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Nick-izms
Native Artists
Thursday, December 03 2015
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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It is since the dawn of time that weíve craved our own understanding. For as long as there have been people there has been art. Art is what inspires us. Art helps us grapple with our humanity. It gives us a sense of our smallness in this vast universe. It is through storytelling, writing, drawing, painting, drumming, singing, etc., we express our humanity. Art bellows from our innateness of being.

How has art changed my life?

I began writing during my tumultuous adolescent years. I kept a journal documenting the struggle of being a Native teen growing up on a reservation. I found solace in writing. I was able to rumble about in my mind. I was able to wrestle down demons.

My journal is the place that I explore different ideas. I am able to mimic people that I admire. I am able to be critical of the world around me. I am able to sit in awe. I am able to grapple with pain. I am able to give meaning to what I am feeling.

Writing continues to give me an opportunity to appreciate the grace of God. It is in these quiet moments that I am able to commune with God. I am able to reconnect myself to the broader universe, and to maintain my perspective on this human experience that I am on.

Now, I write for my kids. I write my stories, my family stories, and advice so that one day when Iím not here, they will be able to read my words. I wonít be very far away from them. I remind my kids to use what they can and leave what you donít need. One day, your children may need it or their children may need it. I write so that they know that I think about them now. I dream of them. I long for them. I want to reach across the chasm of time and space to comfort them. I donít want them to cower from the light. I want them to be bold. I want them to be brilliant. I want them to be everything I know they are capable of being. It is from here, in this time and this place, that I see them and I dream of them. And, I love them.
If I could wish anything for anyone is to do something creative. At first, you may feel insecure and doubtful about your ability, but continue past it. Try different mediums of art that you want. You will succeed at some and you will fail at others, but keep trying to find what feels right. Do this art for yourself, not anyone. Do it for your own mental health, spiritual health, physical health, which in turn will be overall health. As you ignite this spirit of creativity, you will find yourself appreciating life more fully. You will breathe deeper and the hues of the world will be more brilliant. You will experience life to the fullest.

Remember, your art is for you. If you choose to share it with others, do so with full thoughts that they may not like it, but it is not their job to. There is a vulnerability to showing your work. Take your time doing this.

Be careful who you show your early, unsophisticated work to because they may do more harm than good. This may be unintentionally, but it may be intentional because they are see that you are changing and they want you are unfamiliar to them. You art is for you.

You will find that people who have similar interests will be drawn to you and you will find that you crave being in those places that they are. You will want to understand more fully the depth, breadth, and the fullness of what your art is capable of. Go with it. Look at it with a wide eyed wonder. Take a childish wonder about it. Have fun. Experience joy with it.

Donít burden your art with the responsibility of being a source of income. That may, or may not, come in time. Build a body of work that you can look back upon. Try different aspects of your art. Mimic others until you feel confident or capable of doing what is distinctly you. This is all about you, not anyone else.

You will find that people will be inspired by what you are doing. Donít live your life in regret. Use art to be able to unleash the possibility of you. Youíll be amazed and be impressed by what you discover. You are pretty amazingÖ

It was through writing, art, that I was taught about being alive. It gave me an emotional language. It gave me an imagination. It gave me inspiration.

Art heals. Art if given the effort has the ability to heal and transform.

Nov Nickisms
Tuesday, November 03 2015
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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I moved to Minneapolis in the Summer of 1994 after I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of South Dakota. I fell in love with ĎThe Citiesí the summer I worked at ValleyFair. This was the place where social and political movements began.† This place was progressive. I moved here to be a part of it.†

I got a job in the Native community and worked at a social service agency with Native people. I was excited. I was ready to make a difference. After a few months, reality set in. My college education didnít prepare me for our community, the depth of pain. The urgency of what stared back at me was overwhelming.†

The tools I was taught were Western tools that didnít fit Native cosmology or thinking. I had to learn coping mechanisms, thriving tools, and the tenacity for survival weíve learned over generations.† All of these survival tools helped us endure centuries of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and conformity.†
Throughout my tenure at this organization I learned that professional boundaries were a western concept, cause community norms created an alternate perspective. Families worked with families. Organizational dynamics became family dynamics. Boundaries, expectations, and rules were dictated by family systems.

When it was time to leave the organization for another opportunity I learned the consequences of seeking other opportunities. Iíd like to say that I was given a big party with presents, cards, well wishes, and hugs. Unfortunately, my experience was of alienation and bad mouthing. It was confounding. People I came to know as family, my friends, and mentors were saying horrible things about me. When I confronted this behavior, I was met with silence.†

It wasnít until later that I learned that some people are incapable of saying Good bye. This process delves into their abandonment issues. They cope by creating situations that disassociate you and make you into a bad character. They are able to move on. As a young person, I found this process disheartening and confusing.

