Like many of us, Geoff is trying new recipes, but his quarantine baking has taken on deeper meaning. Geoff Kie is indigenous, from the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. Geoff was first on the show in Season Two to talk about his service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Now he’s back to check in about how he’s dealing with quarantine, his new endeavors in social entrepreneurship, and how he sees gardening and learning permaculture in the first step in bringing food sovereignty solutions to Native Nations, fighting back against colonization.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Earth Guardians
- Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute
- Traditional Native American Farmer’s Association
- Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance
- Change Labs
- Geoff Kie’s Instagram
- March Fourth Marching Band
00:00 Geoff Kie: Being all caught up in the pandemic stuff, we just get kinda creative, kinda get stir crazy. I’m lucky enough to have these creative outlets too.
00:17 Speaker 2: This is Do Good, Be Good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder, who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
00:37 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Hello. I’m your host, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. The voice you just heard is our guest for today, Geoff Kie. I interviewed Geoff on April 28 during our quarantine period for the pandemic. At the time, we had both been staying home for several weeks. And in order to stay safe for this interview, we decided to meet up in the woods, and we sat on a log about 10 feet or so from each other. So it’s pretty cool that you’ll hear birds in the background. It was very peaceful where we were. So keep in mind our conversation took place over a month ago and that was before recent events like George Floyd’s death and the protests that have come afterwards. And even given that, it’s pretty fascinating that during our conversation Geoff actually talked about protests and he talked about the unequal treatment of protesters and a lot of other interesting and insightful comments that are actually really relevant right now. In listening to his words several times over the editing process, I feel like I got a more nuanced understanding of Geoff’s perspective and I encourage you to take a close listen, maybe even a re-listen.
01:55 ST: And one more thing, this is actually my second episode with Geoff. I last spoke to him over two years ago during the second season of our show, and that episode focused more on him growing up, his pursuit of higher education. He explained the concept of native nation building, his service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. You don’t need to listen to that episode in order to make this one make sense, but it might give you additional context and you might find it interesting if you like today’s episode. So if you want to, go back in your podcast feed and look for episode 18, or you can just click on the link that I’ve included in the show notes. Since we last spoke two years ago, Geoff completed his master’s degree in Communication from Northern Arizona University and he’s recently taken a job with the university in their marketing department. We start our conversation with what he was doing this spring before the pandemic started.
02:55 GK: I don’t know if you’ve heard of MarchFourth? They have their big birthday show on March 4th.
03:00 ST: Yeah. I went to it one year.
03:00 GK: So we went to it this year.
03:01 ST: Nice.
03:02 GK: And this is my wife’s graduation present type of thing, ’cause she finished her master’s this past Fall, but it’s kind of right before this whole thing just really got big. And even she was like, “Aren’t you worried?” I’m like, “Yeah, but there’s nothing I can really do about it except wash hands and do everything I can.” Then it was just kind of crazy and then we came back from Portland.
03:27 ST: We got a little side tracked talking about MarchFourth Marching Band. If you’ve never heard of them, I’ve added a link in the show notes. They are an incredible band and have absolutely crazy performances. After that, we transition back to his new job at Northern Arizona University.
03:45 GK: Learn NAU from the inside out, like building the website out. So it’s really a trip to almost go full circle of being a prospect student to the guy who’s helping design all these things and being a consultant for all these different departments on campus that reach out to us to make sharp-looking content. I’m learning a lot. I’m having fun at this job too because I’m able to also learn things that I’ve been wanting to learn, things on the Adobe Creative Cloud and work among professionals too that have that amount of that capacity to give advice.
04:21 ST: So what has it been like to meet co-workers and get to know the people you work with when you’re not actually in the office with them?
04:29 GK: There’s never a moment where I feel not connected to the team [chuckle] at this point, but I definitely have my work time, set times or whatever. So I think… And I saw some article and I think that’s something people should be definitely assertive of, of just reclaiming your space and time when you’re either working from home and all that stuff, so.
