My fellowship focuses on self-sufficiency. Personal self-sufficiency in the form of traditional Lakota knowledge, off-grid skills and Tribal self-sufficiency through finance for economic development and self-sufficiency. Sometimes it feels as if my progress is at a snail’s pace. But when I look back these past few months, I have actually gotten quite a bit done.
Over the summer I focused on the traditional Lakota leadership aspects of my fellowship. Specifically I went to the Sitting Bull College on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and attended a week long Lakota language immersion program. I learned a great deal of language but perhaps most importantly a set of language learning skills to continue learning outside of the immersion program. I also attended a Sundance ceremony on the Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation. Overall these experiences were very rewarding.
I cautiously entered the world of personal food production, which was dramatically less successful than my professional foray into this field (discussed below). I began two small gardens, one for potatoes and the other for spinach, lettuce and cabbage. I started with these vegetables because they are supposed to be a bit easier to grow. Unfortunately easier did not come for me. The spinach beds were not on an automatic water system and my frequent travel resulted in their untimely death. The potato beds were on an automatic timer and I had high hopes for them. The potato plants grew tall, green and healthy. Unfortunately when harvest time came, the plants did not have any actual potatoes. Not one.
I also focused on my self-sufficient off-grid skills to varying degrees of success. I lived for a month off grid in Alaska in August. It was more mentally challenging than I anticipated. The romance of it wore off after a few days. Particularly because I was trying to balance doing my legal work while there as well. Which in retrospect was a mistake. With no wifi my frustrations on completing my work affected my ability to appreciate the skills I was supposed to be learning. To do my legal day job I had to catch a boat ride 30 minutes into town and go to the public library to get on-line and send any work.
But, it was still very productive. I learned about rain water catchment systems, and dependency on rain cycles. I have a whole new appreciation for the value of water and am trying to integrate water catchment into my life more regularly. I also participated in some subsistence hunting and gathering skill development.
Regarding the tribal economic development/finance aspect of my fellowship I have had some difficulties. The circumstances at the graduate level business finance program at I was set to participate in changed. My mentor left the university and the counselor I was working is slated to leave as well. In addition, I learned there were several more prerequisites required than I had initially believed. I went through a tough time of reevaluation and kept on going.
I took an introductory finance on line class with the Harvard Business School extension program in the fall. It was very challenging, but I loved it. Since it is still on line, I am taking it again on my own time to help process what I learned. The HBx online format was excellent and exceeded any expectations I had for an online class. I am looking into what other classes they offer in line with fellowship. I am also looking into what alternatives I have for accounting classes. I still lay somewhere between thrilled and terrified.
Perhaps most significantly, however, I have tried to directly apply these concepts of personal and tribal economic self-sufficiency through a dramatic professional move. Rather than just encouraging self-sustainable businesses or providing legal advice, I joined some friends in starting a business. This is a whole other level of leadership and engagement for me. We have created a native owned Indoor Farm and solar installation company. We already have about 10 farms in various stages of planning and development. I am very hopeful about this business model for green energy, food sovereignty and for economic sustainability.
My upcoming plans include really focusing on the success of the indoor farm and solar company and obtaining all the skills necessary in that arena to be able to be able to apply those to Indian Country sustainability as whole. I also plan to take several additional finance related classes.
Each month I operate in a mode of being slightly terrified as I push myself further outside my comfort zone. I work on balancing the skills that I already worked so hard to obtain in hope that these knew leadership areas and skills are complementary and not displacing. Its been a difficult topsy turvy journey. But worth every bit of it.