About Jacob Butler
Jacob Butler is Onk Akimel O’Odham. He is the community gardens coordinator for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. He has worked for his community in the cultural resources office for the past 15 years, previously worked as the cultural resource specialist and was the primary contact for the section 106 government-to-government consultation for the tribe, the release states.
Jacob has worked with many indigenous communities across the country during his time as the community garden coordinator. Jacob is also a board member for the non-profit Native Seeds Search.
Lesson 1: Know Your Worth 10m 09s.
Lesson 2: Stand behind your principles unless they conflict with a greater value 16m 18s.
Lesson 3: Engage the world 18m 15s.
Lesson 4: Invest in lasting impact 22m 33s.
Lesson 5: Address issues with solutions not complaints 27m 05s.
Lesson 6: Don’t wait for change 29m 08s.
Lesson 7: Address conflict analytically to find common ground 34m11s.
Lesson 8: Don’t let fear limit what you can do 38m 53s.
Lesson 9: Follow through but know when to ask for help. 43m 06s.
Lesson 10: The greatest change I can affect is my own 47m 04s.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:00:00] Hello, welcome to our podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn. Where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not mere facts to an audience of future leaders around the globe. In other words, we will be talking to interesting people about their interesting experiences. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee, and I’m your host.
I’m originally from the Netherlands and currently living in the state of Arizona in the United States. Also known as the Dutchman in the desert. My company is involved in executive search and performance coaching and Oh yeah. In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to live in four countries on three continents.
This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum PDF and PDF helps up and coming professionals accelerate their performance into modern workplace. I hope you will enjoy this program.
Our guest today is Jacob Butler. Welcome Jacob.
Jacob Butler: [00:01:03] Well, thank you. Happy to be here.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:01:05] Wonderful. I appreciate your on board. Jacob is a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and he is an, Onk Akimel O’Odham, the indigenous name of his people.
He has lived within the community, his entire life. Jacob is an artist, and he specializes in traditional shell work ranging from shell etching and carving to overlay an inlay. He is equally known as a skilled Potter, practicing the paddle anvil technique that pottery styles used by his ancestors. His work can be found and has been on display in collections of local museums, national monuments, the Smithsonian and private collections around the world.
Jacob is also the community gardens coordinator for the Salt River Pima- Maricopa, Indian community, a position he has held for the past 17 years. During this time, he has worked with many indigenous communities across the country. Jacob has served on many boards related to the arts and culture. And currently Jacob is the chair for the non-profit native seed search board of directors.
Wow. And I have to mention that. Of course, we are both living in Arizona and as we both know, Phoenix, Arizona is known as the fastest growing city in the United States, the fifth largest city in the United States, but only over the last more 150 years because your ancestors have been here for thousands of years.
And it was remarkable in history that around 1870 or so when the first settlers came out here, they found. Very massive irrigation canals that indicated that indeed people used to live here. And that is related to the name, Phoenix to mythical bird risen from the ashes. But truly your ancestors have been here for hundreds, thousands of years. Right?
Jacob Butler: [00:03:11] We like to set a time immemorial in our creation stories say that we come from here. And so as far back as anybody could remember, we’ve always been here we’re of this earth, or we’re indigenous to the land, you know, and when those settlers came and they saw these ancient sites and they said, you know, people used to live here.
Well, that’s not exactly true. We still do live here. We’ve never left. But just like any other living culture, those cultures evolve, or regress and they become something else. So, no living culture stays the same. And so, when they see the O’odham of today or of that time, they didn’t reflect the way that those sites looked.
Those ancient ruins. And so, they, they said just that, that these people once lived here. And so, we like to say that we’re still here and we’ve never left, but that’s how Phoenix got his name is. Because basically the entirety of Phoenix is built upon the ancestral home sites of our people. And so, they gave it the name Phoenix, like the mythical bird rising from the ashes.
And so, it it’s fitting, but at the same time, we’d like to make that correction to say that we are those same people, the only culture, or the only or tribe or people that are able to stay the same are dead societies. Archeology likes to put, starts and ends to things. And so. What that really says is from this period to this period, we lived a certain lifestyle that remained pretty much the same.
And so, when you refer to our ancestors, as the Holcomb, they’re speaking to only a short section in time in the timeline of our ancestry. And so, yeah, I just wanted to make that statement.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:04:51] No, I think it’s a very important point. And I, I look at it that indeed at the origin of the fastest growing city in the United States, there is your community.
And that is very powerful in itself again, because of the very long history. And of course, the cultural aspects of your community. I, I look forward to discussing the, the 10 lessons that you have learned. And I have to assume that it wasn’t necessarily learned over 50 years, correct.
