By Glen Zaring
A dear friend and elder who works with a tribe in New York said the tribe is quite removed from the world, keeping non-tribal folks away as much as possible. They are so reclusive that it is hard to know anything about them. And they like it like that way.
This elder constantly refers to past events that have affected tribes and Indians. Events such as the horror of the boarding schools that stole our very being, massacres where thousands of our people were killed on the prairies and broken treaties at every turn. He and others constantly refer to these wrong doings and use them to illustrate how they act and react with others.
Spend time with them and the angst of past wrongs will resonate. They have allowed these events to influence and guide their lives. Of course, in this life, they did not experience these events but that doesn’t make the events any less real.
Some other friends and folks with whom I have been honored to work are from tribes that went through the removal to western lands. One of their tribes lost one quarter to one third of their entire population in the three months it took to reach Oklahoma. Our blood memory of that makes it very real to us to this day.
The difference is that this latter tribe turned around and became successful business people and have launched comprehensive programs to bring back their language and culture. They are not wallowing in the shared trauma of the past but working to make their people great again. They are influencing events and not letting past events negatively impact them.
As we look to build tribal businesses, we walk a fine line balancing between the effect of events and our ability to affect them ourselves.
Ask yourself this question: When we look to build a business, how do we enter on that quest? Do we do it with a defeatist attitude because we have always been kept down, cheated, abused and persecuted? Or do we look at the business opportunity with eager anticipation on what we might be able to accomplish?
Do we look at ourselves as victims or as warriors going off to battle? The answer will be a good predictor of our chances of success. Human nature says that if we enter a task visualizing ourselves in a negative way, we most probably will fail. However, if we eagerly look to the opportunity as a challenge worthy of our efforts, we have a much better chance of winning.
Let’s look at it from a sports angle. When you are in the locker room before a big game, what does the coach try to do? The coach pumps you up and gives you confidence that you can win the game. The coach does not say to us: “You know, we always end up losing these games. Our history shows that we just are not up to the task.” Just how motivated are you going to be to go out there and play hard?
One reason that Indians do so well joining our military is that it is an opportunity for us to learn skills that will allow us to be effective when it’s time to battle. There, we can show what we are made of: courage, brains, cunning and perseverance. It sure beats some poorly motivated grunt who is there because they ran out of other options.
Business is a battle! Every day, the business person has to use their skills and courage to make proper decisions. Anything less and they would probably go out of business. Going into business takes guts and it is a battle that we have a chance of winning.
Please do not hamper our people when they go into a battle for business by reminding them that 100 years ago their ancestors were defeated or abused.
We have the brains to find and make opportunities, and we can succeed. Remember, we also have many successful warriors that have gone on before us. Make them proud! ♦