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 Bookshop.org or from your favorite bookseller.

Thanks for reading my blog! Have a wonderful day!

Áwna Túx̱sha (We’re going home now)

This week I’m celebrating the launch of my new book, Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch: Lessons from Mother Nature’s Classroom. This is the third book published by my company, Anahuy Mentoring, an independent Indigenous press and professional development company. I am honored to feature the beautiful work of Yakama artist Crystal Buck on the cover of Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch. The cover features Pátu (Mt. Adams), one of our sacred mountains who lovingly watches over us. Crystal’s drawing features the eastern-facing slope of Pátu; this is the perspective of Pátu we see from the valley floor on our reservation and is the site familiar to all of us who’ve grown up there, live, or visit this special place.

I remember as a child the first time I saw blessed Pátu from the west side. I had no idea there were a bunch of people in Western Washington who loved and admired Pátu from this different perspective. Before this, I had a kind of working theory that anywhere I could easily glimpse Pátu was “home.” Could my notion of home be expanded? Later, I heard Auntie stories of picking Wíwnu (huckleberries) in berry fields on the west side. And fishing with relatives in lakes and rivers far beyond, but connected to, our reservation.

I learned, not in school but from relatives, that the whole notion of “reservation” is a foreign idea mapped onto us and our beautiful homelands and waters by people greedy to take them.

Yet, our people continue to honor our traditional teachings of being in good relation with the Land. Pátu was taken from us by the U.S. government and my Yakama Nation leaders successfully fought to restore the sacred eastern slope to our people. Upon this #LandBack victory, which took over 100 years, our reservation’s western boundary was moved.

Anytime you look upon the beautiful perspective of Pátu I know and love best, whether you’re on our reservation or simply holding Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch in your hands, you too can pause and reflect on the brilliance and wisdom Indigenous peoples and cultures continually demonstrate.

How will you honor Indigenous peoples and lands today?

Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch is available from the Anahuy Mentoring website, bookshop.org, and your favorite bookseller.

Dr. Michelle M. Jacob loves sharing her “Auntie” message of bringing more kindness, fierceness, and creativity into our lives. Upcoming opportunities:

Academic Career Trajectory workshop on April 1 at 9am Pacific (Noon Eastern). How will you define and create your academic “home”?

The Auntie Way Writing Retreat (9 weeks of awesome writing support!) Spring sessions begin April 2 at 10am Pacific (1pm Eastern). What message will you share with the world through your writing?

Easy vs. Ease

Marathon training, like life, is sometimes easy. Sometimes there’s a magical alignment of vision, plan, and task completion that’s done with such abundant energy and gracefulness that anything and everything seem possible.

And sometimes, well, it doesn’t. In place of clarity and alignment perhaps we have fuzziness and doubt. Yet, deep down, we know we believe in our beautiful vision. So we lace up our shoes and head out the door, hopefully to a favored running place. Have you noticed that when we lack internal stores of inspiration Mother Nature is always willing to share with us? If we pause and notice the gifts she provides we cannot help but be inspired to be in the moment, in our bodies, moving with a sense of ease in this beautiful place.

I return to this wise teaching, again and again, in marathon training and in life.

I witnessed it yesterday: my gait all awkward-feeling, my body seemed to lose all sense of pace, my breathing sounding strange to me. Everything felt difficult. And then, I remembered what I always need to remember, and especially if I’m feeling awkward or confused: Pay attention to my teachers.

I looked more closely at the dirt and gravel road–noticing the beauty and variety of shades of black, brown, and tan on this simple and strong surface, this part of Mother Earth, sacred Tiichám (land) who always supports my every step.

I smelled evidence that Tiskáy (skunk) had recently visited this place, the strong odor reminding me of happy times with childhood friends and our prized scratch and sniff stickers we enjoyed in elementary school–do you remember the skunk sticker?

I noticed the clouds and how they somehow looked both puffy and flat from my perspective. I think Tamawiɬá really had fun painting the sky–how beautiful! How blessed I am to witness all of this.

Yesterday was a hard run. My mind was in a tug of war between the sacred and profane. It wasn’t easy; however, I focused enough on what truly matters to find, in some blessed moments, a sense of ease.

Photo credit: “Running down the dream” by dharder9475 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Work with Dr. Michelle M. Jacob to find greater ease in your life and work. Upcoming opportunities: Indigenous Time Management workshop on Monday, March 29. Academic Career Trajectory workshop on Thursday, April 1. The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Spring Sessions (nine weeks of writing!) begin on Friday, April 2.