Jacob Butler: [00:05:28] I would say no. But the, the lifestyle and the standard of living, like the life expectancy for my people is a little lower. And usually that’s true on the reservations across the country. And so, I think we live a little faster life and we we’ve become grandparents a little sooner. And, and so some of the things that took some people, maybe 50 years to learn I’ve learned a little faster.
But I still have a lot of other things to learn. And I’m still trying to struggle with some of these things that that my parents taught me over the years.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:05:55] It’s very interesting. And, and perhaps before we get into the 10 lessons that you’ve provided, is there any particular lesson that you have learned that you say that that really stands out or that, that is really perhaps the most important lesson that you have learned?
Jacob Butler: [00:06:14] The way we say our way of life in, in O’odham is (Indigionous language) **************** is our way of life, it’s, it’s the underlying belief system that that’s expressed in all cultural aspects. But it’s how we live our life, how we interact with one another. And one of the main things is to, to be selfless, you know, and to treat others, you know, it’s just like the, like the Bible would say, treat others as you would expect to be treated.
Right. And, and when people come over, it doesn’t matter if we have nothing to eat. And the only, only piece of food we have, or even if it’s water, we offer it to our, to our guests, you know? And my dad is like the perfect example of that. Like I can remember as a kid waking up in the middle of the night and people would come over asking for rides, needing help, needing to go to the hospital and well, let, let me backtrack a little bit my father was a behavioral health counselor for 25 years. And so, he counseled a lot of community members with addiction. And so, people would come over like two in the morning, three in the morning just wanting to talk. And I can remember my dad sitting outside and talking to them, giving them rides.
I remember sitting in his office like, well into the night, just sitting with people, drinking coffee with them so that they wouldn’t relapse. And I watched my dad saved somebody’s life on the road that was run over. I’ve watched the stop many times to help people in car, car wrecks or help people get back on the road, change tires, and I’ve watched, people drive down the road with his car and him in it, you know?
And, and so I’ve seen that growing up. And I think I seen it so much that I, I had the opposite reaction where I was less willing to help because I felt people took advantage of that. But. My dad can go work anywhere in this community. And even outside of this community and people know him and people respect him.
And my father had a really good name, and it was based on the principles that he lives his life. And he he’s truly the most selfless person that I know. And to be honest, he’s one of the happiest people I know. And so. I think he’s happier in the service of others. And so that’s something that I’m still trying to do.
I try, but I know in no way is equal in that respect.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:08:25] Yeah. That’s a, that’s a very interesting point. And, and obviously something that we should all adhere to helping others and taking care of others, especially those who need it, who are in a position where they cannot take care of themselves. And, and it’s good.
Good to take the example of your, of your elders, of your parents and your father in particular. That’s a good lesson to learn even if perhaps when you’re young I guess many of us tend to be a little bit more selfish. Yeah. Right.
Jacob Butler: [00:08:56] And I definitely lived that life. So, But, you know, I think it’s returned to you tenfold.
And I think in his, in his experience in watching him, I’ve seen that I’ve seen people come and help them and do things for him even when he never asks. And so it’s just a good way to live your life. And, and I think when I was looking at the lessons that you asked me to explain, like I didn’t realize it, but I, a lot of what he’s taught me is, you know, rubbed off on me and I do find those values being expressed in the things that I do in my life.
I just, I think it’s just the shadow of how he is. And that’s something that I strive for.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:09:32] Well, that’s a great point. It’s a good point to start with. When we look at the, the lessons learned the first lesson that you provided, know your worth, what comes to mind with that?
Jacob Butler: [00:09:43] So I use an example, I guess, in my art.
Before I started any type of like new medium. And so, for me, like, I like to move around, and our art forms work in different mediums because it keeps things fresh. And, and for me, the study of the art form is, is really what gets me excited about things. And so, the work that I put into my, my art, it doesn’t just start with being, picking up a paint brush and putting it into canvas or picking up a piece of silver and starting to manipulate it with the chasing tool.
It it’s hours and hours of research before you even get into the actual craft. And so, I would go to market and because I felt that I was not of the degree or standard that some of these artists that were known or had names behind them and had a lot of things experience, I would sell my work for a lot less.
I would sell my work for a lot less and I would downplay my own worth in the conversations that I have with the customers and even to the point where I’d point out mistakes of my work, basically talking to, so I had a sales.
Siebe Van Der Zee: Bad salesperson.
Jacob Butler Yeah. And so what I kind of learned though, that, you know, a lot of people wouldn’t buy him her work.
And I asked somebody was really interested in my work. They’re a friend of mine and so I felt comfortable enough to ask them. And I said, you know, you passed on my, my piece here. I said, but I feel that it’s executed a little better than the piece that you bought down the way. And, and I understand that art subjective and it touches people in different ways.
