During the latter half of last year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do some public relations work for a worthy organization called Running Strong for American Indian Youth, based in the Washington D.C. metro area. At Running Strong’s request, I traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to interview local staff with Roots & Shoots, which had established gardens in 16 communities across the reservation and was in the process of building a long-awaited greenhouse in Kyle, South Dakota.
It was a fascinating trip, but the best was yet to come: One of the editors at Indian Country Today Media Network was impressed with my writing, and he wanted to know if I would be interested in contributing articles to ICTMN’s print newsmagazine and website.
To date, I have had an opportunity to write about a Zapotec weaver from Oaxaca, Mexico, and a legal situation surrounding a retired priest on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana and a woman who has accused him of abusing her while she was a student at the local mission school in the 1950s and 1960s.
My most recent project: I interviewed the filmmakers behind a 2011 independent documentary called “Holy Man,” which tells the story of Douglas White, an 88-year-old Lakota medicine man from Pine Ridge serving a 25-year prison sentence for a crime it seems he didn’t commit. The article should be coming out soon.
These types of projects are a radical departure from the enthusiast feature work I’ve been doing for years… and as much as I love writing about travel, adventure and watersports, it’s a thrill to sink my teeth into news stories and features about the arts. And I must admit, I’m learning a great deal from my editors with ICTMN. They challenge me to ask more difficult questions, look at situations from new angles and push my work further.
And I’m having a ball.
I think the larger lesson here is to never get too comfortable in the creative life you have chosen. It may be extraordinarily uncomfortable — yes, even scary — to step outside your comfort zone. But, as they say, that’s where real living happens.