Back to School Hopes and Dreams

It’s back to school time for many colleagues and students. I have so many hopes and dreams for this school year. I’ll share them with you even though it feels risky to hope and dream amidst the ongoing pain, loss, and uncertainty of the pandemic. Yet, one of the lessons from the pandemic I’m carrying with me is I cannot allow fear and uncertainty to steal away my ability to hope and dream. I believe all beings thrive when we express our kindness, fierceness, and creativity. With that in mind, I am daring to dream…of a school year full of students and educators engaging in lessons and activities that help us grow, understand, and think creatively.

I hope each day we are able to find pockets of time and a connection to place that are rich with relationships–with ourselves and other beings–that nurture and affirm Tma’áakni (Respect).

I am hoping and dreaming of a school year full of meaning, purpose, and joy.

I am dreaming and hoping for systems with generosity and grace built into them so rest is encouraged and allowed when needed.

I am dreaming and hoping for curricula that challenge us to envision the fiercest, most beautiful futures we can imagine.

These are my dreams. I know they are possible because I’ve had the honor of witnessing and experiencing them at times, in ways here and there, like beautiful trees purposefully planted in an arboretum. And that’s wonderful. I love those pockets of arboretum time, space and place.

And I am seeing how the pandemic has taught me the field trip to the arboretum is not enough.

What I really want is for schooling to shift into the generous and generative education of the forest.

I’m wishing you a school year full of care, comfort, hope, and possibility–as nurturing as breathing in the fresh mountain air in a pristine forest.

As you journey into the school year I wish you a luxurious carpet of soft needles to cushion your every step in the wondrous forest.

And the trust, knowledge, and wisdom that everything you need is within you and around you, in this precious and sacred space of education forested with loving hopes and dreams.

Forest on Yakama homeland. Photo credit: Michelle M. Jacob

Make this the best school year ever! Join these upcoming workshops in the Anahuy Mentoring Leadership Academy:

August 25, 2021 at 12-2pm Pacific time (3-5pm Eastern): What is at the center of your work?

August 31, 2021 at 9-11am Pacific time (12-2pm Eastern): Plan your writing projects!

Sounds of Summer

Last night I sat in my rocking chair on the patio outside my grandpa’s old home. Clouds had rolled in and the shade felt delicious. A cool breeze provided additional relief, and I think all beings were glad to get a break from the hot sun and smoky air. Maple tree leaves fluttered and danced their delightful tune.

Behind our van I could hear the familiar sound of basketball dribbling. My nephews had started up a game. Mostly I heard the bounce, bounce, bounce of the ball, along with the shuffling of shoes on ground–the quick start and stop movements of young knees and legs. Every once in a while I heard a loud voice call out in protest, perhaps indicating too-rough defense by an opponent. And of course there were collaborative shouts of delight or amazement, “Oooooh!” and I could imagine one of the boys making a shot from well behind the 3-point line, or perhaps doing a dazzling spin move, or providing a no-look pass that brilliantly assisted a younger brother to make an easy basket.

Rock, rock, rock, my chair went on the old wooden boards of the patio.

My dog goes back and forth between two of his favorite tasks: sitting at the corner of the yard keeping an eye on the ball-playing nephews, and sitting in front of the patio looking pleading and pitiful in equal measure–hoping I’ll give in and throw the ball for him. He loves to play ball. He loves guessing where it will go; he loves bonking the ball off his snout or teeth, tossing it to himself in a showy assist. He can spin, jump, and sprint with grace.

I hear the low pitch of a train horn and can picture the familiar site of an orange and black locomotive using its 4,400 horse power to pull a heavy load, chugging away alongside Highway 97, horn indicating it’s preparing to cross some of our roads on the reservation. My parents’ dog howls a greeting to the train, matching the pitch of the train horn exactly in a cappella beauty.

Rock, rock, rock.

Bounce, bounce, bounce.



Aren’t they lovely, these sounds of summer?

Photo credit: “basketball hoop” by acidpix is licensed underCC BY 2.0

Book sale is happening through August 9th! 20% off all books on my website, free shipping to U.S. addresses is included. Anahuy Mentoring book author royalties are donated to the Sapsik’ʷałá Program!