And so something that, that may not catch your eye in my, you know, my booth is going to catch your eyes somewhere else, but I felt comfortable enough asking him and he said, well, When I went to your booth, you, you told me all of the things that was wrong with it all the things that you messed up on, and then you sold it for next to nothing.
And he said, I really didn’t want to pay for it. And he said one because you downplayed what it was. He said, the other reason is You don’t have value in it yourself. And to me, I’m like, I do, you know, just putting the number on it. I was, I was looking at it like, well, if I, even if I sell anything, I’m successful, but what he was saying is that if I don’t find value in my own work to put a price on, on it, that reflects the work that went into it, then why should I expect others to?
And so, it kind of resonated with me and I sat on it for a while. And, and, and so the next market we had, I put my prices like very high. And I said, well, this is what I’m going to sell it for. You know, I, I do have a job. I work full time as the garden coordinator. And I said, you know, I do this on the side, but I’m going to own the work that went into it.
I’m going to own the time and what it meant to me to make these things. And I’m going to put a price on it. And if it sells then great. And if not, I’m not feeding my children with this. And so, the sales that I make off of my artwork, I’m able to do things with my kids. I’m able to give them a fuller life, take them on vacation.
Show them things that my parents showed me and provide for them in a little bit better way than just by getting by you know? And so, if I sell it great, and if not, I’ll find another home for it later. And so, what was interesting as I used to have collaborative booths with a friend of mine and it was all to save money, so we would work on something together and we would put it out and we would only have to pay half the price of the booth.
And he said, well, you. Determine the cost of this, where you want to sell it for. And I said, well, and it was a pot. It was a, it was a vessel that takes a lot of skill. And there’s not very many people that, that make them. And we made together, and I had painted in, and there was over 40 hours a week. The work in this, in this vessel and it’s something that was rare.
And so, I said, well, I want $1,200 for this. And he got kind of upset with me. He’s more of the bread and butter selling a bunch of things to make his living. And so, he said, well, you’re not going to make more than 60 bucks on it, pay me half. And then whatever you make on it, you can, but you’re probably going to go home with it.
And he was really upset. And so, I said, all right, cool. And so, I, I put it out and before the market even started, a gentleman came on me. He said, this is, this is very rare. What is this? And I was explaining to him, you know, the process. And I kept in mind not to downplay my worth. And, and I told him, you know, this is, this is how it’s done.
This is these are how many people still practice this? This is the history of it. And he said, well, how much are you asking? And so. I only wanted $1200 so I told him 1500 and he said, well, I have 1100 right now, cash I’ll pay it. And then you can leave it at your booth, and I’ll come back for it later.
And my friend’s eyes are like, like just got so big and his jaw dropped to the floor. And I mean, to me, that, that, that kind of just like cemented or solidified everything that, that guy had told me that the time before.
And if you find value in yourself, others will see that as well. And, and, and that, that doesn’t just correlate to sales it’s value in your words and knowing what you’re speaking his truth and when you’re presenting or sharing information to other people or educating them in, whether it be the field or in life or in, in the arts, if you don’t believe in yourself, they’re not going to and…
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:14:39] There’s wisdom right there. I agree. And I see, of course I can imagine I’m not an artist, of course, but as an artist, it’s not just the time it took to put it together. There is right. The artistic talents. Plus, the research, as you said that you do, but the end product, that’s what stands out and I’ve seen some of your artwork and it looks amazing.
I see behind you some examples in, in, in the background amazing items that you create, but I understand that humility, perhaps initially will say, well, you know, let’s see if somebody is interested and then indeed, if you know your worth, then you can charge accordingly. And you find out that people are willing to pay that. That’s, that’s a very interesting lesson right there.
The second lesson that’s you come up with it. It is definitely connected as well but stand behind your principles unless they conflict with a greater value. There may have been some situations that you have dealt with where your principles were perhaps stronger than issues that you were dealing with. And how do you deal with that?
Jacob Butler: [00:15:49] Yeah, so I, I, I’m very stubborn and I do stand behind our principles. And so, it’s very hard to, to change my opinion sometimes because of that, but if those principals hurt or impede the way that I really live my life and the belief system that I follow, then you have to adjust them.
And so, for what, I guess, what I’m trying to say is, for example, the benefit of the welfare of my, my kids, you know, I’ll do anything for my kids. That’s the whole reason I get up and go to work. You know, I don’t think anybody can say, even in the, in the, in a job, they love that they would rather be at work than with their family.
So there was an instance where I had to make a choice on something that I believed in at work. And if I stood by it, I probably wouldn’t have a job. And it doesn’t mean that I. I didn’t believe in that principle, but it would affect my ability to care for my kids and really, and any job I tell my wife and my kids, I don’t, I don’t work for my tribe.
