My father’s family was half Choctaw and half Cherokee. I never really identified strongly with the ethnicity of my nuclear family when I was a kid, I always tried to tell people that we were “Mexican.” Mexico is a place… Mexicans are a people… They have Mexican accents, eat Mexican food, play Mexican music. And THAT was simple for me to communicate. My dad “looked” Mexican… Why not?
That was me… My sister, Cathy, was WAAAAAAAAAY into the whole American native identity, Dawes Roll, native language, all the way to our native ritual names.
In later years, Cathy told me about our genetics being kind of – well – “messy” and she was disappointed as she tested, researched, and discovered the details. It seems our genetics on our grandmother’s side (Choctaw) was actually heavily Euro influenced… On our grandfather was black Cherokee. A few generations ago some African-decent slaves probably made an escape into Cherokee tribal areas and integrated with them. In those days it was hard for slave owners to tell Africans from American Natives so the integration wasn’t all that difficult.
To help explain my sister’s disappointment, this was in the 1990’s and the Cherokee Nation was dis-enrolling black Cherokees. Yet – for as disappointed in this “complication” as Cathy might have been, I was finally energized. I was just granted instant connection with Jimi Hendrix, Eartha Kitt, and Rosa Parks! Hey. If you are related to Cat Woman you gotta love it, right! Cathy didn’t like her tribal rights to be placed in question by enrollment roadblocks, but I was finally excited about the “tribe.”
By the way – To my sister’s relief, in 2007 the Cherokee Nation reinstated the “Freedmen” as they were called, and the tribe was whole again.
At long last I experienced the sense of tribal connection – albeit more complex than the simpler Mexican heritage I “spun” for us as a child – the actual blood connection and this “messy” part of American history was energizing to me.
In my supply chain leadership career, I have applied that experience as I often coalesced a “tribe” to connect people to an idea. Seth Godin (marketing guru, author, speaker) points out that the only things you need for a tribe is a shared interest and a way to communicate. He further teaches that to lead the tribe you simply need something to believe in, paint a picture of the future within the context of the tribal belief, and then endeavor to take the tribe there.
My OutSideIn concept of the day is – the power of the tribe. A marketing concept – directly applicable to supply chain leadership when multiple priorities compete for our attention as well as the attention of our critical business partners and the stakeholder groups for our initiatives.
One last quote from Mr. Godin “In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn’t necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it.”
So when you are advancing an initiative with a solid microbrand campaign strategy, bring together your tribe, fearlessly point to the future, and take them there. The war paint is optional…
Until we meet again – I admire you for answering the call to fill the hands that heal.