Check out the upcoming workshops in the Anahuy Mentoring Leadership Academy! Dates are listed below, click on the links to learn more.

  • What is at the center of our work? August 10 (for Indigenous peoples); August 25 (for everyone).

Finally, don’t forget The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Fall Sessions begin October 1.

Thank you for reading–I hope you have a day filled with delicious sounds in a beautiful place.

Smile at Dawn

I love the peacefulness of dawn. The air is cool and still. Birds narrate morning greetings. Squirrel chimes in with a loud song that sounds almost like laughter.

Sky changes colors, tone, and brightness in what seems to me a masterful meditation practice.

Trees stand absolutely still. Are they meditating as well?

I hear woodpecker in the distance, the loud burst of sound indicating an early start to their workday.

Deer saunters by, nibbling on greenery here and there, as usual modeling a patient pace of ease.

Crow squawks, their strong voice cutting through the soft, charming melody of all their bird relations.

I think of dawn as a quiet, still time.

But maybe that is not quite right.

Maybe dawn is a time of being.

Maybe dawn is a way of being.

Maybe I’m dawning.

Maybe you’re dawning.

These thoughts bring a wide, easy smile to my face. A smile that reaches up to my eyes and into my heart.

Good morning.

Photo credit: “Yakima Delta Sunrise” by nextSibling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Write with Michelle! Registration for The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Fall Sessions is now open. Click here to learn more and sign up.

The Sound of Freedom

Last night there were a lot of fireworks going off on my reservation. I admire the pretty colors on display, but I can’t stand the loud noise. To me, the explosions sound like guns and bombs; this is not the sound of freedom.

Luckily, our more than human relations are quick, as always, to remind us of another pathway forward. They remind us of simple, honest, and true teachings. “Do you want to celebrate being free on this land?” X̱wɨɬx̱wɨ́ɬ (Meadowlark) sings the question as a pretty melody. “Observe. Listen. Move. Sing. Speak,” X̱wɨɬx̱wɨ́ɬ instructs.

And so, I do.

This morning I hear the sound of Hulí (Wind) rustling leaves on the tall trees in my grandpa’s backyard. The soft, gentle sound is punctuated by the bursts of Áy’ay’s (Magpie’s) call, almost siren-like when several speak at once, “Ay-Ay-Ay! Ay-Ay-Ay!

Now my parent’s K’usík’usi (Dog) is barking, the deep voice of a large shepherd who watches over us. Mimím (Mourning Dove) coos a greeting, encouraging me to keep noticing and learning from my beautiful more than human relations.

Like a good soup broth, Hulí gently rustling leaves keeps all the sounds of this morning tied together in a cohesive whole; each being belongs and has an honored contribution to make. I’m so glad I paused to listen and learn this morning.

As a Yakama person on my Yakama homeland, I’ve learned the sound of freedom is not the explosion caused by gun powder. Rather, it is the sound of wind tickling leaves on trees who have provided shade to generations of my family, as well as the symphony of voices of all the other beings who people this land. As I go about my day, I remember and give thanks for all my ancestors who bravely and prayerfully prepared the way for me to be here.

It is another good day on Yakama homeland.

Photo credit: “Western Meadowlark” by David Kingham is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Read more about lessons from Mother Nature’s classroom, including a story about “4th of July on the Rez” in Dr. Jacob’s book, Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch.

Thanks for reading!

What’s Your Vision?

Having a vision for one’s life is important. In my Yakama culture, we have always known this. We have old traditions of sending a child to find their power in the mountains, blessed under the watchful gaze of sacred Pátu (Mt. Adams), everyone secure in the knowledge that each child would have exactly the experience needed to help them walk the path of life meant just for them. Such traditions, of course, are special occasions. We also see daily affirmation of the power and importance of vision in everyday life. Have you noticed it?

The young person spending hours perfecting their jump shot or crossover–even in 100 degree heat–we hear the bounce, bounce, bounce sound of the basketball hitting the ground. “Practice your free throws!” Auntie wants to yell while driving by, on the way to Safeway to get iced coffee. But she doesn’t interrupt. She knows this is sacred time. Time when the child so clearly sees the gap between where they are and where they want to be, and they use their tremendous focus and strength to fill that gap. If you pay attention, you can see them walking the path of their vision. They are learning and growing and becoming more deeply themselves. We are blessed to witness their brilliance.

