I hesitate to go there…

…But, it’s fresh on my mind, and maybe some – or even many – of you can relate.

About two weeks ago I underwent oral surgery. Just those two words together make you clench your mouth shut, don’t they? I had an exostosis, a benign growth on a bone. A bone spur is an exostosis. For better or worse mine was growing straight out from my lower left jaw. If this is too much information and you’d like to click the “enough already” button, I will understand, and I hope to see you next month, when I promise a more palatable post.

Read More

Who Are These People?

I reached in the mailbox the other day and pulled out “Resilience,” a beautiful, slick publication from the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit based in Santa Fe that I have followed and supported since its beginning. I have a fondness for the coalition because 20 years ago I was lucky enough to be at the birth of this gutsy, crazy, doomed-to-fail initiative. The midwives were two conservationists and a renegade rancher who believed that his ranch could support both his family and a healthy ecosystem, a proposition that was radical in those days when environmentalists and ranchers were sworn enemies. The three got to know each other, gradually over several years, and then in 2003 they convened a group of 20 ranchers, environmentalists and scientists to see if they could sell their collaborative dream to “take back the American West from the decades of divisiveness and acrimony that now truly jeopardizes much of what we all love and value” and “restore ecological, social and political health to a landscape that deserves it and so desperately needs it.” [from their website]

Latest issue of “Resilience” can be read online at quiviracoalition.org

They adopted the name Quivira which comes from the term on old Spanish maps to signify uncharted territory. And indeed, they were in uncharted territory. The suggestion that a coalition of farmers, ranchers and environmentalists could succeed was laughed at by some, spat on by others, but a critical number held on, and the result today is a vibrant organization, committed to fostering ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration.

Read More


He could have been 75. Or he could have been 95. He wore a blindingly white shirt, tucked into Levis that were creased, both ironed by his wife, or maybe his daughter, I thought. He made a slow beeline for us, pad and pencil in hand.

“Welcome, folks, welcome. We will give you the best breakfast you’ve ever had. I promise. You’ll see.” He chuckled and smiled. He was typical of certain older Hispanic men in northern New Mexico, living treasures, who have deep roots in the land and the culture, who can tell endless stories, and whose hardworking ethic isn’t diminished by the aging process.

We were in Las Vegas, New Mexico, for the weekend. It’s a wonderful town, an hour east of Santa Fe, that offers a great escape from the pressures of work and the routine of home. I’m not complaining about Santa Fe – we are incredibly lucky to be here – but Las Vegas offers a more down home, relaxed, humble experience. At the Plaza Hotel on the town plaza they serve special cocktails with cute names. The Santa Fe is described as “slightly pretentious,” which really made me laugh. Las Vegas is far from pretentious, although it has the same complex history, rich cultural mix and great shopping as its famous neighbor just down the road.

Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, New Mexico

Read More

An Honor

Sometimes an invitation comes along that you can’t refuse. About a year ago I was asked to join a team of facilitators, writers and administrative staff to support the newly formed commission to address the crisis of missing, murdered and trafficked Indigenous people (MMTIP). Very grateful for the chance to be part of the effort, I accepted and for the past year have been working to help bring the Not Invisible Act Commission into being. I am careful not to talk publicly about my current cases. The work is often delicate and it is crucial to maintain confidentiality for the participants. But, last Tuesday Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, co-chair of the commission with Attorney General Merrick Garland, issued a press release reporting on the first in-person meeting of the commission in Washington DC. And so I take that as permission to share with you what has been consuming most of my professional life in the past several months. At the end of this post are the link to the press release which will give you an overview of the commission, and a glorious photo of some of the commissioners and staff with Secretary Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

Commission support team (partial) with Secretary Haaland;
Cam Hager, me, Steven Hafner, Pat Field

Most federal commissions are small (10-20) and include experts in the field from government, academia and related organizations. They typically meet in DC and then hold public hearings around the country, taking testimony that will enrich and round out their understanding of the issues. This commission is unique in its size (45 members) and its makeup. A significant number of the commissioners are family members and survivors of this epidemic of abuse sweeping much of Indian country. They are working side-by-side with a broad range of representatives from law enforcement, data management agencies, non-profits serving these victims and families, and many others who have knowledge and insights that can inform the commission’s recommendations.

