I am grateful for the time and support to develop my relationship with my own leadership. This Fellowship has given me the opportunity to follow my own instincts of what is important to me and that has led me to be involved in some really amazing projects and to engage with some really amazing elders. I am also grateful for my community, family, and friends. I am not working from a blank slate here, but can draw on the tireless work of elders, language and cultural warriors, and Indigenous researchers. Most of the resources that I have come to need, have been attainable.
Not comparing and expanding my view of leadership:
As far as my leadership development goes, my growing ability to not compare my leadership style or my leadership activities with others is one thing that stands out to me. I think I was viewing leadership from a narrow lens and that has expanded greatly throughout this journey. I have become more comfortable being quiet, being still, being unseen, focusing on me, and focusing on my family. I think my leadership goals have become less stressful, as well. Because this narrow view of leadership has expanded, my goals are not defined by how I view other’s leadership. This is especially important as a quiet introvert because many of the leadership skills that are apparent within those I respect as leaders, are extrovert-type skills. And that does not even mean those folks with inspiring speaking skills are extroverts, those are just the skills that we often see as we look up to people.
Giving myself more credit and less guilt:
I maintain these grand dreams of what my community can become and how my cultural values and beliefs could change the world for the better, because that’s how much a love and believe in our way of life. I do not, however, stress about what I have to do to make great change; change, love, and purpose happens on a personal level and at a family level first. I think great change can happen by being conscious of the way we care for ourselves, being conscious of the way we care for our work, being conscious in the way we waste or cause destruction upon the earth, and being conscious in the way we interact with our families and those we come in contact with every day. This change is doable and it is respectful.
When I stop comparing, I feel less guilty about what I cannot accomplish or even what I do not want to accomplish. I am giving myself more credit for being a mother, for being an auntie, sister and daughter, for being artistic and creative, for being emotional and spiritual, for being kind and non-judgmental (of others and myself), for stressing less and enjoying more of my life. Giving myself more credit also means defining my own leadership goals. I mean, that is the purpose of this Fellowship: to allow individuals to define what growth and leadership means to them and their communities. And yet, it takes a lot of reflection to step out of the shadow of others and to shine your own light. But we were all given our own skills and traits that would serve our life’s unique purpose. In place of comparison, gratitude is fueled. Because when a community is in need or when the world needs our cultural knowledge, different types of leadership is required. Or even for myself, when I need encouragement, food knowledge, historical knowledge, language, humor, or a hug, there is not one person that fills all of those needs. Wellbeing exists when we all are encouraged to walk our path and nurture our purpose.
Leaning on others and giving voice to my insecurities:
I support myself when I allow myself to lean on others, guilt-free. This is a challenge but with a little purpose, it can be the most rewarding. As the youngest of four and the daughter and granddaughter of really powerful women, I have been trying my hardest to be less needy and more independent, just.like.them. With all my might, I try and contribute and give my family and community all that I can muster so they feel like they are taking care of me less. In my view (and in their view too), I am the itty bitty baby of the family. The act of asking for help, letting those close to me know when I struggle, and expressing my emotions (fleeting or otherwise) is rewarding. I have found that these small but difficult acts of vulnerability have created avenues for others’ self-expression and builds the bonds between me and my partner, my friends, and my colleagues.
Returning to research and loving my work:
When I started this Fellowship process, I left the end goal fairly open-ended. I began as a social-behavioral health researcher but in the back of my mind, I was not sure that I would end up here. I liked the work that I was doing but thought I was not helping my people enough, or quickly enough, or visibly enough. I thought that maybe something more would be in store for me. So, my plan was to go with the flow and allow my journey to unfold. I am only a year into my Fellowship so things could always change but I think this journey is rekindling that ol’ flame between me and research. Research is a tool, like many other tools, to elicit and distribute knowledge and support cultural revitalization financially and intellectually. Research is a slow process but in the moment-to-moment, it is my nerdy creative outlet where I can draw upon cultural knowledge and community experiences to expel something new and novel for the research world but that can, inevitably, support what communities want and need across a variety of settings. By learning my language, culture, and history, I can draw upon deeper knowledge to support cultural healing methods in my work.
Becoming an activist:
I get self-conscious of my leadership, again, as I tune into the efforts of those masking up, making signs, and being seen. With a high-risk daughter and babies to care for, being out with the masses is not an option for us. Learning my language and culture is my greatest act of activism. It is maddening to know the efforts that the United States government has taken to bury and burn our way of life with only minimal and surface level efforts to support reclamation. And yet, cultures and worldviews based in love and respect is what the world needs most. By learning my language, culture, and history, I step into the battle field with fellow language and cultural warriors. I may not be the best fighter, but I am in there gearing up to do my best.