You don’t have to be an energetic young hoopster to engage with and work toward your vision, however. Thank goodness.

I witness Elders sitting quietly, engaging their visions as well. Maybe as youngsters they were taken up to the mountains to sit up all night and find their power and vision in isolation. In everyday life on our reservation I more commonly see them sitting on a favored rocking chair, recliner, or couch. In silence, they sort through the generous storage of memories their heads and hearts hold. They reflect, remember, and can bounce back and forth between times long ago and today. Just as the energy of a young person bouncing a basketball is full of determined hope and optimism to fulfill one’s vision, so too do Elders have a vision sacred and special for their own lives. If you sit with them, and bring a loving and open spirit, they’ll share a bit of wisdom to help you prepare to walk your own path.

That’s the thing about visions. They are uniquely ours. They help us be strong, self-determined individuals.

Can you imagine a community full of people like this? I can.

What’s your vision?

Photo credit: “Mount Adams at dawn” by Alex Butterfield is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Fall registration is open. Sign up if you want to advance your vision through writing!

Pacing is Everything

I did my longest run of the year recently. Long runs are beautiful, wonderful, challenging things. Hour after hour of step, step, step, breathe, breathe, breathe, trying to remember when to take in fluids, calories. Deciding how much effort to put into each uphill and downhill. In long runs, as in life, pacing is everything.

Sometimes on long runs I feel tired, lonely, and begin to doubt whether I can reach my goal. At times like these, I try to remember to pay attention…to this step, this breath, this stride, this arm swing, this mile. I look for both lesson and teacher.

Let me tell you about some of my precious teachers.

Grandfather rocks, old and wise, weathered by time and the elements. And still here, now the size of small pebbles, too many to count, on this wonderful trail I enjoy. They are here and welcoming my presence, as they always do. They cushion my every step; supporting me, as our loving and generous more than human relations always do.

Do you smell the rich fragrance of the pine forest on a warm day? It’s the smell of love and generosity and wisdom and strength. How could I ever feel lonely or doubtful in such a blessed place?

Photo credit: “DSCN1095” by ken ratcliff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Summer 2021 Registration is now open! More info is here.

Intelligence of the Heart

I love watching the beautiful deer. So elegant and graceful in their pretty brown fur coats, black noses sniffing the ground–Mother Earth–beneath a clump of trees who stretch up and touch the sky. Another deer, a larger youth, has two tall nubs, still covered in fur, sprouting atop his head. With time, he’ll grow an impressive set of antlers. I wonder if he feels how I do sometimes, impatient for growth and transformation? Or, like my dog who’s resting contentedly next to me, is this deer happy to live moment by moment?

What wisdom.

They inspire me.

My days are so full of the intelligence of the head–the kind my institution knows, values, and runs on, sometimes seemingly at any cost.

A lesson arrives with the cool spring breeze rustling through the trees: without an intelligence of the heart, we’re just running around trying to make our antlers grow.

My new/old resolve: take time, be quiet, pay attention to our More than Human Relations. Live up to their standards. Put myself in environments where my growth and transformation just happen. Being in places and among beings who help my intelligent heart grow stronger every day–not through great effort, exemptions, or productivity hacks. Rather, the whole environment–every system we create and maintain–is structured to support me and my precious, fierce, fragile, intelligent heart.

Come–join me! All are welcome here who lead with the love of an intelligent heart.

Photo credit: “Black-tailed Deer” by born1945 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Transform your relationship with writing in The Auntie Way Writing Retreat! Summer session registration is open for individuals and groups. Write in nine sessions this summer with Dr. Michelle M. Jacob and a supportive group of amazing scholars!


I went to town to buy myself a printer. I’m kind of old school and love working with hard copies of documents. In the printer box was a CD, to install it I suppose; I didn’t look carefully at it. I don’t have a CD slot on my current computer, so I pondered what to do with it–this object included in the package for which I had no use. Or so I thought.

