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Diary Entries

Leadership – taught or inherent

I could have shut my mouth; not put myself in the cross-hair of harm.

Except for the fact that I simply cannot. Is that reckless? Is that stupid?

If I knew then what I know now of the coordinated effort by people from my birthplace against me, would I do it all over again?

If I knew the extent people disrespect my parents and simultaneously try to shake their hand or smile at them in public?

If I knew that my security, self-sufficiency, and my name were also the stakes I was gaming with; would I have shut my mouth?  Would I have been able to live in my own skin, taking comfort in not utilizing the full extent of my experience, and instead shielding myself?

None of these things crossed my mind. This is what I saw:

A man had 4% revenue of the entirety of Sitnasuak in his hand.

I didn’t grow up identfiying as Nome Eskimo Community Tribe. I grew up Sitnasuak.

I grew up searching for my place in the world, where I came from, where I thought I belonged.  Sitnasuak is that conduit of “our way of knowing” and community. Sitnasuak is not a for-profit corporation to me. Sitnasuak is a demonstration of our people honor cultural in a westernized law.

Tribal Reservations are the product of what was perpetrated by an outside, dominant government.

So are ANCSA corporations.

Being a Shareholder is my connectivity of who I am and my community. Tribes in Alaska were recognized to receive grants not to govern. How could they? There’s no jurisdiction over which they could govern. They don’t have a land base or a right to tax.

Nome Eskimo Community (the Tribe I’m enrolled in) wasn’t created based on the lineage of a population; Eskimo is actually a derogatory word. Yet that is how Tribal people expect me to identify myself stemming from recently filed lawsuits. Tribes essentially are trying to give away what is not theirs to give away to the Federal courts by giving away the our authority and inherent right to carry out our own self-determination.

That authority is not theirs to give away.  My identity and our structure is not up for debate or barter. I never relinquished my inherent right of who I am and how our people organize ourselves. These acts were for the purpose of individuals, for people.  For me.

These are messy discussions with far from perfect systems created. I have been to other places such as the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes were forced onto a plot of land to cohabit that space. These Tribes were enemies that historically waged war upon each other. Now they jointly occupy the Wind River Reservation. They don’t identify as the Wind River People or the Wind River Nation. But their Reservation is what is the ‘federally recognized government’.

Circling back to my question – would I have chose myself and my individual self-identity and self-interest had I known what would happen?

This man had contract agreements that effectively would bankrupt the Sitnasuak subsidiary he spearheaded, and the contracts removed the ‘corporate veil’ of protecting the land base of Sitnasuak and the interests of the individual shareholders. Those contracts applied to the entirety of all Sitnasuak companies and assets.

4% of revenue would choke any profit margin, cash flow, or leverage to borrow from a bank to reinvest in building the business or maintaining it.

4% of revenue of all Sitnasuak company proceeds, was a hostile takeover from a clever business perceptive that essentially negated the purpose of ANCSA and came from a place that hasn’t been tested regarding the premise of the ‘ANCSA governance’.

He knew that the bubble was bursting for the manufacturing business he built. His next move was to own all the assets of the corporation without dealing with shareholders who do not have a right of individual shareholder equity.  What element would protect the interests of the people if he prevailed in his efforts?  That element is the special relationship between our indigenous people and the government.  The vehicle containing that element happens to be our ANC. 

The special rights of Sitnasuak’s relationship with federal government is what he coveted. That was more golden than the SBA 8(a) set aside he effectively utilized of Sitnasuak’s to enrich himself.

He stroked the people he believed to have signatory authority over those blanket contracts by simply using his empty appreciation for them, while reminding them subtly of he and his CFO’s importance and societal stature. He played on their desire to fit in while slyly reaffirming their ‘less-than’ status. Additionally, he kept every party compartmentalized; the CFO he was using (his ‘best friend’), the management team of the factories, his executives/subject matter experts; and of course, the financial institutions and vendors.

The contacts were stopped, he was neutralized. The SBA added a regulation to hold non-native managers accountable equal to consequences the SBA 8(a) company they represent were subject to, i.e. being debarred from federal contracting.

Before this upheaval, non-native managers had no consequences. All the risk was shouldered by the disadvantaged group/company.

So knowing what I know now; knowing what our own people would do to me and my family, would I put myself in this cross-hair of harm again?

Well yes, of course, absolutely.

I unintentionally ended up leading an effort that preserved the existence of my self-identity and the organization of our people. Sitnasuak.

Preserving our existence and rights includes the prerogative of our people to burn me at their stake.

I never anticipated a parade.

By Trudy Sobocienski

My blog, "Beyond Leadership" is a creative place to share my personal feelings and thoughts while working in leadership roles for a variety of Alaska Native organizations, both for and not-for profit entities.

An incredible leader and mentor of mine once asked while we were in Washington, DC, "What happened to you between the ages of 7-10 that motivated you to serve in a native leadership capacity". I was struck by that poignant thought and as such, include actual entries from my mother and my diaries beginning in the early 1970's.

I enjoy sharing these excerpts because it captures the parallels she and I were experiencing throughout life, from two separate worldviews. Hers as a young mother of four and mine as her eldest child.
I have never came across a book on leadership that lays bare a leaders personal feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams they were experiencing.

So for me, my goal is two-fold:

1. Share the incredible life my parents created for my siblings and I growing up in remote Alaska; and,

2) Sharing my humanity, through my personal diaries and journals, while serving as the youngest-ever President/CEO for the Alaska Native Health Board.

There are passages that will include significant policy issues I was working on throughout my career and travels. There are many more passages that do not.

I cannot speak for my mom's passages, because I am reading them as I share them here, with you; with her permission of course.

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