Fitting Celebration

Yesterday, in between what felt like urgent work tasks, I remembered almost by accident to do my most important work: I got up from sitting in front of my computer; I stretched; I went outside; I threw the ball for my sweet Rez dog.

While playing ball, I noticed the world beyond a Zoom screen and email in box. I greeted Aan, bright early spring sun, shining down, warming Mother Earth and all of us humble beings. I witnessed the familiar vast, wide sky of my Indigenous homeland, and admired how our ancient foothills and mountains continue to reach up and greet sky, as they always do. What good relations they model for us. Under my feet I noticed the patches of green grass coming back, restored from a luxurious winter rest.

When we’re done playing ball, my dog and I both eagerly slurp down water drawn from the well at my grandpa’s old home. Chuush! The sacred, nourishing liquid from Mother Earth is a blessing to us.

We had a simple, but fitting, celebration of World Water Day.

Photo credit: “Yakima River Kittitas Co.” by Pictoscribe – is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Check out these awesome upcoming events! Indigenous Time Management workshop on March 29. Academic Career Trajectory workshop on April 1. The Auntie Way Writing Retreat (9 Weeks) Spring Sessions begin April 2.

You Can Do It

Marathon training is hard. At least for me it is–the long, steady, sustained focus in carrying out a detailed plan, several months long, that asks so much. As if following the plan wasn’t hard enough, I’m also required to stay mentally alert enough to decipher the difference between soreness and injury. And emotionally wise enough to back off the plan when rest outpaces running in importance in the long-term. It’s a lot for me to do all at once.

Yet, there’s something satisfying about engaging a challenging process, isn’t there? When you wonder, “Can I do that?” And you show yourself, one step, stretch, and rest break at a time: You can do it. You are doing it.

Endurance sports are challenging under any circumstances, including now, with upheaval and inequalities all around us. Perhaps now more than ever it’s the perfect time to focus on one simple task for one hour, or one mile, at a time.

Step, step, step. Experience, feel, and be the steady forward movement.

Step, step, step. Notice how in each stride your body is centered, balanced. Get comfortable in the simple, consistent motion of it all.

Step, step, step. Notice how each day your life is more centered and balanced.

Step, step, step. Your focus and commitment help to center and balance our world.

Keep going! You can do it. You are doing it.

Photo credit: “Runner” by h.koppdelaney is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Check out these awesome upcoming workshops and writing retreat! Indigenous Time Management on March 29, Academic Career Planning on April 1, and The Auntie Way Writing Retreat (9 weeks) starting April 2.

Training Plan for Life

Sometimes we get injured. I speak from experience. My foot aches with pain from a tendon overused, likely linked to an Achilles that was tight.

Isn’t that how our problems in life also go? One linked to another. And, for me at least, often the connection isn’t made until later, when an “aha” moment reveals how we could have prevented the problematic pain. Hmmm…this learning is good. But I can’t help wishing I’d learned faster. Seen the bigger picture sooner. Although such perspectives imply greater speed and size (“learn faster” “see bigger”), when I pause and really listen, my deeper wisdom tells me the opposite is actually true.

I need to slow down. More carefully examine smaller details–these are the path to quicker, bigger wisdom.

These lessons take patience.

Long, slow, unexpectant patience ironically becomes the shortcut to where I want to go. It’s a training plan for life.

On my inner-outer workout plan for this week I’m placing the following:

  • slow down
  • pay attention to every ache and pain; nurture them to heal
  • look for connections among the pain points and add to my stock of prevention-wisdom
  • spend time among people, beings, and places who help me heal.

It’s a good plan. I’ll try to stay focused and on task. I might even slow down enough to find the shortcut.

Photo credit: “Walking the Path” by Slideshow Bruce is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Want to learn more about slowing down to get where you want to go faster? Sign up for the Indigenous Time Management workshop on Monday, March 29 at 1pm Pacific.

Happy Anniversary, The Auntie Way Blog

February 28 is the one year anniversary of The Auntie Way Blog! In a recent interview with the Oregon Humanities Center’s UO Today, one of the questions prompted me to discuss why I’d written The Auntie Way. I mentioned how Aunts have a special role in our community and that we honor Aunties, both blood-related and chosen. During the interview, I read “Academic Aunties,” a story from The Auntie Way that describes the generous and persistent efforts of women who help support and encourage us in our educational journeys. At the end of the story, I conclude, “I hope we all get to attend the University of Auntie Magic.”

