Reno Franklin on Forgiveness: “The most important thing is to be open minded to allow forgiveness…some of the horrible things that were done to us, we know our story. We know the horrible things. We don’t let that define who we are. Those horrible things that were done to Kashia are not who Kashia are. We’ll never forget it. We’ll always remember it. We’ll honor those that was done to, but we won’t let that define us. And we will be open to forgiveness….I would challenge everyone to find it.”
Reno Franklin is Chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. This episode is a bit different because I usually do not have tribal leaders on the show. This is not for negative reasons, but instead I want to highlight the work of others not in leadership positions to show how much amazing work is being done in Indian Country.
It’s also different because while we discuss Reno’s life, we also discuss his work as a tribal leader, projects he’s working on, approaches to being a leader. It’s definitely a fun conversation, and that’s before we even get to his story.
I first met Reno through the National Indian Health Board. I worked there and Reno was Chairman of the the organization. He also chaired the California Rural Indian Health Board, and the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. This is not to mention the work he’s done with other associations and working groups. Although his resume reads like one of grand ambition, his beginnings in tribal leadership tell a different story. It tells a story of service.
Reno moved back to the reservation after the tribe asked for his help with some wildfire work. Reno worked as a firefighter and EMT at the time. Reno said that since he was asked, he moved home. He wasn’t far away, but this was his time to come home. His firefighting work led him to historic preservation work. Like other NextGen Natives, one project led to another, which eventually opened new doors and challenges.
His work in healthcare started with a personal story he shared. To hear it, you’re going to have to listen to the show. But suffice it to say, when he started, he didn’t have any experience in the field. He learned through service and eventually his work rose to the national level.
We discussed what it was like for him to be a tribal leader at a young age, in particular one at the national level where politics is intense. He shared stories about how he earned the respect of his colleagues and peers. Over time, they looked to him more and more for leadership.
I shared Reno’s challenge to NextGen Natives above, and I think it is some of the most powerful words I’ve heard in awhile. It reminds me of Wab Kinew’s book The Reason You Walk and the theme of forgiveness. It’s not an easy discussion, but I think we need to be vulnerable and open to the idea of forgiveness. Thanks for sharing, Reno!