“There is a trap [in decolonization] that hinders a lot of potential growth. And that is centered in how we think about things. If you are only trained [to deconstruct] then you are stuck in a gear of deconstruction, which is important and useful. But if the goal is to increase capacity in Indian Country, then you are asking for builders, not destroyers, and that is a completely different type of thinking.” Ryan Red Corn
Ryan Red Corn
Ryan Red Corn
Ryan Red Corn (Osage) created the design firm Buffalo Nickel Creative and is also a member of the 1491s. He joined NextGen Native for a wide-ranging conversation.
Although we touched on comedy and had some light hearted moments, our conversation covered much more beyond comedy. We talked about the role his work and the work of others in graphic design and branding can play a role in Indian Country telling its stories better. We discussed how being creative and artistic is closely related to being an entrepreneur. Ryan shared how he uses different media to tell stories and how each is suited to have a certain impact. I dug into Ryan’s intentionality and how he uses it to manage his time and drive his art.
Jared Yazzie with his “Native Americans Discovered Columbus” design, was recently in the news.
Jared Yazzie is the founder of OXDX Clothing Company. He joined NextGen Native once again to catch up on his recent projects. Jared’s clothing has been a hot commodity for a few years, but recently his business is taking some major strides.
“Because of that one choice, so many other possibilities came up. They were already there…” Warren Montoya of Rezonate Art and Rezilience on finding new perspectives.
Warren Montoya, creator of Rezilience
Warren Montoya is the founder of Rezonate Art. He appeared previously on NextGen Native to discuss the company’s beginnings and goals. He returned to discuss what he’s been up to recently.
Warren pivoted his work with Rezonate after realizing he wanted to change the way his business worked. He described in this conversation (and our previous conversation) that part of his goal with the company was to build a sustainable business that could eventually support other artists. Warren realized that he could change his business model so that he did the support and education directly, rather than use his profits through selling merchandise. Continue reading →
“We have to show up and we have to apply for things outside [Indian Country]. There is no one better than us to than to represent at the national level.” -Chelsea Wilson
Chelsea Wilson on Mentors and Pushy Friends
Chelsea Wilson (Cherokee Nation) works at All Native Group, a division of Ho-Chunk Inc. She is active in the DC chapter of the New Leaders Council a member of the executive committee and is a previous fellow with the organization. If a full-time job and a one organization was not enough, Chelsea Wilson also chairs the Frontrunners Committee of the organization She Should Run.
Chelsea Wilson, Citizen of the Cherokee Nation
Chelsea Wilson describes herself as a giver, and if you cannot tell, she puts that into practice through the work she does personally and professionally. That character trait pays dividends back to Chelsea through the mentorships she’s developed over the years. And each mentorship helped Chelsea develop and find new ways to give back. It’s a classic story about how hard work, mentorship, and networks come together to provide opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
Chelsea worked for the Cherokee Nation where her boss mentored her and gave her projects to stretch her development. Eventually that led her to DC. I knew Chelsea’s boss at Cherokee Nation and she mentioned to me Chelsea’s interest in moving to DC. When I ran into her at a reception, that a “pushy friend” forced her to attend, I mentioned that I was looking to hire someone for my team.
After living in DC, Chelsea found her path through NLC and She Should Run. It’s refreshing to have someone that can articulate that their interest to serve in public office comes from a genuine place of giving. Many people say it, and for many people it’s true. But with Chelsea, you can feel her desire to serve.
In this conversation we discuss finding finding mentors the right way, growing professionally, and being willing to fail by trying. Chelsea Wilson combined each of these into her current work and others are starting to take notice.
“We are in a period of radical change…step into your role, do what you do best and raise the profile of tribes in a positive light.” Lacey Horn
Lacey Horn is a citizen of and treasurer for the Cherokee Nation. Principal Chief Bill John Baker appointed Lacey to this position In this role, Lacey is responsible for a budget that totals almost $700 million dollars for the Nation.
Lacey Horn, Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation
Lacey grew up in Vian, Oklahoma. I admire her story because it’s one that combines a steadfast comfort and certainty in her life goals, combined with seizing opportunities. Lacey worked hard to achieve her goals and these opportunities overlapped with her hard work.
I worked with Lance and his company in my last job and had the chance to get to hear his story a bit as he told the story of Ho Chunk Inc. The two are intertwined.
After studying economics and earning a law degree (official bio below), Lance moved back to his tribe and within a few years, started to implement the idea he had been tinkering with to create a tribally owned company. It’s a bit crazy now to think that not too long ago, this was a revolutionary idea.
Lance grew with the company, and it’s currently generating about $250 million in revenue. It’s a shining success in Indian Country. And not just because of how much it earns, but what it does with its profits, creating housing on the reservation, running a used car company to help tribal members build credit.
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.
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.
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.
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 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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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 :).]