Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Being An Indian

Last week I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Association of American Indian Physicians. What a wonderful group of Indian people. The whole conference was covered with a cloud of intellectualism. The students were delightful and their enthusiasm brought great joy to my heart. I shared an old Cheyenne story about always seeking to improve oneself. I am not sure any in the audience needed the advice. I was in awe as I asked several questions:

How many of you have been described as overachievers?
How many of you are competitive?
How many of you can't stop thinking?

After each question nearly everyone in the audience raised their hand.

My next question stumped them. I asked how many have a photographic memory? How have been tested to see if they have a photographic memory? Not many raised their hands. I went on to say that I expected that most of them did have photographic memories and probably never realized it. Indian people by genetic nature have a high propensity for photographic memories.

Think about survival in a land that had constant dangers and the acute memory needed to transverse the land avoiding danger or looking for game. This highly intense focus over thousands of years led to an advanced cognitive process that required photographic memories. Our ancestors excelled at total recall, remembering the smallest details and quickly recognizing even the slightest change in a very complex environment. As the survivors this became a highly developed genetic trait that has been passed on to us. It is part of our natural Indian intellect.

After I finished many of the students came up to me and said that they indeed had a photographic memory but never realized it until I had pointed it out. I felt good because I helped them realize that they were special, and I hope that someday when I am in their care and need their brilliance, they will remember me.

I had another conversation with a young man who was a very successful surgeon. He felt that the field of medicine and rigors of medical school had brainwashed him. Perhaps in this process he was diminished as an Indian person. I shared with him the story of corn. A single kernel of corn, when planted and under the right conditions, will grow into a plant that has leaves, a stalk, an ear, tassels, and even corn pollen. That single kernel will always be corn, no matter where it is planted. I told him that he will always be an Indian just like the corn will always be corn. It is in his genetic makeup and no amount of schooling can change the gift of his ancestors. He smiled and I know he was comforted by what I shared.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heading into the Future

The American Indian College Fund board of directors spent Friday of last week brainstorming and planning for the organization's five-year strategic plan.

As the economic landscape is changing, the Fund needs to change as well. Although it is important not to be too reactive, swinging the organizational philosophy to meet the economic climate which may change, it is also important to set a course for growth that is attainable and mission-driven.

We are all thrilled and excited as we embark on our journey for the next five years to continue our mission of raising funds to support American Indian students who are setting their sights on earning a college degree so that they can lead their communities, while setting goals that will enable us to increase our support in a myriad of ways.

Stay tuned as the board rolls out its vision and strategy. In the meantime, I am traveling this week, meeting tribal college presidents and continuing to carry on this sacred work that the creator has provided to me.

In a good way,

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hard at Work on a New Video

Today we are hard at work, filming a new video, bringing information to our donors about the mission of the American Indian College Fund. We are also working to put the finishing touches on maps of Indian country and our tribal colleges to our donors, which also features several of our students and their stories.

Look for this information in your mailbox later this year!