I learned over the years of consulting was that organizations are living beings that are embodied by the people that inhabit them. The psychological health and well being of the organization is that of the leadership. If the leadership of an organization fails to take care of their own personal needs then they are manifested in the business practice of the organization. Often times, when I was called to consult with an organization I found myself negotiating interpersonal dynamics that failed and communication that derailed.†††

Lateral violence is real.† Laterial violence is displaced physical, emotional, or spiritual violence directed at peers rather than oneís true adversaries. Simply speaking, Ďitís the crab in the bucket mentalityí.† When our lives are filled with struggle and we see another Native person thriving then we deliberately, oftentimes unconsciously, seek to terrorize them by gossiping, being mean spirted to them, alienating them, etc. In organizations, lateral violence happens and is real. Tolerance for it is led by the leadership. If an organization is unhealthy then follow the trail and it will lead you to the leadership of the organization.†

Itís taken me many years to heal from the initial trauma I endured working at my first Native organization. I donít harbor any ill will to that organization. Iím an adamant supporter of it.†
I learned the following are examples of what made a successful business:

  1. Value people
  2. Value varied opinions
  3. Create and support an organization that enables a constructive dialogue
  4. Take care of your personal life Ė Physical, Spiritual, Emotional health
  5. Leave work at work
  6. Build new reflective leadership
  7. Hold leaders accountable for their unhealthy behavior
  8. Professional boundaries are important to health
  9. Organizations must change to continue to be relevant
  10. Native culture is essential in the day to day operations of an organization.†

Over the years, as a business consultant, I learned to understand Native businesses for the social, cultural, and political systems they exist in. They are not immune to the realities of historical trauma, unclear expectations, adaptive boundaries, and ethical conduct.† Stewardship of these organization is the responsibility of the leadership of that organization.†††

Native businesses exist in multiple cultures. Inherent in this coming together of these cultures is a tension. It takes a reflective leadership to understand the nuances of what is occurring. Iíve come to believe as we continue to live and thrive in multiple cultures so will our institutions we establish to help us.†

††

Language
Friday, October 02 2015
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Language is the topic for this month, but Iím not going to talk about language preservation and demand that we learn our indigenous languages. Believe me, these are important topics.† I want to write about how we use language. I want to write about how we use language to define ourselves.

The language we use to define ourselves is important. As a writer, I adore language. I like the sound of language. I like slang. I adore Rez accents. I like to hear non-English people grappling with the nuances of our language. When non-English speaking people begin to speak English there is rigor they have about the English language that many of us donít who grew up speaking it.†

I am continually amazed and confused at the harmful language that we use toward ourselves. Some of us, struggle with how we describe ourselves. In this column, I want to grapple with this issue and share some of the things I learned.†
Daily on Facebook, my morning ritual includes looking for inspirational memes or boxed quotes. I read for inspiration. I read before my internal self-talk takes over. I want to ensure that I begin my day focusing on good things about the world, transformative notions, moments of clarity, etc.†

I learned long ago that the way I speak to myself is much harsher than how anyone can speak to me. Iím very critical of myself. I tear myself apart if I make the slightest misstep. I examine everything about my looks, my clothes, my house, and my life. I am my own worst critic.†††
Learning to speak kindly to yourself is a process. The first step is to identify what you are saying to yourself. Describe yourself to someone.†

Did you describe yourself in a positive, affirming manner? Do you describe yourself in broad generalities, such as, Iím a nice person, or Iím ok?† Go ahead, try it, describe yourself to someone.

Once youíve identified how you speak about yourself, make changes.† If something you are saying about yourself portrays you in a bad light then change it. This is the hard work.†

Change the way I speak to myself? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can change the way I think about myself Ė sounds easy, right? Itís not. You may have figure out where you learned this type of thinking. You may have to spend some time exploring this. Be gentle with yourself during this process. Change is never easy.

This is why I enjoy reading inspirational quotes. It helps me develop a language that I can use. It educates me on how to be gentle with myself.† It gives me a frame of reference that people can be kind.†

Where do we develop our internal voice? Well, lots of different places. Once place is our parents or our caretakers when we were children. I learned that the voice my son hears in his mind is my voice. It is every moment throughout his childhood that I helped him define himself.†

Once I understood this, I worked very hard to keep positive thoughts in his mind. I am deliberate about what I say. When I do say something that I didnít intend to say to him I take the time to apologize. We then talk about how it was wrong.†

I am the example of how my son will treat himself throughout life. If I take the time to demonstrate that he has value then he will treat himself as valuable. Itís important to remember this.†††

ďLoneliness is a human condition.† We all want to be seen. Our job is to bear witness to the magnificent stories that people honor us by sharing,Ē said an instructor in one of my college courses.†

This quote has had a profound impact on me and my worldview. It gave me a foundation of my understanding how to help people. I donít enter into a helping relationship with a power dynamic where I am the expert, but I enter into a helping relationship as a partnership of people who are striving to overcome some barrier.†

I am one of those people that strangers love to tell their deepest fears to, or what they are struggling against.† I enjoy it. It is here that I learn more about how people speak about themselves. I may be riding the bus when someone sits next to me and starts sharing their life story with me. I patiently listen. I ask leading questions.† I never, ever give advice. I challenge the way they are framing their thinking, or ask them to think a little harder about an issue. Sometimes, they just want me to listen and I oblige.†††