I don’t work for the people. I work for them, the whole reason I get up and I function every day. And I, and I, and I do write is because of my kids, you know, and those, those children, those are, those are the, the greatest value to me in my life. And those, those are the reasons that I, that I get up every day and do things that I do.
And so sometimes you have to set aside your principles for the greater good and the things that you believe in. And so, I think that if I made sense is what I was trying to, trying to say.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:17:12] Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Jacob and I’m, I’m thinking also about the fact that you are a grandfather.
Jacob Butler: [00:17:18] Yeah, I’m a grandfather. I would say a little earlier than I want it to be, but no choice and they’re definitely blessings.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:17:27] The third lesson that you list is engaged the world. What do you mean with that?
Jacob Butler: [00:17:32] Well, one of the greatest things that the gifts that my parents gave me was the understanding that our world doesn’t end on the border of our reservation, my friends growing up had really no desires to leave this community or engage with anybody else other than our own.
And to know them today in some of them, like they’ve, they’ve never even experienced different foods. You know, my, my mom and dad taught me proper etiquette through like, so I know how to use my napkins. I know which fork to use and all that things, you know? And so we, we would take people that we work with out to eat.
And these people like that, we, we, we knew all our lives. Like they just were so far out of their element because they didn’t, they’ve never experienced anything. They never had a desire to experience anything. But I think it’s something that my parents instilled in me. Very early on. I remember going on vacation, like going to California all the time, Texas, New Mexico, Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, like, Oh, all the States it’s like adjacent to us.
And since then, I’ve, I’ve traveled all over the country. And my kids are just talking to me about all the places that I’ve been. I’ve had the opportunity to travel overseas, but the situations haven’t Allowed me yet. And so, one of the greatest things that I regret is not being able to participate in the slow foods movement in Italy.
I had I had a scholarship to attend a two-week conference there in Italy a few years ago. And my job requirements kept me here, but those are the things that I, I still strive for. And I think seeing that it just opens the world to me, like you said, like you like to say, like celebrate those differences, but to see a lot of the commonalities that exist throughout human nature and the people, you know, like at first, it’s a little scary, you know, to, to go outside your comfort zone.
But once you do like your horizons are just that much greater,
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:19:16] I fully agree. Absolutely. And, and I hope you will have a chance to. Travel the world in that sense just to experience and for most people, of course, it’s not to say, well, we liked that other country better than our, our native country.
That’s not what it’s all about, but to experience it, it just opens your mind. I think that’s an important point.
Lesson number fo… Sorry, go ahead.
Jacob Butler: [00:19:39] And before we go on really quick, I would say that too, like, I didn’t mean to cut you off, but I enjoy traveling a lot. I enjoy seeing different things.
And one of the things that I, that I find kind of scary as seeing the same thing everywhere. So, when I go to a different state, I want to see the local culture. I don’t want to see the same Starbucks and McDonald’s on the corner and it’s, so I tried to really like immerse myself in the culture of the area.
And for the longest time I would, I would tell my wife, you know, I would go anywhere in the world, but I’ll never live anywhere else. And then I think in the recent years, I would say, you know, I, I would like to live here for a while. I would like to live here for a while, but I think I, I would always have a longing to come home.
And I always think that my community, which is human nature is the communities that we’re born into as well, where we have that nostalgia. And that is where our heart lies.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:20:25] And that is the most common. That is the most common. If I think about people that are used to traveling, whether it’s for business or on vacation, they really enjoyed the traveling.
But at the end of the day, let’s say to use that expression, they want to go back to the country that they came from. There are exceptions. I’m one of the exceptions, I’m the Dutchman in the desert. Right. And, and of course I know other people that have moved to a different country and have adjusted, but the vast majority of people.
They really believe that they should be in their native country. And with that, I think many people will say that’s the best country or community in the world. And we feel that way because that fits with our family and our customs and the food indeed as well. But I hope one day to invite you to come to the Netherlands and show you around and we’re going to have some good food over there to the list that that would be, that would be awesome.
Invest in lasting impact lesson number four.
Jacob Butler: [00:21:31] Yeah. So, a lot of the things that I do, like my decisions to get involved in them are for the profit or the personal gain it’s for the impact to, to not, maybe not just my community, but specifically to my kids and the world that they’re going to grow up in, you know?
And, and like, so with my art, I like to try to get engaged in things that are going to be here for a while. I recently just did I’m part of a Trailhead system for the program museum here in Phoenix. So, the ancient side of our people and those interpretive panels are going to be up for at least 20 years, if not longer.
And once they are retired, they’re going to go into their collections. And so whether it’s 20 years or 50 years from now, and I’m no longer here, my children can go and request to see those things. And so those are things that I do with my art to, to try to give a lasting legacy for them so that they can be proud of their father and, and the things that.
