How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?As someone who grew up in poverty, both of material and spirit, creativity is mother of necessity. As a result, I’ve honed valuable skills in finding inventive and creative ways to accomplish my goals. This has served me very well as a community organizer that works with and for the Two-Spirit community: locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. My community is one of most under-resourced communities; however, this has never deterred or inhibited me for working for a better tomorrow for my Two-Spirit relatives – I’ve just had to work smarter (and sometimes harder).
Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?
Quite simply creative inspiration dwells in places, spaces and situations of scarcity. When I hear, you can’t do that, or we don’t have a budget to “fill in the blank”, my thinking cap goes on in order to find a work around!
What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Simply, I’d offer and have offered the following advice: Know your creation story My Cree creation story tells me where come from, who am I, and what are my scared teachings:
• Wisdom, to cherish all knowledge;
• Love, to know peace,
• Respect, to honor all of the Creation;
• Courage, to face the foe with integrity;
• Honesty, with himself and the world,
• Humility, to know himself as a sacred part of the Creation; and finally,
• Truth, to know all of these things.
Know who your people are.
This answer provides a rooting and grounding, humility, accountability, respect, transparency and a lived and embodied truth or medicine.
Know your purpose, gift(s) and medicine(s).
This answer this question; you have the motivation and guide for all your actions.
Always yourself, “why?”.
Just because something is done in the past, does not exempt it from questioning and that it must always be done that way. The answer to this “WHY” question also carries a responsibility, if no one else is saying what you are thinking, sit tall, square your shoulders, hold your head high and speak your truth – find your voice! When you this, you’ll know your purpose, will be for great good of your people and rooted in your creation story – everything is connected.
If not me, then who?.
If you are asked to do something or about something, ask yourself if you’re the right person to fulfil the request. If there is no one else, then the responsibility falls upon you.
Finally, believe and trust in yourself.
(this is the hardest teaching we all must walk) It’s scary walk on a new path, but that is often what a leader needs to do. Take for example, one of my current projects of first-ever Two-Spirit children’s book. What??? Who am I to write a children’s book??? What gives me the right is there is no Two-Spirit children’s book and there is a need for a Two-Spirit children’s book!
Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at Creative Mornings?
I would want to hear from voiceless and those pushed to the fringes of our society. At a recent national conference, I had the honor to work with and support a person struggling with a crystal meth addiction to share their truth – when this person was given the opportunity to show up in all their fullness – there was a not peep in the audience as they hung on every word. The medicine that was dispensed was everyone witnessed and honored the humanity of this individual.
What did you learn from your most memorable creative failure?*
I offer the three F’s of failure: 1) Figure out what happened, 2) Find a way or ways to not repeat this failure (therefore, a failure is not a failure, but a learning opportunity), and 3) forget the failure and dwell in the solution(s) and/or the lesson(s) learned.
How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?
Oh my goodness, I could never imagine or dream of the life that I am living. When I was young, the two things I was most ashamed of was being an Indian: Wab Kinew notes that Indian always had an adjective: dirty Indian, drunk Indian or dumb Indian. And, me being a sissy boy and called many nasty words. After sobering up, my healing journey allowed me to pull those two things close and to own them and today are great strengths. I was called upon by President Obama was appointed to USA Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, where worked to provide advice and guidance to White House and Secretary of Health and Human Services. Why? Because I’m a sissy-boy Indian who does policy work! The overall lesson from my experience is it’s our secret that keep up sick. Things that we may think are our weaknesses may be our great strengths – all we have to do is make peace with them and call them home. Every day, I ask myself how did get to be so lucky and blessed to have the life that I have.
How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
I work with and for the Two-Spirit community: locally, regionally, nationally and internationally for a better tomorrow for my Two-Spirit relatives, so they may not know or walk the journey that walked.
If I could open a door and go anywhere where would that be?
To a time when all my Two-Spirit relatives know honor, respect and dignity within their respective Nations and people, as they once had and enjoyed before the colonizer totally messed it up for us.
What keeps you awake at night?
Sugar and carbs… just joking, no really! Nothing really keeps me awake at night. I think one of the main reasons is because during my waking hours I acknowledge both past and current wrongs and then actively work for a better tomorrow – all the while knowing that I may never witness or experience what I am working for or towards, but I know that one day the seeds I plant will bear fruit.