Putting in Work for the Rez

By Francisco Olea, COO of OSA, August 2016


This morning I got into work and realized that the whirlwind of rolling out a new project has dwindled down. The resistance has waned, and the negativity looming around the resistors has transformed into a mild, resentful…acceptance. If the resistors realized early on that this is a positive change for them, then perhaps they would be less apt to meet the project with such a negative approach, however, such is the culture of A-types. Nobody likes to be told what to do, and in cases where your authority is even mildly disregarded, people tend to get defensive rather quickly.


Anyway, my team did an amazing job, even prior to me coming on board, and I am both proud and thankful to be associated with such a monumental task undertaken by this office. It’s hard to explain the amount of pride I feel when huge things come out of this once desolate, barren place. It’s hard to explain how much I appreciate how far we’ve come as a tribe since I was riding my bike around this desert, ramping over ditches ducking past cholla cacti and mesquite trees. I’m truly thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given.


I literally just jumped on board as soon as I got off the plane from D.C. The AG asked me to come report to work on Monday, and though I knew I’d have a welcome back party at home on Saturday, and thus try to recover from being up late indulging on Sunday, I obliged. I showed up on Monday and I’m glad that I did. I’m back in my old stomping grounds, cranking out work that I love to do. I can’t wait to complete law school so that I can come back and do an even better job of contributing to my community.


I think I’m just about convinced, after D.C. and this stint, that I have absolutely no interest in working at a firm. I know that’s potentially a bad thing, and somewhat of a discouraging characteristic of a law student, but hell I’ve come to realize that my entire law school academic career is going to be one giant contradiction. I’m going to do my best to go in there and prepare myself for the issues I am going to face when I come back to work for my people, or any other Indigenous peoples. I already have that mindset of where I want to end up, exactly. I’m not going to work at preparing myself for life at a giant firm, because I know deep down inside that’s just not me. I have nothing against my peers that are chasing that dream, and I am genuinely happy for them.


As for me, though, I know what I want to do when I graduate, and that distinction from my peers separates me in and of itself. It marks a strong separation between what academia pushes you to strive for, and what experience and insight push you to strive for. I will succeed in this endeavor, though perhaps not by academic curricula standards, or by what a Law Review editor considers success, but ultimately, I will make my way back to where I can help distinguish my tribe from others, and that to me, is the ultimate success; the entire reason why I went to law school in the first place.


-F. Olea, 2L (i.e. 2nd year of law school)


Scholarship Instructions


In law school, just as in undergrad or in life, many of us decide on different paths. None of them is the right or the wrong path, as they are all important and unique for each person’s journey. A lot of us thought how I did six years ago, optimistically, and that our Tribe/Nation/Pueblo would be waiting for us with open arms once we earned that degree. Unfortunately, as often happens, we are disheartened upon returning, and if we’re even lucky to have a place waiting for us, it is many times not what we had in mind. We find that the adage of “crabs in a bucket” runs fast and remains steady in many tribal communities. Sadly, sometimes our communities are not the best place for us.


Though many times it could simply be a timing issue – tribal elections, job opportunities, life events – those are cyclic, and agendas tend to fluctuate in certain circumstances, during certain times. Other times it may just be part of our personal and professional growth, and us finally understanding how “Brain Drain” could be so rampant across tribal communities. As an educated Native person, sometimes getting to where you need to go means stepping outside of not only your community – but also stepping outside of your comfort zone. This may mean you decide to work with and help other tribal communities. You are part of a small percentage of Native students that decided to take on the challenge of higher education. As such, you will forever have the skills and knowledge to help create opportunities for others.


At OSA, we strive to help others, always, especially other tribal communities and Native students.


So now that you are arming yourself with the power of education, tell us about how you can, or will, use your education to create opportunities for the benefit of your tribe, or other tribal communities. How will you use your education and what you’ve learned to create, enhance, or improve learning opportunities in your tribe, or other tribal communities?


Tell us about what motivated you to seek higher education, and what you’ve gone through if ever trying to return to your tribe along your educational journey. Has it made you more resilient? Has it changed your perspective on things?