That I stood for, but on a greater sense just like the work I’m doing with the native seed search, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. You know, it’s a board position that doesn’t pay you requires a lot of your time, the time that you can be spending with your family or doing other things.
And I didn’t want to do it. And a lot of my friends kind of weren’t big fans of the organization. And I, and I would like to say, or not, but, you know, I, I’m a fan of Native Seed Search. I believe what they stand for is, is, is valid. And we’ve seen multiple accounts of loss of, of seed diversity in our communities.
Not only throughout the Southwest, but throughout the world. And so, having this organization outside of any one tribal or federal government leadership is, is vital, you know, and, and actually we’ve came back to them as a tribe to get seeds that were lost here. And so one of the complaints was, well, it’s an organization with a name native in it, and there’s really no native representation there.
And so I talked to some of my friends and some of the biggest opponents of, of their organization. I said, you know, I was approached to sit on their board, and I wanted to know how you would feel about that. If I took it, I still would like to be your friend and say, one of the biggest opponents was like, you know, my biggest problem is that they’re profiting off the sale of indigenous seeds.
And there’s no representation for the people. They’re not talking to the people. There’s no communication with the people. And so, I looked into it and, and that’s not how it was established. It was established with those fundamental values, but for some time they had gone away from it. And so, I looked at it as opportunity to be the change that we complain about.
And I think a lot of people complain, but they don’t rise to the occasion when the opportunity to make that change themselves is there. And so, I got on there and then they lost their chair because of the COVID issues. That we’re going through and there’s a lot of loss within tribal communities. And so, they lost the chair that had recently signed on to be the chair of the executive board of directors.
They resigned to handle things in their community. And so, the board asked me, well, what are the things you see wrong? And so, I just laid out this whole list of things that I saw wrong.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:24:35] They said, you should be the chairman.
Jacob Butler: [00:24:37] I said, well, you sound like the perfect candidate to take that place. And so, I told my wife and she was like, you know, you’re already invested a lot of time in this.
You you’re going to invest a lot more. You’re, you’re an artist. You still work. When are you going to have time to spend on your kids? And, and I looked at it and I, you know, I said, you know, if I don’t do this, then will I have the right to complain and say the things that I’m complaining about, if I didn’t take the opportunity to make the change, when it was offered to me and what would my kids, how would they see me in the future when they learned that I had that opportunity and chose not to take it, how would they see the entity and what the entity would be a service to them and the communities that there were created to serve. If I don’t take this opportunity to make those lasting changes.
And so sometimes I take responsibilities that don’t really benefit me personally,
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:25:24] but it has a lasting impact, right? That’s the point.
Jacob Butler: [00:25:28] I agree, and my kids are going to be served for it and the community will be better served for it. And so sometimes you got to put yourself behind the good of the people and so…
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:25:39] I, I can agree with that. Of course. And, and when I think about the next lesson, interesting address issues with solutions, not complaints, it kind of fits with what we were just talking about. You can complain about all the things that are wrong, we’re wrong, but to think in terms of solutions.
Jacob Butler: [00:26:00] Yeah.
And I think a lot of times we get into these modes of like, we come to these meetings and we just want to unload all of our stresses and all of our dissatisfactions, but that’s not really conducive to progress. And so, for me, what I try to do is, you know, I started off on that same note. I mean, like, I like to go back and refer to human nature a lot, but I mean, that’s one aspect of being human is to find fault in things.
So, you know, I started off on that, but before I expressed my concerns to other people, I try to have a solution to those things and come to the table to offer some alternatives of what may affect positive change. And so, I tried to do that in, in all the things I do. And I try to, I try to really think about it in a pros and cons kind of way, and how feasible these changes will, will be in how they’ll affect. Like can see. I mean, even when I’m talking, I can see how all these things kind of play together. Cause I try to see how it’s going to affect the long term and not just my situation, but I want to, I want to make something change for the betterment, not just fall into another cycle of, of another problem.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:27:07] It doesn’t mean you’re not critical. It doesn’t mean you say, Oh, whatever, everything is fine, because I don’t want to complain. You want to, you want to help create change or adjustments. Right? That’s what you’re looking for.
Jacob Butler: [00:27:20] And I think that’s like the best way to, to come to any, any discussion is to have an idea of an options to, to move forward.
Complaining just keeps you where you’re at, if not set you back because you create animosity within those environments and within the people that you’re trying to work with and it’s not conducive to progress. And so, I do complain, but then I offer. Solutions how to get past that.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:27:44] Well, quite fitting lesson number six don’t wait for change that fits with, well, if you want to effectuate change, if you want to create change, but don’t wait for it. How do you make your case if you don’t want to let’s say complain, right?