04:52 ST: Yeah, it’s interesting, ’cause even though a lot of my client work has gotten postponed or slowed down, I am a volunteer with the theater. There’s been a little bit of like, “Oh well, we need you right now. And so you can come and do more for us,” in a positive way, but there’s a tendency of like, there’s an endless amount of stuff that I could do as a volunteer for the theater. Lots of stuff we need to do in planning and back-end updating of all of our systems and stuff. And yeah, I did have to push back a little bit because, especially as a volunteer, volunteers don’t always have a set work schedule or anything. And so it was like, “Oh, let’s have this meeting on a weekend,” and I’m like, “Nope.” [chuckle] It’s not that I actually have anything scheduled over the weekend, but I just, I don’t do that on the weekend. I’m gonna spend time with my family on the weekend, with my husband and my cat. [laughter] And I’m just, I wanna keep that protected for me, even though I technically have nothing I have to do. [chuckle]
05:53 GK: Yeah, I feel the same way. This past week, it was the first time I felt like I finally caught up with stuff, so my wife and I, we went out fishing. And I finally got to season my smoker and all that stuff, but then here the fire restrictions kick in for the city. So I’m like, “Oh, darn it.” I went out with a good hurrah with some smoked trout that I did.
06:11 ST: That trout looked amazing. [chuckle]
06:14 GK: It’s pretty good. My wife, she made this trout-cuterie board. She had crackers and some cheeses and stuff and the smoked trout, and it was just like, next level. The whole flavor of it is something I’ve never tasted before. [laughter]
06:32 ST: Yeah.
06:33 GK: Yeah, it’s getting pretty crazy in this whole new reality of just all the meat shortages and the recent thing of the food supply chain is breaking. And I actually attend this Hopi permaculture course that we do virtually online as well, but it’s really cool to be part of that program because our mentor, Lillian Hill, that’s her organization is the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute. Prior to all this, we were invited to her home every week to learn about all these different permaculture techniques and actually planting in Hopi land and all this stuff like that way too, which is like a pretty sacred moment for me. We’ve been doing that pretty steadily, and we’re trying to practice that more. So I took a picture this morning actually, we have radishes that are sprouting up from our cold frame thing that we made, and so we’re trying to be smarter about stuff.
07:24 GK: We recently bought four Barred Rock chickens, so we are housing some chickens right now in the hopes of getting some eggs and using that whole addition of, in permaculture of we can use their fertilizer to add to our soils and bigger yields and all that stuff. So we’re trying to think of it more or less like our house is like a little system. And it has been working really well in terms of staying sane and [chuckle] having things to do and having my creative outlets too from time to time. So that’s been kind of the grounding part of it. And one thing that really stuck out from that session I had with Lilian Hill, the one time we had an in-person session, was just for permaculture and just how she viewed it, which is she’s making a comfortable living space for everything, just a comfortable living space for the plants to grow out of, showing us how to make really lush soil and just really giving it that place to grow and maintain itself. And that’s how I’m trying to apply a lot of these things. For me, whenever I go to Hopi and another Pueblo community, I always feel like at home. [chuckle]
08:35 GK: I think it’s just the land and the deep connection and reverence that all of our people have shared. For me, when I go to different Pueblos, it does feel like home. I’m like, “Man, this is like… It feels like any rez.” And it’s kind of funny, the telltale signs of when you’re on the rez, you’re cruising on to like a Pueblo whatever and you’re passing somebody on the road and you just throw peace sign up or they wave at you. I’m like “Alright, cool.” For me, it’s just automatic when you’re kind of in a Pueblo community and it’s just kind of funny. But it just felt like home when I was planting out at Hopi and just kind of felt awesome to be in an adobe home or an earth-built home. Even the participants too, the majority of them, they’re Hopi as well. And then even with that connection when we got to do our first session out there, I found out one of them is my sister by clan. So we are like, by Corn Clan.
09:26 ST: Nice. Speaking of home and Laguna, when’s the last time you were able to be home?
