How has your understanding of your leadership changed through the Fellowship to date? My personal views, opinions, and beliefs about my leadership role have dramatically changed since I have been on my Bush Fellowship Journey. I mistakenly thought that a productive track record, high moral expectations, and ethics, and a goal of collaborative efforts to bring about change, was a definition of leadership that I had written in my mind; and I was sure I fit the bill. Despite my early preconceived notion that I was an established, respected, and a grounded leader when I applied for this fellowship, I fell under attack, and my supportive foundation suffered from preexisting cracks, not only those of self but those of community and my people. I was, no doubt, naive. Early on my journey, I became keenly aware of the Crabs in the Bucket mentality that corrupts the minds, hearts, and souls of our Native nations and no doubt inhibits, stifles, and interrupts the growth, strength, and empowerment of our communities. Sadly, what I have come to know is that it is usually those in some position of power within a tribal system that tend to rely on the historical trauma of divide and conquer, even those who strive for non-political positions. Divide and overcome even those who strive for growth and financial independence of tribe and government entities. Assuming, since I have no active political agenda related, and that I have an established sole proprietorship, that those in a position of POWER (in whatever realm) would have no reason to view me as a threat, yet, see me as an asset and ally. I assumed it would be reassuring that I had no interest in obtaining a Tribal job or running for Tribal Government or even serving on politically based community boards, that those in a position of power (of any sort) within my tribe would have no qualms with supporting and nurturing my growth. I was under the impression that opportunities would be directed my way to help me lead by partnering, encouraging, and nurturing my development. On the opposite end of my journey, I was in no way prepared for the amount of generosity provided by community members who are not in such leadership positions. These individuals who offered support, assisted me with tasks, and volunteered to be a servant leader in our community, took my breath away. I hoped that hidden leaders in our community would emerge and they did, and I realized that each person has a leadership role that they have within our community. I've learned that some, many a few, community members are known, celebrated, and called upon in our community. I know this because I've found myself in a role of one of those people in my reservation that is known and asked to serve. My understanding of leadership has evolved with the help of these beautiful individuals who are giving of their time and talents to assist me in my endeavors. I understand that being a good leader involved building new leaders, empowering silent and unseen leaders, and promoting further the traditional leaders, is the mission I have been on this entire journey. I geared the development of GenerationArt on establishing a safe place for multigenerational interaction to emerge, thereby increasing cultural health and identity for our people, especially our youth. I understand now that leadership must start for our people at a younger age than I anticipated when I began my fellowship.
How has focusing on your leadership changed the way you lead in your work? I have integrated my leadership into my daily work. When I began my fellowship journey, I was also in the early phases of becoming an entrepreneur. Erroneously, I thought my Bush Fellowship and my Business would not merge, or should I say, I was intentionally developing separate paths, thinking that I had to keep these two endeavors as far apart from each other as I could. The further I developed along with my journey, the more I realized what a mistake I'd made by not integrating my profession (psychologist), my business (clinical services), and my servant leadership (GenArt) from that beginning of my Bush Fellowship Application over a year and a half ago. I think at that time; I could not see how they could all relate, collide, and support one another. It was until I began to see the importance of my profession of being an Indigenous Psychologist and how I would benefit my people, my tribes, and Indian Country by leading in my profession and incorporating all my goals of my fellowship into my professional development. Believe it or not, it was difficult for me to see how these areas of my life could be interwoven to create a supportive tapestry of sustainable efforts among the many hats that I wear, into a roadmap of future leadership for myself. Initially, I viewed my clinic as a stepping stone. However, I am now seeing it as a vital piece of my role as a leader in Indian Country. I want to believe in economic development fr our tribes, and that increasing sole proprietor is essential for healthy growth and independence with our tribal communities. I see how I can play a role in assisting other Indigenous people with increasing our reservation communities economic growth through developing businesses, jobs, and program development that are not reliant on tribal and government funds. I believe this is the only way for our tribal communities to become self-sufficient, independent, and thriving communities. I also want to work with that economic leadership on creating jobs, increasing growth, and developing native owned products. The development of such economic growth will then lead to philanthropy within our tribes by our tribal members. I am in the process of developing a path where I can incorporate all that I have learned on my journey, which includes traditional healing and spiritual growth, into my how I conduct psychological services within Indian Country. I can see now how my increased cultural identity has to be incorporated in all that I do, in the area of healing arts, therapeutic interventions, and daily living. I can see now that by trying to divide my leadership from my role as a clinician and entrepreneur, that I was creating more work for myself and that I wasn't balanced, but stressed. I'm working on ways in which I can combine all that I am and all that I do under one entity, which requires faith, reliance on others, and confidence that I can do all things through God who strengthens me.
How do you now view the role of self-care in sustaining your ability to lead? Self-care, finding and maintaining balance, and prioritizing self-has been the most challenging aspect of my fellowship journey. I think it's because self-care, even though I preach the importance of it in my line of work, has always taken a back burner. I noticed just how much self-care is not a priority in my life during my journey. It's because the fellowship is continually reminding us how important this step of our plan is and calling us to task through our coaching calls and retreats in this area. I so appreciate and feel grateful to have the fellowship to validate the need to engage in regular self-care while growing and developing as a leader. As I'm approaching the last few months of my time as a fellow, I know that I need to dedicate more effort into establishing a regular self-care plan that will feed me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I'm finding areas within my community where I can access self-care and also making time to travel elsewhere to rejuvenate in a way that I'm just not able to within my community. The idea of traveling was something that I avoided when I developed my plan; however, being so immersed in the community through my clinic and GenerationArt, I've now made time to separate from my community, to engage in travel. I can see the benefit of visiting other cultures and communities to help myself grow spiritually and intellectually, all part of self-care that I forgot to include in my plan for sustaining my health while I serve in a leadership role. I plan to maintain the regimen that has been allowing me to stay healthy thus far, which is spending an hour of adoration time with my lord once a week and attending church with my family weekly. I've been attending traditional healing ceremonies and using my teachings to pray and help other pray, which makes me feel grounded and balanced. I no longer fret with anxieties related to my Catholic and traditional faith. Rather, I focus on pray in all the ways that God brings my way, and I find that I am much more spiritual when I concentrate on building a personal relationship with God versus focus on what I should or should not be doing according to the rules and guidelines of others. I'm more in tune with my body and how it holds and stores muscle tension from daily stress and how this makes my body sore and sick. I have always been this way, and without a release, I end up in pain and need of medical attention, whether it is my back going out or my shoulder, it's all a reaction to lack of self-care. I've been visiting with a massage therapist twice a month, and these regular appointments will continue after my fellowship journey. I see the benefit of bodywork and also scheduling with someone regularly as part of an established plan. Several of my areas of weakness related to boundary setting, carrying stress, and avoiding self-care have become crystal clear to me during my fellowship, and I plan to continue with the self-care plan that I've developed. I know that I need to be mindful of my spiritual, physical, cultural, intellectual, and emotional wellbeing to maintain the style of leadership that I strive for and to continue to develop in my community and nation as a healthy, well-rounded leader.