Jacob Butler: [00:28:02] Exactly. And that’s the day like I have a lot of people, I respect a great deal and, and I think a lot of them let their emotions in past offenses, I would say, not get in the way or affect, but because I think those past issues should be relevant, but not to the point where it stops the change, you know?
And so, a lot of people say, well, I’m not working with them because they’ve done all this and they have a history of this, and they’ve never worked with us in the past or when someone’s coming to the table and they want to make those changes. And they want to maybe a tone for some of those actions in the past.
And create something that’s better. If we’re not willing to be part of the discussion or part of that action, then we have no basis to complain anymore. And so, I do feel that bringing up past atrocities and past issues is valid, but how do we move forward from those things? And if you’re stuck in that mindset, that I’m not going to move forward at all, because I, no matter what, and so emotional, I don’t want to work with you.
It’s never going to get better. And so as much as it sucks sometimes to get out of the house and drive across the state to go do something that, that I’m not getting paid for it, you know, like I can see the benefit of it in the, or, and I can see how it directly benefits our people and, and the greater communities.
And, and, and it makes me feel good that I can say that I’m part of something that, that has an impact like that. And sure. And that, to me, that’s, that’s the reward is, is doing that. And, you know, I, I don’t think on a personal level, I’m as selfless as my dad, but I think the only reason I’m even into all this stuff and I want to help are, those lessons that they’ve, they they’ve given me And so who knows maybe another 10 years I’ll have some more truths
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:29:51] I’m kind of curious Jacob, when I, when I think about native American culture, compare it to whatever we call it, suburban culture. The differences are clear. The difference in history is, is clear in the state of Arizona where you and I are living. I believe there are 21 tribes living here in Arizona. There is of course, massive history over hundreds, again, thousands of years and certain tribes were perhaps a little bit more aggressive.
Do you look at. Other tribes as well, this particular tribe they, they fought my ancestors and I have not forgotten. Or do you look at it perhaps to say whatever happened, happened? We are as native American tribes here in Arizona, we are all on the same level. We all agree with one another.
Jacob Butler: [00:30:50] You’re right there, there are many trials here and we’re all distinct and individual communities with their own languages and their own belief systems.
And even within the O’Odham communities, we have dialectical differences and variations on our stories. And is it true that we find with a lot of people are that a lot of people warred with us. Yes. And so the, the go-to tribe that everybody relates to our enemy would be. (Indigenous Language) ******** or the Apache. And, and now that word has come to me in the enemy, but at one time, that word didn’t mean the enemy we’re just, that name was just attributed to other people.
And so the Apaches were known as the ******or the ******* we’re known as the *******. As most of the Apache’s call themselves and there’s historic accounts or oral traditions that say that we did get along with them, that we traded with them, that we visited with them. And then there was times of war and bad times and hardships.
And really, you know, when the, when the Spanish came into this area, there was probably one of those times where there was some bad blood between the people as history goes, it’s the story of the Victor, or whoever’s writing that story. And so that’s an American histories point of view or viewpoint on the relationships amongst tribes.
And so today, yes, there’s even like some of our leadership that I’ve heard, you know, say disparaging things about other Apache tribes and. Lists documented accounts of, of, of Wars or battles that we’ve had with them. And even some of the different human tribes that we share a reservation with.
There’s like jokes that we tease each other about. But I think now today it’s, it’s vital that we come together that we unify. I don’t think all of our viewpoints are the same because we’re distinct and we’re, we have different beliefs.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:32:39] We’re, we’re, we’re kind of stepping into a lesson number seven, right address conflict analytically to find common ground. That’s exactly what you’re talking about.
Jacob Butler: [00:32:51] You had to put some of those things down, you know, some of those emotional differences in, in those historic events that impacted our communities negatively from one another, you know, happened and they can be observed, but how do we move past that to, to make a better future?
And I think that’s more important. And how do we not only acknowledge those times, but the good times, because there were. And I think when you’re telling a story, the juicy bits are where people cling too. And then that’s what passes down, you know, in time. And so that’s how, that’s what we learn in school.
But if we look back at our, or our own stories and the knowledge that we pass down, you know, there were, there were those times. And then I used to do a consultation for the tribe as well for a government-to-government consultation for section 106. And it’s the precursor to NAGPRA Native American Graves Protection, Repatriation Act. And so, it’s, it’s the law that says that nobody has the right to own the remains of our ancestors or the items of cultural patrimony that exists for the continuance of our cultural practices. And so, the consultation that I did was the precursor to those laws in the, in that position.
And I think a lot of times when we would go to meetings there, there was a times maybe not from our staff, because I think our staff viewed it a little differently, but there was at times an us versus them kind of mentality, like we’re going to come, and this is what we want out of this meeting. And then the other counterparts, they have an idea of what they want from the meeting and.
