Reflect on your Fellowship journey in its entirety. What do wish you would have known when you started? What stands out/surprised you the most?
The success that I experienced during my Fellowship journey has been almost completely due to the reflection process. When I wrote my application, I answered the question, “What makes you stand out? Or, why you?”, to which I answered frankly and naively, “Because I know what it feels like to be devastated” (although, I felt I did know at the time). Meaning, that anyone that I had intentions of leading would also have their own share of human suffering to go through and that I could relate. I didn’t know or believe at that time that I would go through the most difficult time of my life while being a Fellow. Further, one of my cohort-mates wrote in their first reflection two years ago that they were getting divorced, and even at that time, I didn’t know mine was on the horizon. More on that as I move through this final learning log.
My awareness has grown tremendously but that being said, tripping over a new blind spot daily is humbling and at this point almost amusing. My hope is that me behaving from a blind spot doesn’t harm people that I am serving.
Success is a mindset that I didn’t know existed for me. I knew prior to the fellowship that I believed so much in my life purpose and that being a fellow would potentially catapult me to another level of influence and bring about healthy change, but I had no idea the shades of responsibility and emotions that leaders inherently navigate to be effective. Emotional and cognitive development in the areas of Family, Religion, Community, Personal, Professional have been firing 100 percent 24 hours a day for the last two years. There is an exhaustion that sets in as we begin carrying more burden and responsibility for the communities we assist. Loving and caring for yourself is a necessity.
Responsibility: The ability to respond; but how do we respond? What lenses and hats are we wearing? Are we rested? Are we in the right state? Have we processed trauma and hardship that potentially influence our decision making? This is a new perspective that I have gained. The calling drives us to act in the most appropriate way to solve problems for people who depend on us.
My work and passion has always been educational sovereignty and its future benefits to indigenous communities, specifically Ojibwe communities in the Midwest. I pose the question. How do we make strong Indians? I have witnessed many strategies to help aid in diminishing suffering that include: Affordable Housing Projects, Indigenous Immersion Education, Healthcare, Economic Development, and so on. And I have come to the conclusion that we are still responsible as leaders to build conversations around our own individual and collective power to self-determine these initiatives by our own authentically Ojibwe standards and evaluations by our own measures.
During one session with a coach provided by the Fellowship, we talked about the difficulty I experienced around standards and ideals. My standards have fluxed and when I have fallen short of others’ standards or my own, I suffered tremendously. The struggle came from how I felt about the tidiness of my home, my ability to provide comfort, security to my family, my integrity at work and in my religious obligations. I have spent so much energy trying to be everyone’s everything, that I lost myself. I was hiding behind being a partner, a mother, an activist, and so forth. By this I am surprised. This is only just realized now months after the change in my family. Compassionate abiding, from the Buddhist Monk Pema Chödrön has helped me feel more connected to past, present, and future. I am leaning into the belief that our spirit is whole, complete, perfect. Our mind and experiences (both good and bad) are here to bring us closer to our own truth.
My goal was to build immersion education so Indian children could reap the inherent spiritual benefits from experiencing the most authentic Ojibwe childhood that education could offer. This is an attempt to see to it that children of our community do not go through school as I did feeling like we were not enough and that being Indian was a liability. These messages have never stopped. They are still present until we raise the awareness. When we are successful at building an Indigenous model, we will truly be giving children the most we can. The healthy wiring of the brain and a connection to one another that hasn’t been in our community since pre-contact. This will give them a higher quality of life-without a doubt.
More and more, I have applied behavior design to my life, mostly, my physical and emotional well-being. I take pride in my ability to intervene on my own behalf and give myself healthier happier options. I have lost 75 lbs. and completed a 12.5K--this because I learned that I have the power to influence my environment. I have given my self the space and compassion to relapse into unhealthy practices, but I have stayed persistent, iterating on my behaviors and seeing the fruit of what loving intentions can bring you.
What surprises me most about my journey is that I was on the path of Indigenous Education and as it happens I was asked to take an appointed position in Administration for my community the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. I want to create opportunity within our government to discuss the change that must happen. Educational sovereignty will only be bread in a system that will love and care for it. I would like to strengthen the organization in preparation for educational sovereignty to take form.