09:32 GK: I feel the last time I was home for a longer time was when I did the tour to Acoma, which was last September. But no, I think we got out after Christmas and things like that way too, but it’s been a while. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy back at home. Just a lot of tribal communities too, Pueblo communities that are kind of shutting down their borders or their entry ways into the communities and just like, only our enrolled members. Even we had our feast day, March 19th, and even then they only were allowing tribal members and in-laws and things like that way to our dances when it’s usually open to everybody during those times.
10:16 ST: Yeah, that was pretty early and things too.
10:18 GK: Yeah, that was kind of relatively early. And so I think there was a lot of people still like, “Should we even dance and things like that too?” So, I think it even impacted our cultural norms too totally. This time, there’s definitely a clash of all these different things that need to be addressed on so many levels. I think everybody’s really waking up to a lot of social needs that need to be addressed in all various levels of this country [chuckle] and in the world. So, I hope these these times bring fruitful ideas and solutions from our people and give a shoutout to all the [10:57] ____, all the Laguna people out there to, and my mom and our family, my brothers and my dad, little sister ’cause they’re on lockdown too, and traveling is not encouraged in my community. I did my whole thesis on it. It’s just basically we’re all located in a food desert. And so for them to travel to Albuquerque or Grants for more moderately priced items as opposed to higher-priced items at the local grocery store, which still only has so many fresh items. There’s not really a fresh food system that’s set up out there yet. And that’s where I’m trying to push in and be a more vocal advocate for more sustainable food like sovereignty in all senses of the word.
11:44 GK: So that’s kind of my driving goal for the next year. And I’ve had a lot of big moves. [chuckle] I’ve had a lot of big power moves this year, which is kind of crazy. So the start of the year, I jumped on with this other non-profit organization called Earth Guardians. There’s also this program that’s called The Change Labs which is like a Native American business incubator program that they’re doing.
12:04 ST: Oh yeah. I think I’ve heard of that.
12:06 GK: I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the fellowship members for this year’s cohort.
12:12 ST: Congratulations.
12:12 GK: My winning idea or my thing that I submitted, which is pretty much, it’s still the same thing, but with all these things, it’s shifted a little bit. It’s ultimately like a Pueblo-based mobile pizza truck.
12:28 ST: Oh nice.
12:29 GK: A mobile kitchen, whatever, a wood-fired oven. What I was really going for is the fresh ingredients. How am I gonna get my ingredients and stuff like that? So that’s where the food sovereignty comes into play. I’m growing my own basil right now, about to start my own tomato seeds and start practicing my own [chuckle] green thumb with these common pizza ingredients. And so that’s how I’m trying to ingrain myself into the art of the pizza. But yeah, that’s totally like my plan: Serve indigenous communities who are suffering all these food sovereignty issues in all sense of the word. So it wouldn’t be just pizza, try to interpret fresh foods and salads, prep and all these different things, lessons perhaps or demonstrations and then also just like helping other producers that have products like, “Oh I use this product for this pizza, it’s really good. It’s from Hopi. It’s like a dried chili paste or whatever or whatnot.” Yeah, it’s been really a good. I think I’ve applied to a lot of stuff. I even did some crazy indigenous open call for indigenous actors in Albuquerque, I scored some spot as the last one. So I was like, “Alright, let’s do it.” And so I went and did that really quick. So that was really fun. [chuckle] After post-grad from the whole graduate program, it’s been kinda like making my own hustle, but just kind of at my own pace and just been having a lot of fun with it.
14:01 ST: Wow, that’s a lot, [chuckle] but that’s awesome.
14:10 ST: Taking a pause from my conversation with Geoff to remind you that a transcript of today’s episode is available in the show notes at dogoodbegoodshow.com as well as links to everything that we’ve mentioned. If you’re interested in podcasting, blogging, or starting an online business, check out Fizzle. That’s where I learned the technical skills that I needed to bring you this story. You can find my referral link in the show notes as well. With that link, you’ll get a month of courses, coaching, and community for just $1. Using the link, you will also support this show as I will get a discount on my membership. Now back to my conversation with Geoff.