That already sets up an atmosphere for clash, you know? And so, a lot of times it’s, it’s, it’s based on emotion and it’s based on what I want to get out of this because of all from, from our side, it will be from all the atrocities that have been done to my people for all this time. I’m not going to budge at all.
This is what I want, and this is what you’re going to give me, you know? But to me, like I said, it’s not conducive to lasting change and it’s not conducive to getting somebody to hear your point of view. And so, I, I really like to really weigh out those things and think of the impacts and what I’m requesting and what they’re asking and how that affects the outcome.
And is it something that we’re fighting for that’s of no value really, but just to win or …
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:34:58] We need more people like you who think like you, I would say around the world to try to find common ground and understand that not everybody is in agreement. That’s not the point. That’s not a fair goal to aim for, but to find common ground and, and obviously to do it in a, in a peaceful manner, that would be the way to a solution.
Jacob Butler: [00:35:21] And I think, I think when you start to, to, I guess, to get emotional in your, your train of thought is, is impacted and your analytical thinking or your logical thinking is kind of out the door.
And so, it becomes a fight and, and I don’t really see that conducive to success. And so, I try not to do that. And I, I, I try to play the devil’s advocate as well and see like other points of view. And I really liked to debate. And a lot of people saw you like to argue. Well, I, I like to debate, you know, and I think if you’re doing it in a civil manner, and if you can, if you can state your, your argument or your, their position on something, if, if you know what you’re talking about and you can relay it in a good way, I think that impacts other people.
And I think they can see your point of view, but also be willing to see their point of view and see the truth as well, and see where, where they may be right. And you may be wrong, you know, and be able to be okay with those things. And I think that’s how you really like find the truth or something that’s a stronger opinion.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:36:25] I think. And I think you make a very good point. I also believe as an immigrant, that we have to learn more about the native American cultures in a way. I almost want to say we take it for granted, but we are really many people don’t really know the true history, the true cultural elements and the differences between various tribes and native Americans as if it’s all the same and it’s not, it’s almost like different countries. It is, it is something that I think many people need to learn more about native American cultures. Yeah.
Jacob Butler: [00:37:03] Truly nations within a nation, you know?
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:37:06] Exactly, exactly. And that’s, I think is. It’s very positive to learn more and to understand more definitely.
Now lesson number eight, don’t let fear limit what you can do. There are limitations as far as what you can do, and sometimes it’s based on fear, the danger of not succeeding or the danger that you cross the line and perhaps upset people if not offend people. But what, what are your thoughts about that?
Jacob Butler: [00:37:35] Basically what it says, like don’t let fear limit what you can do with it. And I guess what I’m saying is if I were to say no to everything that I was scared of, I probably wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in now. I wouldn’t have learned half of the things that I’ve learned, you know. And so, anytime you get into something new, there’s a fear there it’s foreign, you know, it’s something that’s not, that’s not known to you.
It’s uncomfortable. And so, you’re scared. And, and for me, really, what I’m saying is, is when the opportunity comes, take advantage of it, whether you’ve done it before or not, believe in yourself again, know your worth, believe in yourself. So, an example, the first time that I went on travel for my work was to Wisconsin and they asked me to do a presentation after the conference that I had attended.
There’s another story of high school. And so, I said, yeah, I’ll stay, I’ll stay a little later. I got permission. And I think I was about 24, 23. And they ended up being not only their entire school district, but the community at large. And so, there was, I believe like 1600 people there in this big auditorium.
There’s me. And so, as a young adult I was very anti-social and I’m like, that was my first kind of trial by fire to, to be able to present in front of large crowds and things like that. And it came comfortable to me because I knew what I was talking about. And I was confident in what I was saying.
And I think when, when I did the enemy high artists leadership grant, what was really, I guess directly related to, to what I was saying here is a friend of mine had taken me on to on travel with him to his leadership grant the year before. And I said, you know, I can do a lot of this stuff. I studied these shells, and I would love to have the opportunity to come back.
And the person that was in charge of that program, his name was Kevin Lewis. And he said, you know, well, like Nike says, just do it. And he said, if you ever wrote a grant, I said, no, I don’t know the first thing about writing a grant. And he said, well, just do it. You never know. And we came home, and I didn’t think anything of it.
And then there was a one-week deadline before it was brought up again and my friend said, Hey, did you write that grant? Did you apply? And they said, no, He’s like why and I told him because I’ve never done that before, and I don’t want to fail. And they said, we’ll just do it, like Kevin said, just try. And so, I wrote that grant I think just some edging from our wife two days before it was due, I submitted it on the final hour.
And it was the first grant that it was ever approved. And since then, I’ve written a couple more and I’ve achieved them. But yeah, I never knew how to write grants until I tried. And I’ve learned how to do them a little better. I never knew how to make silver jewelry until I tried it. And actually, these ones here are the first post earrings that I’ve ever done, and it was because somebody asked me to
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:40:11] look beautiful. They look absolutely.