I decided to take a piece of yarn and tie the CD to a low branch on one of the maple trees outside my grandpa’s old home on my reservation. Now I sit at a little writing desk looking out the window at the tree, CD, and bit of yellow yarn that enables the CD to move and dance, spreading rainbow light all around. How pretty it looks in the slight breeze and bright sunshine of this cool spring morning. There’s movement, elegance, and grace in this office-supply-turned-yard-art.

Just think–these simple items: an unwanted CD, an extra bit of yarn–surplus, disposable items–have brought wonder, joy, and focus to my life. I bet this is a future the CD and yarn weren’t expecting. Just like that–their purpose and existence are transformed.


I wonder what my next transformation will be?

I’ll try to pay attention and notice the unexpected gifts and possibilities all around me.

Photo Credit: “JER_2814” by Ol-Jerr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Transform your relationship with writing–Summer Registration for The Auntie Way Writing Retreat is open!

Warm Welcome

Yesterday in our Sapsik’ʷałá Seminar, Yakama Elder and “Super Auntie” Tux̱ámshish Dr. Virginia Beavert reminded us about the importance of welcoming students to our classrooms and welcoming guests to our meetings. She encouraged us to make sure people have water to drink and a little snack–something low in sugar, as so many people struggle with diabetes and managing blood sugar.

It was such a simple comment; yet, I see so many wise teachings in her instruction. These teachings reflect the strong tradition of love and leadership in our Indigenous cultural ways. I’ll name just a few:

Leaders are responsible for caring about the environment they prepare for students and guests.

Kindness, generosity, and inclusiveness are important parts of welcoming people appropriately.

Model the importance of nurturing individuals and the group–so that our best thinking, sharing, and work can happen.

Yakama cultural teachings affirm that Chúush (Water) is sacred. Having this blessed relation present in our classrooms and meeting spaces will help nourish and sustain us.

All of these teachings encourage us to see the power of the collective and how, as individuals, we all have the ability to step forward as leaders who care for the people around us.

In all of your classes and meetings, I hope you find warm welcomes, deep wisdom, and rewarding work.

Virginia Beavert and Michelle Jacob
Photo Courtesy of: Michelle Jacob

Join the celebration launch of Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch at the Power of Indigenous Stories and Art event with Michelle Jacob and Crystal Buck! This event is Free! Friday, April 9 at 2:00pm Pacific time (5pm Eastern). More info and register here.

Follow Your Path

In marathon training, as in life, we need to make decisions about whether we’ll follow a plan we’ve set out for ourselves. When conditions are such that no major changes or dramas unfold it can be, in many ways, easier to “stick to the plan.” However, when big changes come our way–when hurdles or detours appear that we haven’t been fully expecting, sometimes doubt can creep in. Questions can arise: “Well, the race I was planning for has ben cancelled, so do I keep training?” “Should I adjust the plan and keep training–for a race later in the year that, at least for now, is still scheduled to happen?” And of course the big question that can present itself once an inkling of doubt has set in: “Why am I bothering doing this?”

In times like these, we’re invited to pause and reflect. Where do we really want to go? There are so many paths in front of us, many choices we can make. Do we still choose the path to the great challenge we set our heart on several weeks (or months, or years) ago? Does our heart still urge us to keep going down that path?

If, upon reflection, we find there’s absolutely no appeal, then we can take a different lovely path and see what unfolds.

However, if we’re even just slightly longing to see what’s down that path, the difficult one we’ve begun and are now doubting–well then, I believe it’s time to restock basic supplies while we regather our courage and focus during this moment of pause: rest, nourishing food, water, maybe a change of socks.

And then get back out there.

This is your path.

Follow it and see what lessons unfold just for you.

Photo credit: “Many Paths” by keepitsurreal is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Work with Dr. Michelle M. Jacob to find and savor your own path!

Academic Career Trajectory workshop on April 1 (Career planning using an Academic Auntie perspective!). Click here for more info.

The Auntie Way Writing Retreat (Nine weeks of a supportive writing retreat to help you honor and affirm your message to share with the world through your writing!) Spring sessions begin April 2. Click here for more info.

Read Michelle’s latest book, Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch, available on the Anahuy Mentoring website and or from your favorite bookseller.

Thanks for reading my blog! Have a wonderful day!