14:53 GK: I’m never not hustling. It may be a bit of a selfish moment, but all things I’m doing, I’m Native nation building. I’m doing this for the kids. I’m doing all this stuff. It’s a little bit of the Robin Hood mentality, I kind of encompass that too with… This rapper, MF Doom, his name is Metal Face Doom, aka Mad Villain, all these different things. But he’s basically just like this persona of just like the villain. For me, colonization has been the driving thing for American, Americana basically. And if you talk about decolonization, taking down these systems, you become the enemy of all these people that benefited from these systems. So to me, I’m the enemy. We’re public enemy number one. Look at all these fools that were like rioting and demonstrating, bearing arms to the Capitol and all these different things in all these different states. Whereas Standing Rock, the occupation at Standing Rock or indigenous or minority protesters, legislations going up and riot boosting and all these different things and throwing people in jail. People are still in jail from occupations and demonstrations and things like that and I’m like, “Throw these fools in jail.” Where is that equality? And I have no qualms about taking down the system and then giving that to my people. [chuckle]
16:09 ST: Yeah, I also think it’s interesting, you mentioned, at one point, grandparents. I think it’s just an interesting moment that I’m hearing from a lot of different people about looking back to things, lessons we learned from our grandparents during this time of resilience during hard times or how to even just sort of that home setting stuff of how do we grow our own food, how do we make every little bit last and not have food waste and other things. So I think that you’re in an interesting position where you… What I’m observing is, you have all this traditional knowledge that you respect, but then you also have all of this modern knowledge about media and technology. And there is sort of this time right now where we’re all trying to do things online, but then we’re also trying to understand how to do things in ways that haven’t been done for over 100 years. There’s this weird synergy that you seem like you’re in a pretty perfect position to be the one who can guide people in that.
17:15 GK: Yeah, and that’s all I can hope to be. I’m really just trying to show people what I’ve learned from my experience, and that’s where I mean trying to give my experience to the people that I work with, some of the organizations and being in that kind of consultant capacity, as well, ’cause I’ve also served that in many different forms for different organizations all across the board. For an example, just within this year of just some of the material that gets published for Native American or indigenous students for any marketing. Just like the phrasing or just the flow of the words and things in that way, I definitely just added my insight in some of these things. And from a communication perspective or using my education that I have to apply that in a way that’s respectful and not just being like, not necessarily sensitive about the subject but just kind of letting them know this is how some people might see it and that’s just kind of my professional opinion. And then it’s met with positive feedback, so that’s good. And that’s where I, in all senses of the capacity, just to trying to be that person just to offer my advice but I’m never to be like involved in that person’s life.
18:34 GK: I’ll tell you what I want or what you need to hear if you ask me to you. But for me, my two points of advice from both my grandfathers on either side, both my grandfathers were both in the Vietnam War. My grandpa Myrin is a bad ass, he’s a Marine, but one of his points of advice I still have with me now from when I think I was in middle school is, “Don’t take shit from nobody.” I was like, “Alright. I hear you.” And then, yeah, and that’s kind of like how I’ve lived a lot of my professional and personal careers as well. You gotta stick up for yourself or you gotta stick up for the people or when you see something like, “Hey, that was… That wasn’t very nice.” Simple as that. I’m usually the one first one to say something. And then my other grandpa, he was in the army, but his advice too was is like, “Pray for your worst enemy. Pray for the world too.” There’s only so much I can do.
19:32 GK: I’ll pray that you help them in, like turn around and see where you went wrong. All my family is inspiring. I learned a lot from them. For me… And I think during this time, the quarantine time too, I think it’s just like I’m really processing a lot of those moments or things like that so even now I’m facing a lot of just relief from those… Even grad school too was traumatic for me too just being able to just to personally heal myself or have that quality time is really nice right now. So I think I’m feeling a lot more wholesome, put together instead of being spread out. Being a grad student, like professor, has been… All these different things that were just happening all that once. And I was just… But now, I’m like, “Alright, you can… ” I can take my time, I can designate what I need to do in my own way. I think that’s where I’m finally at and that it’s just like… It’s nice to be in control instead of having to be on deadlines. I’m still on deadlines, but I’m finally out of school, honestly.