The presence of these family members and survivors has been critical in keeping the commission focused on what really matters. Their stories and life experience remind us all of the very real impact of this epidemic and the desperate need for attention. There is no way that their fellow commissioners who are professionals from the Departments of Justice and Interior, the FBI, BIA, CDC, Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement agencies around the country can forget why they are there and the urgency of their work. It is not easy for family members and survivors to educate, to relive their horrific experiences, to grieve again for a lost one. I admire their courage and commitment to this effort. They are choosing to work with the federal government, hoping that this time it will be worth it and that the results will be good for Indian Country. I am honored to be working with commissioners and staff, and I know that for all of us this is much more than just a job.

Link to press release:


Deputy Attorney General Monaco, Secretary Haaland, members of the Not Invisible Act Commission and staff

Department of Interior, Deputy Attorney General Monaco, Secretary Haaland, members of the Not Invisible Act Commission and staff

Read More

Why Old People Watch “Jeopardy”

Well, I finally figured it out.… as I found myself flipping channels from the PBS NewsHour, which I have watched for decades, to Jeopardy.

It’s always been a joke, hasn’t it? Your grandparents sitting in front of the TV, in a rocker or perched on the edge of a sofa, peering intently at the screen, trying to figure out the answer before the young whippersnapper blurts it out. “Oh, well,” we younger folk would say, “they’re happy, just watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune,” implying that in those golden years, at such an irrelevant age, they might as well check out of the real world. But it was hard to accept, hard not to be critical. This person we knew to be vibrant and energetic, engaged in the world was satisfied just sitting in front of Jeopardy? Where was that outrage at the newest mass shooting, the latest tragedy in Ukraine, or the unstoppable melting glacier? What a shame, we would say to ourselves. They just don’t care anymore.

Jeopardy board — it’s a fun and educational game show, even if it’s an escape
Read More

Living Together

I recently read about a bison being born in the “wild” in England. I put it in quotes, probably unfairly, thinking that England is pretty much tamed after all this time, with shrub-lined lanes, flower-dotted meadows, tidy fences, carefully pruned trees and well-behaved weeds. But reading the article I learned that indeed three wild bison were reintroduced last July in the Kent area and a young female delivered a surprise in October, the first bison born in the wild in England in 6,000 years. Pretty incredible to bring back a species after driving it to extinction. The English conservationist confessed that just about all large mammals had been extinguished in England, the result of centuries of hunting and taking over habitat. We humans don’t share particularly well when it comes to wildlife.

Bison calf born in the wilds of Kent

The same thing happened in North America once the colonists arrived. Some took what they needed of the richness that lay before them, cultivating, harvesting, hunting to support themselves. Others, a significant number, saw a huge expanse of land and resources, including wildlife, just waiting to be exploited. Some believed it was a God-given right and duty, even, to help themselves; others had commercial motives; and others simply indulged in recreational killing for the joy of it. All this is spun out in a powerful new book by my friend Dan Flores, “Wild New World.” It is a great read for all kinds of reasons. And yes, there are painful parts where you will shake your head in disbelief that mankind could be so wantonly destructive of animal life. “This is not going to be a happy ending,” you think to yourself, and then, Dan, a self-described optimist, pulls it out and ends with hope.

Read More

Giving Tuesday

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Electronic Monday and Giving Tuesday….if you have anything left to give. This string of money-based “holidays” has become as traditional as the turkey on Thursday. And how ironic that Giving Tuesday is last in line. I scan the flood of emails reminding me that today is the day to give, and I will probably participate and click a couple links. But, in the past year since the last Giving Tuesday, I have realized that helping others is a complex undertaking. What, when, where, how, why to give are all questions that deserve some thought.

I am reading a wonderful book, insightful, witty and so educational for those of us embarrassingly ignorant about Africa. “Africa is Not a Country,” by Dido Faloyin, presents the continent in all its richness and variety, debunking myths that plague modern-day African countries ready for respect and acceptance as important players on the world stage. One of the most pernicious myths is that Black Africa is helpless, starving, ignorant, and generally incapable, waiting for White colonizers and their 21st century successors to save them.  

Lagos, Nigeria

Most impactful for me was Faloyin’s critique of charitable fundraising for African causes. With all good intentions, developed countries, European and US in particular, are able to create compelling campaigns to “help Africans” who are starving, being slaughtered or kidnapped, or other crises that the media features. What is almost always missing is the guidance or better yet partnership of actual Africans who know best the answers to those “what, when, where, how, and why” questions above. Our White eagerness to act quickly to feed a dying baby or rescue a kidnapped boy soldier, can easily go awry, contributing to political upheaval, corruption, and perpetuation of the stereotypical desperate African needing the White savior. Not denying there are very real crises that need assistance, the author emphasizes that foreign responses must be designed and directed by those on the ground.

