indian Country covering topics and stories from a unique angle and with a depth that is difficult to replicate.


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Aboriginal Day in Canada

Native American Heritage Day

Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Meriam Report

Navajo Times

Salt Lake Tribune

Seattle Times

Kaiser Family Foundation

National Indian Health Board

Making Law Work Beyond Medicaid Expansion

Trahant Reports on Twitter

News Rimes 4 Lines on Twitter

New York Times

Flip Board


Atwood Chair of Journalism

University of North Dakota

Frontline: The Silence

POTUS on WTF Podcast


Daily Brookings Report

Radiolab Episode on Baby Veronica case

Turtle Talk

Mark Trahant on Entreprenative Podcast



Native American Speakers at TED Talks

The other day I was watching a TED talk when I became curious about Native American speakers at TED. I knew of a few that I watched previously. But I did a search to see how many I could find that I may not have seen before. I was pleasantly to surprised by what I found, both in terms of content but also that there were more than I expected. However, I do think there is always room to improve our numbers!

A few things about the list: it is not meant to be comprehensive. If you know of others, please share in the comments! Another thing, the list is intended to be TED talks by  Natives, not about Natives. No Aaron Huey.  I did include one non-Native speaker who speaks to reforming the criminal justice system in Canada after his experience as a judge working with first nations. Each of these videos is provided courtesy of TED.

The goal of NextGen Native is to share thoughts and stories from people that are taking action. If you get on the stage at TED, I would say you are doing some great things!

Which talk is your favorite? Enjoy.

Nathan McCowan | Our Right to Modernity

Nathan McCowan is the President and CEO of St. George Tanaq Corporation, a village corporation created by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Nathan is Tlingit and Aleut. Prior to St. George he worked for Sealaska Corporation. Through this work experience he has been able to work for two companies that represent his Tlingit and Aleut heritage.


We discuss several different issues in this podcast. From business and leadership, to race. This podcast was recorded the week of the Charleston shooting. As part of that conversation, I mentioned the recent interview President Obama did with Marc Marron on “WTF,” the host’s podcast. As an aside, it is crazy that podcasting has got to a point where the President chose to be a guest on one. But more relevant to the conversation, that episode was recorded just after the shooting an they have an insightful conversation.

Nathan coined a great term “the right to modernity.” This has to do with our right as Native people to be modern people, without giving up who we are as peoples. Sometimes we hold ourselves to this standard. It was a great way to describe the idea.


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Eddie Sherman | Omaha & Navajo

Eddie Sherman is Omaha and Navajo. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his NextGen Native wife and family. He and his wife are both active not only in the Native community but also are active in the broader community.

Eddie works to advance equity issues in the greater area. He uses the network and skills he has developed over the years to benefit this broader community. He has taken part in several programs and fellowships that help him with his work with different nonprofit organizations such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association and now at his own consulting firm, Against the Current