In my ideal world, Iíd like for us to speak kindly to ourselves, speak kindly about ourselves to others, and to be gentle with ourselves so that we never take away from the incredibleness of who we are. I donít want us to ever diminish ourselves. Our time here in this physical world is limited, so we all deserve to tell everyone what magnificent, incredible, stellar people we areÖand, we believe it.†

Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Thursday, September 03 2015
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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nickmetcalf-web.jpgSovereignty is one of those concepts that seems to allude some of us. Itís this lofty goal and expectation for our tribes, yet it impacts us individually, communally and socially. My immediate impression is when we rely on the government to provide financial resources to sustain our own tribal government then how are truly sovereign are we? How can we achieve sovereignty and be economically sustainable?

Economic development is essential to making a sovereign government. Yet rural tribal communities have been unable to establish a tax base and resources to sustain itself. The money that is allocated to tribal governments is not enough to cover the basic needs of its tribal citizens.

Poverty is difficult. Being poor is a luxury that none of us can afford. Many reservations continue to have 80 percent unemployed, with the largest employer usually being the tribe or a church organization. Essentially, we are reliant on hand outs from the government and Ďgoodí church going people to sustain ourselves. This is ludicrous. †
Self-governance is an ideal. We elect our government leaders every four years and it changes. There is no investment in the long-term vision of the tribe. Newly elected officials take a few years to understand the inner workings of government then begin to make change. Suddenly, they have to figure out how to get re-elected to fully realize their promises and campaigning begins again. No matter how many free turkeys, gifts for kids or money for propane that is given there is a time in those leaders lifespan that they must demonstrate true leadership.

Freedom is a state of mind. When some of our own people are trapped in their own trauma and sedating themselves with alcohol or drugs, then how are we free? When generations of our children witness this type of behavior, they become who they are surrounded by. A generational pattern is inherited and given without any forethought.

We are trapped by our own limited thinking. If we do not see our place amongst the nation then how can we truly be sovereign? What economic force are we to reckon with? What do we offer the country we reside within? How does our way of life contribute to nation-to-nation alliance? When are we needed or necessary? Why are we needed?

Traditionalist vs. non-traditional is an argument that tears our community apart. Traditionalist continue to believe in the old way of life. There is a nostalgia of holding onto those traditions and an attempt to bring them forward into our contemporary lives. Traditionalist are oftentimes the gatekeepers of culture, a culture that defines us as a people. They are the keepers of the language, of our stories, of our rituals and of our traditions. If they are unwilling to establish themselves as contemporary people living in a fast paced world and not allowing culture to adapt to its contemporary life then Iím afraid it will not survive. What is kept in the dark will eventually die. †

Iíd like to propose a radical idea. I look to our indigenous cousins, the Hawaiians, who have utilized their culture as a source of strength and a source of economic development. There are organizations that people will pay to go to a Ďrealí Indian reservation. It is here that reservations can begin to establish an economic base: placate to tourists, identify cultural teachings that are able to be shared, demonstrate a teaching or two to tourists, share our food and share a moment of our way of life. But, create an opportunity to educate them about the contemporary realities of Native America.
We are a people at a cross roads. We have been building up to this for a few generations. Our children are contemporary American children yearning for an identity. They will seek out the identity that they see in mainstream media. If we do not provide them with a foundation of who they are then they will disappear into the ether. They will leave our sovereign nations searching for their place in the world. †

Nation building is difficult. Nation rebuilding is equally as hard. We must come together to create a common vision for our sovereign nations. We must agree on the manner in which we build it. We must agree in the long-range vision and not get caught up in the fighting amongst each other. We must elect acculturated leadership who can help us move our tribal communities into the contemporary world that we exist in and we must develop our own economic base to operate from. †
We are a proud people. We continue to be proud. It is my hope that our pride will not get in the way to building a sovereign nation. A nation that is self-sustaining, a nation that is recognized for the cultural force that it was destined to be. I know all of this is possible.†

Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Thursday, August 27 2015
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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nickmetcalf-web.jpgSovereignty

Sovereignty is one of those concepts that seems to allude some of us. Itís this lofty goal and expectation for our tribes, yet it impacts us individually, communally and socially. My immediate impression is when we rely on the government to provide financial resources to sustain our own tribal government then how are truly sovereign are we? How can we achieve sovereignty and be economically sustainable?

Economic development is essential to making a sovereign government. Yet rural tribal communities have been unable to establish a tax base and resources to sustain itself. The money that is allocated to tribal governments is not enough to cover the basic needs of its tribal citizens.

Poverty is difficult. Being poor is a luxury that none of us can afford. Many reservations continue to have 80 percent unemployed, with the largest employer usually being the tribe or a church organization. Essentially, we are reliant on hand outs from the government and Ďgoodí church going people to sustain ourselves. This is ludicrous.


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