I enjoy celebrating the kindness, fierceness, and creativity in our lives and communities. This was the spirit behind my writing The Auntie Way, although you’ll see it in all of my work: a consistent lifting up of our people’s brilliance, wisdom, and courage. This same spirit guides the work I do here in The Auntie Way Blog, a free resource for anyone who wishes to engage The Auntie Way.

I’m proud of the 62 posts to The Auntie Way Blog this year, and am especially honored to share the six award-winning Auntie stories from youth and adult winners of The Auntie Way Super Auntie Writing Contest. If you missed them, or want to savor them again, you can find the winning entries here.

I’m so grateful for all of you reading, engaging, and sharing The Auntie Way.

Auntie says, “Do something kind for yourself today!”

Michelle’s next book, Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch: Lessons from Mother Nature’s Classroom, is scheduled to be published in March 2021 and is available for pre-order here.

Kiss, Kiss, Kiss

I got to watch the sunrise this morning. Or rather, I watched the beautiful work of Aan (Sun) unfold. First the earliest rays of light kissed the top of a tree-covered mountain range I see out my window–kissing the tip top of the highest peak.

It reminds me of when we humans kiss the top of a dear child’s head. I remember doing so years ago, sitting on my parents’ old red living room carpet, keeping close watch over nephews or niece playing with favored toys. In that sphere, love, curiosity, kindness, and acceptance defined our total existence. I wonder if sun and mountain feel the same?

Now, a few minutes later in the morning, sun bathes more of the land in crisp, clear, golden light. Winter sun on a clear, cold day is magical. Sun illuminates more hills, and trees are dazzling. Nearby Papsh (Fir tree) shows an endless variety of shades of green, each branch lighter or darker depending on sun and shadow. Niní’s (Aspen tree’s) bark almost sparkles with delight in greeting Morning Sun, the bright white of Niní’s bark so intense I almost need to squint.

“Kiss, kiss, kiss,” I think I can hear Sun blessing each tree, hill, and rock.

I feel certain they’re wishing us a day full of love, kindness, and acceptance.

Photo credit: “aspens” by Katya Horner is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Michelle’s latest book, Fox Doesn’t Wear a Watch: Lessons from Mother Nature’s Classroom, is scheduled to be published in March 2021 and is now available for preorder. More info is here.

Backpack Full of Doubt

Today I’m thinking about doubt. Doubt is so interesting to me–this invisible, colorless, odorless, weightless thing that, at times, can be so big, strong, and heavy in our lives. Like a big backpack that we may or may not notice we’re carrying as we journey through our days. That backpack full of doubt can influence what we imagine is possible, whether we view ourselves as capable of tasks assigned to us, or–more importantly–whether we should even bother with the tasks and plans we dream up for ourselves.

Does your doubt have a voice? Does it whisper or shout? Or maybe it drones on monotone like the worst pastor or teacher you ever had, yet somehow that voice–that may or may not know anything that’s actually of value to you–somehow it asserts authority. In this tricky way, an oppressive math equation manifests: doubt = truth.

Hmmm…that’s rough. And when I find things rough and tough in my life, I sometimes remember to pause and ask: What would my most loving Aunties say and do in this moment? How would they want me to feel?

And then I smile. Feel lighter. Because of course my beloved Aunties would never want me to feel, or be, weighed down with the heavy burden of a backpack full of doubt.

“Let it go,” they would say, kindness and care shining in their eyes, the soft skin on their elderly faces crinkling into a gentle smile.

“But…,” I might say, making excuses to defend the logical proof of doubt = truth.

“Here, let us help you,” my Aunties might say, lifting the heavy bag and removing the straps from my arms. “There, that’s better,” they’d wisely observe.

Wow. My mind reels with the new possibilities of the gift my Aunties have given me: doubt ≠ truth.

I stand taller, amazed at the strength and comfort I feel in my body without that heavy backpack of doubt weighing me down. I move my shoulders and arms with ease and joy–remembering this is what freedom and possibility feel like.

“Thank you,” I tell my Aunties, wondering how I can repay them.

They smile again, and their wishes for me are clear: Go. Do. Be.

With my heart full and spirit renewed, I do. I carry their Auntie teachings with me.

If you ever see me on the path of life weighed down with a backpack full of doubt, please remind me to shrug it off.

I’ll do the same for you.

Photo credit: “2018 NST: Backpack mt. Adams” by College Outdoors is licensed underCC BY-NC 2.0

Michelle will be speaking about Indigenous Pedagogies at the UOTeachIN conference on February 22 at 6pm Pacific. Registration is full; overflow can watch this event live streamed on YouTube https://youtu.be/MF_y4GzQ964