What led you to consulting with tribes on their cultural facilities?
Tribes were not getting the best, or sometimes even good information about cultural facility development and couldn’t make informed decisions because of it. My personal mission was to give them quality information and show them what worked and didn’t work for other tribes nationwide.
What inspired you most about that work?
That you can have a big impact in a relatively short period of time, and that the work is valued. You could see a lightbulb go off for them sometimes, and that was gratifying.
What inspires you about Ecotrust’s work?
First, it’s the people. Everyone here is so smart, committed, creative, interesting. Secondly, Ecotrust has a nearly 30-year history of working with indigenous people throughout the bioregion in some really significant ways — although the organization has been rather quiet about it! And then, Ecotrust is about finding balance and making intelligent decisions for the benefit of people and place. What’s not to admire?
What challenges facing Indian Country today do you hope to address in your position?
That’s the question we will be asking in the coming months. How can Ecotrust effectively intersect and support indigenous communities?
What does “a sense of place” mean to you?
I was born and raised on the Allegany Territory, a tight-knit Seneca community about 50 miles south of Buffalo in western New York. I live in Portland, but my home is the Allegany Territory. The place is the essence of who I am. Despite living in Oregon for nearly 30 years, the feelings for my homeland have never diminished.
What’s one of your most impactful place-based experiences?
About five years ago we floated down the Colorado River for three weeks. Experiencing the canyon from a raft in the river is very different from experiencing life on the canyon shore. Probably obvious to everyone else, but for me it was jarring. I also learned that rafting the river for that amount of time is not a leisurely float. It becomes an endurance test, which was unexpected. We were lucky no one got sick or hurt, although we did have to have a helicopter rescue — but that’s a different story.
Do you have a favorite movie?
What We Do in the Shadows by Taika Waititi.