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 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. Continue reading →
“You give everything you got. It’s hard, It’s super challenging. You give all your life force to your art. so when you see the tiny moment when people are smiling, laughing, or being proud…”-Natalie Benally
Natalie Benally at the premiere of Finding Nemo. Image courtesy of Benally
Natalie Benally, Navajo, wears many hats. Or maybe the better metaphor is…dance shoes. Natalie is a member of the Native American contemporary dance company Dancing Earth. She also served as the voice of Dory for the remake of Finding Nemo, or Nemo Hádéést’į́į́. Oh, and she also has a full time job as the teacher of the arts back on Navajo Nation. Natalie and I connected while Dancing Earth was visiting Crystal Bridges as part of a special exhibit on dance. We had a wide ranging conversation.Continue reading →
[ed note: War Cry Warrior’s Jose Acevedo challenge to NextGen Natives was actually directed at me (and you). The challenge was for me to use the NextGen Native platform to bring NextGen Natives together in person. If this interests you, let me know by leaving a comment here, or on Facebook/Twitter, etc.]
Jose Acevedo, Founder of War Cry Warrior and the Finding Arizona Podcast
Jose Acevedo connects with all kinds of people through his podcast Finding Arizona. He also connects with people through the business he created, War Cry Warrior. And that does not include his day job as a landscape architect. Jose’s ability to connect with people has roots with who he is as a person.
Jose is Hopi and Puerto Rican. He lived in Pennsylvania until he was 12 and moved back to Hopi at a critical juncture in his development. He went from a place where there were all kinds of people to a place where there were far fewer kinds of people, and fewer people generally. And while he had a diverse background, no group knew quite what to make of him. Ever since he was 12 he has been building those relationships with people and learning how to do so with a wide array of people. He’s also been reconciling who he is through his personal experience, too.
This conversation did not follow the usual journey of someone’s life because it involved life tangents and going down various rabbit holes. It all flows well, and is a great conversation, but we cover more than just Jose’s personal journey.
Paulette Jordan is Couer d’ Alene. She is currently a member of the Idaho State legislature, and she also sits on the board of the National Indian Gaming Association. Paulette also was previously a member of her (and my) tribal council.
Paulette Jordan’s family instilled leadership from an early age. But leadership for power was not the goal. Service was. Paulette demonstrates her commitment to service through the various positions she has held over the years.
Paulette was both a self-described book worm and athlete growing up. She attended a college prep high school and then attended the University of Washington. There she used sports to connect with other students as she adjusted to life in the city after growing up on the reservation.
After school, Paulette returned home and soon started to hear requests for her to serve and pursue elected positions in the community. She was elected to tribal council and in 2012 decided to run for the state legislature. Paulette was elected in 2014.
Her presence in the legislature made an immediate impact in the state. She invited the tribes to attend an annual event at the capital. It was the first time that ever occurred. She hopes her role can strengthen relationships between the state and tribes. I really believe the trend of more Natives pursuing state office is one for the future. Relationships with states are tenuous. But more tribal people in elected office at the state level can help forge stronger working relationships.
Paulette Jordan, like many NextGen Natives, discussed the role mentors have played in her life. Whether it is tribal elders and family members (Felix Aripa, Dave Matheson), previous member of the state legislature and fellow tribal member Jeanne Givens, or national leaders like Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Paulette is learning from the previous generation to further her service.
Jared Yazzie is Diné and the owner of OXDX Clothing. He also happens to be the brother of previous NextGen Native guest and NASA engineer, Aaron Yazzie.
Jared Yazzie with his “Native Americans Discovered Columbus” design.
Jared went to the University of Arizona on a full ride scholarship to study engineering. But after a few years, he realized that path was not for him. Jared left the university and enrolled at Pima Community College. He would transition into arts. During this time he started to sell shirts out of his car trunk. This is where the hustle of what would become OXDX began.
The Beginning of OXDX
After college Jared went to work for a screen print shop. He continued to design and print his own shirts. On the weekends, Jared traveled to the reservation to sell his merchandise. He found that while he was onto something, not everyone was supportive. Jared had to learn how to listen to negative feedback while not internalizing it.
Originally, Jared’s company was called Overdose. The name was taken from a lyric in Lupe Fiasco’s “Baba Says Cool for Thought” where a line warns not to “overdose on the cool.” Jared found the lyrics resonated with his experience moving from the rez to a city where there was potential to overdose on everything a city has to offer. Overtime, Overdose evolved into OXDX and the name has stuck ever since.
Another design is making a resurgence after Bobby Wilson of the 1491s wore a “Mis-Rep” shirt on The Daily Show during a segment about the R******s. That particular shirt is an homage to the Misfits, one of the Yazzie brothers’ favorite punk bands, combined with a message about misappropriation.
Yazzie is working to build his brand into something much bigger than it is currently. He wants it to be more than just a t-shirt company, and he wants it to be recognized beyond just Native communities. He is grinding to get to this point, and he is close to being able to do OXDX full time. But for now he is putting in long hours working both his day job and then doing OXDX afterwards.
This was a great conversation that ran the gamut of shifting focus, grinding to build a business, utilizing other Native companies, supporting other Native artists, and remaining true to oneself and their vision. Be sure to check out the entire episode.
Victor Rocha is a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. Victor also created and runs Pechanga.Net. Chances are if you are reading this blog you are familiar with the news aggregating website. Victor created Pechanga.Net 17 years ago and has been operating it ever since.
See the big picture, even when others cannot.
Victor says find a passion and pursue it.
Give back to your community.
Victor Rocha grew up in San Bernardino and was a music junkie. He spent the first few decades of his life working in the music industry. After spending some time on the East Coast, he moved back home. He was trying to figure out “what was next” after his musician days.
Around that time, the Pechanga Band was getting into the gaming industry. After some rapid growth, Pechanga and other tribes were battling the state of California, which was trying to impose unfavorable gaming compacts on the tribes. The tribes used the state’s referendum process and took Proposition 5 to the voters in 1998. Proposition 5 passed overwhelmingly (in favor of tribes), with 64 percent of the voters supporting it.
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. Continue reading →
“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. Continue reading →
“My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Joe Sarcinella is not Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride. He is not seeking to avenge the death of his father. But Joe promised his father he would complete a 100 mile race that his father could not complete. Joe’s drive came from this promise. The question was: could it get him across the finish line?
When Joe was a child, his father attempted a 100 mile race but had to stop at mile 89 due to an injury. MILE 89. Joe thought this a travesty. And as a kid, Joe promised his father that he would one day finish the race for him. He would run a 100 mile race in honor of his father. Little did he know the challenges he would face or the lessons he would learn. Continue reading →
Nikke Alex is Dine. It was awesome to get to speak with another former WINS intern on the podcast, and to see what all of us are doing TEN YEARS LATER! She is currently a third-year law student at the University of New Mexico. She is also a self-described nerd. And when you listen to her story, you understand that it is an awesome/honest assessment! Continue reading →