What stands out to you/has surprised you about your leadership development through the Fellowship to date?
Maximum of 9,500 characters (approximately 1,580 words)
My fellowship focuses on self-sufficiency and sustainability. Personal self-sufficiency in the form of traditional Lakota knowledge and off-grid skills; and Tribal self-sufficiency through finance for sustainable economic development. I will first reflect on my leadership growth in these areas and then on some surprising and unrelated areas.
Regarding the tribal economic development/finance aspect of my fellowship I had some early difficulties when my mentor left the university where I was planning on taking classes. It took a little time to recalibrate and pick a new school and new classes, but in the end it is all falling together well. My focus is primarily on tribal finance and incorporating sustainable industries such as solar, wind and food production into Indian Country business and investment portfolios.
I started by taking a Harvard Business School extension program “Introduction to Finance,” through HBx. It was very challenging, but I really enjoyed it. The HBx online format was excellent and exceeded any expectations I had for an online class. I liked the format so much I investigated other Harvard classes. My final financial educational plan was then built through a series of different Harvard extension classes and various schools.
Perhaps most significantly, rather than just encouraging sustainable businesses or providing legal advice I am working on starting a sustainable Indian Country business with some colleagues. We are creating a native owned indoor farm and solar installation company. This is a different level of leadership for me. I am not usually on the side with the entrepreneurs and it is stretching my capacities and leadership. I look forward to applying my increased financial acumen to our business in Indian Country.
In addition, after a recent visit to a tribal nation building conference I met some of the only a handful of Native American MBAs together we bemoaned the lack of access to financial education in many parts of Indian Country. Together we are working on creating a traveling mini-MBA program for tribal leaders and for tribal corporate staff.
Last summer I attended Sitting Bull College on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation for their 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. This summer the program is being offered closer to home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation through the Oglala Lakota College. I am looking forward to attending again in a more convenient venue.
My personal outdoor food production is ramping back up for this summer. Last summer I began two small gardens, one for potatoes and the other for spinach, lettuce and cabbage. Unfortunately I did not have much success last summer. 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 potatoes. I have recalibrated my growing plan for this summer. The bed growing potatoes had good water but not enough soil, so I am growing spinach and radishes their instead this summer. I am also coordinating with my neighbor in order to share crops and advice.
I also focused on my self-sufficient off-grid skills to varying degrees of success. I lived for a month off grid in Alaska last August, and am scheduled to do so again this summer. Living off grid 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. This summer I will be doing several things differently. First and most importantly I will have a stronger mental attitude and fortitude knowing what to expect. Second, I will be arranging for wi-fi, which somewhat defeats the off-grid purpose, but with the realities of having to work will allow me to stay there that long. This summer I will be focusing on building my food preservation skill sets. Specifically, regarding smoking and canning fish, and drying and canning berries.
What surprises me the most about my leadership development through the fellowship has been the focus on and the growth in my public speaking skills. Public speaking was not originally part of my fellowship plan, and technically the subject matter of my talks has not been directly about the fellowship or the fellowship focus. However, I think having the fellowship has given me additional credibility resulting in increased confidence in my speaking capabilities.
My public speaking has been primarily focused on extensive research I have conducted on lands in Rapid City which used to belong to the Rapid City Indian Boarding School. Specifically, we explore the use and allocation of those lands away from the Native American community. The research has garnered a great deal of local attention and resulted in several public forums. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the forums have provided an opportunity to work on my leadership skills in peacemaking as well as public speaking skills.
The manner in which I presented the Boarding School forums has also assisted in being selected for a TEDx talk in Rapid City. I am both excited and terrified about the talk which is probably just the right balance. It will be a whole new level of leadership for me in the conversation about culture and understanding. Hopefully by my next report I will have good news!