I had a conversation with a colleague and friend. We were discussing the situation, when we were neck deep into the removal of Jim Nunes from the Sitnasuak Native Corporation subsidiary. It turned out to be much more involved than any of us anticipated.
Thank God for mentors
It was September 2009 and we were in Washington DC taking physical control of our office, located in the prestigious Georgetown District. September is a difficult time of year for me but this year, I was busy. We began researching the financial transactions, corporate documents, and figuring out who our banking institutions were. We came across some items that we found questionable and began interviewing DC law firms to help us. We needed a professional analysis what we found, what we were yet to find, and how to navigate the best course of action.
Thank God for mentors.
I was having a dinner in DC with my mentor about the situation. I was explaining what had transpired and who we were in the very early stages of retaining. Her response and advice was a key factor that led to our success in what came to pass. She explained to me that the firm we were in talks with had a great set of skills.
She told me that we needed a different law firm with a very specific skill set. She had an extensive network in place within the beltway. She secured us a meeting. I informed our group of the conversation, the recommendation, and we each agreed to change our course.
If there were a painting of us seated in that conference room with that group of lawyers, the juxtaposition would speak volumes. The entire experience can only be truly described by the word, juxtaposition. We were out of our element and that was undeniable.
The meeting took place on a Saturday. There were six of us in our group. Since it was a Saturday, we were dressed casually. Realistically, even if it had been high noon on a Wednesday, we would have been dressed the same.
An old gentleman walked in the conference room minutes after the room had been filled with lawyers. He was accompanied by another lawyer that had this larger than life presence about him. They took their places at the table. My mentor, who was there, took the lead with introductions.
We were asked to tell our story.
I cannot recall if we all participated in telling them what was happening. I don’t know if I spoke at all. I have to assume I did. But I cannot remember it.
This is what I do remember.
Upon the conclusion of our story, the old gentleman leaned in and whispered something to the gentleman that accompanied him when they entered the room. Then the old gentleman got up and left the meeting. I never saw him before or again.
Whatever he said apparently was his approval to bring us on as clients.
Thereafter, everything was carried out in such a protective, professional, and systemic manner that I never knew existed. The pace that the lawyers worked was 95 miles an hour from dawn to dusk. Every day. For weeks. I thought I’d be back home to Nome within a week when I left.
Then that first week extended into an additional week. Then those weeks extended into months. I was strongly advised to move into a secured executive apartment. For me, the cost was cheaper than a hotel so I agreed.
Every single day was intense. There were several conference rooms with teams investigating every aspect of our companies.
I was interviewed all day, every day. It was called a “downloading” of information that I had; whether I realized it as significant or not.
At times, I’d be called into the other conference rooms to answer questions that other teams had.
It was difficult to decompress because at the end of the day, I’d be on the phone updating board leadership, who had been able to return home weeks earlier.
I know scary
It was during one of these phone conversations with my colleague and friend that I first cracked the door open to share a little about my life. He and I were talking about how Jim Nune’s claimed he was a former CIA agent. There were people that were rightfully nervous because of this claim. While the board had been in the city, at least one of them changed hotels a multiple of times.
I refused to turn over my power because of fear; and yes, I had plenty of fear. But I was determined that fear would not be the factor of whether or not we failed in protecting our corporation; for the benefit our shareholders back at home.
For me, it was a defining time in my life. I felt a sense of empowerment that was new to me. That feeling turned into the anchor that fed my determination to win this face-off with Jim Nunes, CIA or not.
I knew I could because after all: I know scary. I just didn’t talk about it in a professional environment before. I told my colleague, “Jim Nunes thinks he is scary, but I know scary”.
Jim Nunes has nothing on the scary that I know. I did not embellish the details on that phone call, and as good friends know to do, he did not ask. I did open up and tell my colleague eventually.
I survived as a child, at the hands of my cousin, for years. My first memories as a toddler include things he did to me. We lived on a trapping cabin with no access to other humans and the only communication was a CB radio. My parents had traveled by snowmachine to McGrath to sell fur that they trapped and buy groceries. There was nothing wrong with their choice to leave us in the care of my cousin. And, I did not ever tell my parents because I was ashamed.
I survived the ultimate boogyman as a little girl. Jim Nunes is a pussycat by comparison.
I knew for the first time, as a grown woman, that I had the capacity to go toe-to-toe with Jim Nunes to protect the businesses for the future of our shareholders. This turned out to be a time when I started really healing. I transformed from a victim to a fully empowered person.
I was doing the work for the people at home and the generations of our people to come. That was uplifting and gave me strength to continue when all I wanted to do was to curl up and sleep; or click my heels and be home, waking up refreshed and that none of this was really happening.
But it was. So I kept going. I had a purpose. Most importantly, for the first time, I recognized the silver lining of my childhood experience.
I had in my toolbox a rapidly developing resilience.
I know scary. Scary prepared me. Do I wish things could have been easier. Of course.
Do I credit my cousin for his predatory acts against me? Gross. Of course not.
Do I credit the slimy actions of a predatory businessman? No. Absolutely not.
The credit goes to my will to survive as a child. I just ended up in a situation as an adult, that reconnected me with that part of myself.