We are hopeful: looking ahead

As we reflect on 2020 and what lies ahead, we are hopeful. While the road toward an Indigenized future oftentimes feels long and uncertain, Indigenous changemakers’ words are the good medicine, knowledge, and inspiration we need to continue on this journey together.

Northern lights over a lake instill hope

This year, we’ve had the chance to speak with several Indigenous changemakers about how they stay grounded during challenging times and the steps they’re taking to build the future they want to see. We hope these words of wisdom will serve as helpful guideposts as you work to create meaningful change in 2021.

Regis Pecos, Cochiti Pueblo

Regis Pecos

“As we talk about Indigenizing the ways in which we contribute to the vibrancy and vitality of a shared future, it’s important to think about returning to those original instructions and recognizing the gifts of the Creator. Core values bring these gifts to life and are enriched by our adherence to faith and prayers in the ceremonial cycle.”

Regis encourages us to center our core values when building a new future. To Regis, our core values “underscore why we do what we do in our lives.” If we let our core values guide us, we’ll never make the wrong decision.

He poses several thoughtful questions to help us engage in a collective visioning process:

  • What core values define who you are? And what core values define what you do?
  • Are the decisions you’re making strengthening your core values or taking you further away from them?
  • What do you love most about where you come from or where you call home? What threatens what you love most? What are you willing to do to lessen the threats to what you love most? 
  • What are we doing during this time of self-determination that’s different from all of those times before when others were in control and we were critical of them?

Grace Goldtooth, Lower Sioux Indian Community

Grace Goldtooth

“We face systemic inequalities. Yet, we are stronger and better equipped to address them when we rely on one another. That’s why we always look to the value of ounkiciyapi, or helping one another, so that we can all work together.”

Grace believes in the power of community: she’s constantly looking for ways to show up for her people and listen to their needs. Our collective values should come first when thinking about creating a new future.

Grace is also passionate about using Indigenous languages and our ancestors as a source of inspiration:

  • We have this obligation, not only to our ancestors and our elders, but to each other and our future, to pass our language on.”
  • “Knowing that my ancestors’ strength continues to run through me moves me. It helps guide me when deciding what I need to do and how to respond.”

Finally, we can’t build an Indigenized future without self-care. Grace reminds us to take care of ourselves as we care for others. She explains, “To anyone in a leadership position: make sure you take time for yourself so that you can be strong for your people and your nation.”

Wizipan Little Elk, Sicangu Lakota

Wizipan Little Elk

“The most powerful thing we can do, the most meaningful thing we can do, is to ask questions. To say, ‘What do you want for your great great grandchildren? How do you envision the world 100 years from now?’ And let people dream and imagine.”

Sometimes, the hardest part of completing a project is getting started. Wizipan’s tips for thinking about an Indigenized future can help us overcome that initial hurdle: 

Prayer is who we are as Indigenous people. If you want to do something, say a prayer.

Write a story, or draw a story, or tell a story. What do you want to see the future be? Write yourself into that narrative. You have to be able to imagine it. If you can’t imagine it and tell that story, we’ll never get there.

Asking basic questions ensures that we set out on the right path. Here are a few to ask when thinking about the future:

  • Where are we going to live?
  • How many of us are there going to be?
  • How will we feed people? Where will our food come from?
  • Will there be clean water?
  • What languages do we want to speak?
  • What kind of educational and health systems will we have?
  • What is work life going to look like?