Read More

The Sky Is Falling

Eight days before the election and my inbox is overflowing with hysteria. “We’re heartbroken,” “It’s Over” “Have you forgotten us?” “Horrible news” “It’s do or die” “We need you, Lucy, now more than ever,” (that’s the one that might get me, if I weren’t so sick of it all.) I’ve left off the exclamation points but there are way too many. It reminds me of the fairy tale of Chicken Little who is hit on the head by an acorn and thinks the sky is falling. He, or she, runs to tell the King collecting many other feathered friends along the way until there is a flapping, cackling chorus of “The sky is falling” (add exclamation points). Of course, a fox offers to show them the way and that’s the end of that.  

By now I am deleting these emails as fast as they come in, which only seems to encourage them. I resent the unsolicited barrage because I am being hounded to give money, but that’s not all. It’s the desperation, the urgency, the panic, the frantic cries and tearing out the hair — all these emotions that I already have plenty of, given the state of the world.

I don’t deny that the sky may actually be falling, but the hysteria is driving me crazy. I understand that we need to be alert and do what we can, but we need to leave time to relax, breath, and think about the next step. I’m reminded of a project I’m working on and an insight about myself that I think applies to a lot of us White mainstream Americans. As soon as a problem is identified, a dilemma revealed we want to fix it, asap, do whatever we can to put the sky back where it belongs. We send money, make phone calls, feed a family, anything as long as we’re fixing it. The sooner we fix it, the sooner we can forget about it and move on to the next thing. This is great if a house is on fire, a child is crying, a dog is lost, the rent is due, and a million other things. But there are things that require time and patience, things that shouldn’t get a band aid slapped on and forgotten.

Read More

Push Replay

We’ve had a dry spell and the pots of flowers in the patio were drooping. I had a few minutes between zoom calls and went out to water them. The garden hose was not neatly coiled (no one’s fault but my own), but in a heap on the flagstones. I turned on the faucet and grabbed the nozzle and pulled it to reach the thirsty plants. It tightened into a tangle. Water was spurting everywhere, and I just kept pulling and yanking at the mass, angry at the reality and unwilling to do anything constructive about it. Just before I screamed a profanity, a story my mother used to tell flashed into my mind.

I was 2 years old and had a little tricycle that I loved. It had three wheels, but no pedals. I sat on the seat and moved by walking my feet, rolling through the house, in and out of rooms, cruising on the wood floor. I can almost hear the sound of my feet shuffling along, the wheels turning. I can almost feel the pride and satisfaction of being independent and mobile. What a big girl I was! And then, as my mother told many times, I would go through a doorway, maybe from the hall into a bedroom, and the back wheel would catch on the door jamb. I cut the corner too close. But instead of backing up, which I knew how to do, and giving a wider berth to the door jamb, I kept pushing and pushing, banging into the obstruction, as if I could make it move by my sheer anger and stubbornness. Finally, I would scream in a rage and she would come and rescue me.

If only I’d had a cool trike like this! But you get the idea
Read More

Reconciliation – Small Steps

A colleague called the other day to ask about reconciliation. No, we had not had a fight or a feud. He lives in Hawaii and works with thorny issues involving Native Hawaiian communities. He wanted to talk about my experience working with Native Americans on the mainland. Was reconciliation part of the mediation process and if so how did it work? We exchanged stories but came to no conclusions. We weren’t even sure how to define reconciliation. Did it need an apology? By whom? Written or spoken? How about a process for hearing stories, like the Truth and Reconciliation efforts? Should there be some legislation or memorials? An annual day of observance? Plaques, monuments? Should money – or land—change hands?  All good questions, and all possible parts of the whole.

Pope Francis at Lac Ste Anne, near Edmonton, Canada, a stop on his reconciliation trip. Photo by Antonio Denti.

Today there is a lot of talk about reconciliation, in the US and other countries dealing with historical abuse and displacement of Indigenous people. The shocking boarding school deaths and mistreatment, (physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually) are the latest revelations, among many others, in Canada and the US. Indigenous groups demand justice, compensation, reconciliation; government representatives seem often paralyzed, not knowing what is needed, who should provide it and how to go about it.

Read More