20:38 GK: I’ve been in school my whole life.
20:39 ST: Grad school is hard.
20:42 ST: Grad school is traumatic. Yeah, I just wanna touch on one other thing. And you were kinda bringing it up, but… And last time we talked, you talked a little bit about that early home sickness that you felt in coming to Flagstaff. And just right now, I’m feeling, as this pandemic continues on and as we’re looking to the future, that’s one thing that’s still kinda hanging over me, is my immediate family live on the East Coast. My parents have conditions that make them high risk for this. It’s just starting to kinda weigh on me about how long is it gonna be before I can see my family again? Yeah, I was just thinking about that as you’re isolated here and your family is back in Laguna and probably also some of them spread out in another places. How much is that on your mind about just that disconnection from them and when you’ll be able to be connected again?
21:41 GK: Yeah, it’s definitely tough during those times, just like the first part of the month, it was my grandparent’s… Their anniversary. Last year we celebrated their 50th. Bunch of family came together, we had a whole barbecue and event for it. Yeah, it sucks to not have those times and just being able to chill out with everybody in the house, just hanging out. But I think everybody is definitely coping with it in their own way, I gather from my family. And our community, too, is stepping up. It seems like our village officials and things like that, they’re giving food boxes and items to our community, so that’s good to see and good to hear. And our governor of Laguna is actually my uncle. I don’t know. I think there’s…
22:27 GK: It sucks but I’m kind of almost used to it. I don’t know. It’s kind of weird, ’cause I feel like I’ve definitely gotten to the point where I’m almost emotionally numb to some of these things. And that came from even earlier before, earlier than that, from college and things like… I went to Albuquerque for high school. And first couple of times, leaving home, and then my mom and I would cry, like, “I miss you,” each week or whatever. From there, just kinda built my skin just from those moments of… Alright. I can’t be crying every time I say bye or all these different things. So I can’t get emotional or to the point where it affects me, so I just have to stay focused and… But school. School, I gotta keep getting A’s on my report card or whatever, all the way from grade school to now, just pushing myself. I think that’s been like the driving force but… And then too, for me, ’cause my family gathers around my educational accomplishments too, so it’s like… That’s a weird thing to think about. [laughter]
23:36 ST: Well, I’m sure it gives them comfort right now knowing that you’re doing good.
23:40 GK: Yeah, yeah, I think it was definitely the thing, the respect I got from my parents and my dad and… You’re doing it, you’re not being a [23:51] ____, as they say back home, being a little clown or whatever, running around. I have these jobs to maintain or my little family life here. So yeah, I think they’re all definitely proud of me and I’m proud of them, too, but I think I’ll definitely have to be better in my communication with them too. I think everybody misses each other. It’s at the tipping point where everybody is like, “Alright, how’s everybody really doing or… ” I think I have to step up my own communication as the Master of Communication.
24:22 GK: It’s still a crazy time. I think it’s definitely a crazy point in time. In history, it’s gonna be remembered for a while. ‘Cause I definitely think these moments like this in documentation are pretty awesome, so…
24:36 ST: Thank you for listening to Do Good, Be Good. For show notes on all of our episodes, visit dogoodbegoodshow.com. If you want more behind the scenes stories and insights, check out the show page on Facebook at facebook.com/dogoodbegoodshow. Thank you to Geoff Kie for sharing his story. I will continue to bring you a new episode of this show every other week. Today’s episode was produced, recorded, and edited by me. To subscribe to the show for free, so that you get each episode as soon as it is released, you can search for Do Good, Be Good in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Music or your podcast purveyor of choice. Music in this episode is bathed in fine dust by Andy G Cohen released under Creative Commons Attribution international license and discovered in the free music archive. Until next week, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom signing off. [music]