Jacob Butler: [00:40:12] Thank you. Yeah, but I think, I think when you let fear limit your potential, then you’ll never really understand or realize who you can become. And I’ve taken my pottery skills to shell, to silver. I’ve worked on hotels have designed the, the outside of hotels.
I’ve worked on historic buildings that are on the national historic registry. I’ve actually painted murals with a friend of mine at a national monument. Actually, the country’s first national monument as Casa Grande Ruins. And we painted murals within their visitor center. And we actually starred in small roles in, in their visitor orientation film. And so those are things that I’ve never done before, but I didn’t let that stop me. And, and has there been times that I’ve failed? Yes. And the, is there going to be failure in your life? Definitely. But you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying, at least try.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:41:00] You, you really have, you have come a long way and a lot because of your artistic talent.
It’s impressive. And obviously we’ll see what will come next. I think that’s always the big question and at the same time you’re on that track and I think it’s powerful. It truly is powerful. Lesson number nine, follow through, but know when to ask for help again, you’re doing well.
Everything is going well. And you’re expanding your, your scope, your artwork, you, you do different types of artwork in addition to what you used to do, but when to ask for help, how do you, how do you determine that you need to ask help because. You can do it all.
Jacob Butler: [00:41:40] I want to exhaust every other possibility.
I hate asking for help, but I, I, I identify that as an issue of mine and it’s something that I work I work on. And so, I really do hate asking for help. I try to find all the information out on my own, and I know I’m more of a private person in my own life. And I, and I know how I feel when people come to ask for help, but I usually do it, but a gripe about it to my wife and to my kids sometimes, you know?
And so, I try not to, but you get to a point where you, you have to realize either you’re going to succeed or fail by being stubborn, you know, and if, if you want to be stubborn and you don’t want to really ask for the help that, you know, you need, then you’re not only gonna fail yourself, but you’re going to let people down.
And so, there’s been times that I’ve worked on stuff and it was the first time and I had to go out and find someone to help me, you know, and what’s really cool is their willingness to help me. And I think that was based on our relationships and the things that we had shared in the past. And like the same thing with all these different things, like I’ve worked on these hotels and national monuments and things like that.
And like you said, one fell into the other and it was based on these relationships that we had with the city, or I had with the city or certain groups and through working with them, they knew me. And they were like, well, this is a really good guy. He’s always helped us out. Well, let’s offer this to him.
Let’s see if he’s able to do this. It’s kind of that, that karma, you know, like what you put out in the world comes back to you. And so I always try to give my help. Sometimes I’m not always happy about doing it in a gripe on my own to myself, but, but I do, and I try to help when I can. And it’s come back to me.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:43:13] That’s interesting. And as you mentioned earlier, and you referred to your father, but I know you do the same when people ask for your help, you’re ready to step in. You’re ready to live up, you have, you’ve given several examples of that and it may be, I don’t know whether it is, you know, a form of humility that perhaps, and I think we all have that to a certain extent.
It may be difficult to ask for help, but to offer help. There’s no reluctance, that’s what you do automatically because you want to help. And, and at the same time asking for help. Sometimes it’s difficult, but you have to figure out, like you said, that moment, he can say, yes, you have to come up with that moment for yourself to say, at this point, I need to have some assistance.
Jacob Butler: [00:44:00] And for me, like my dad, he, when people ask him for help, he just gets up and does it, he doesn’t gripe. He’s, he’s happy to do. And he’s cracking jokes all the time. And I think that’s something that I’m dealing with right now, like our gripe, you know, in you know, crack jokes and I’ll, I’ll play down on it.
But I, you know, I do, I still complain and that’s not really how it was taught, but also, I was also taught that you shouldn’t have to ask for help and. You shouldn’t offer your help. You should give it. And so, if somebody needs to sit down and get up and give them your chair, if they’re hungry, you feed them.
You don’t ask them if they’re hungry because that puts the ownership on them to ask for that food. And so, if somebody says, you know, Hey, would you like to eat? I’m going to be polite and say, Oh no, I’m okay. But if someone were to put a plate in my hand and say, here you go here, sit down, and eat with us.
Then I’m going to accept that as a gift and respect the person that gave it to me and eat it and say, I’m still thinking about giving up a seat. I’m going to respect the person that offered it to me, even though I really appreciate it. It’s I guess it’s a, it’s a traditional custom because you don’t require that the acknowledgement of needing help,
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:45:07] Lesson number 10 I find it quite powerful. The greatest change I can affect is my own.
Jacob Butler: [00:45:14] A friend of mine told me that a long time ago. And I was like, Oh, it just sounds stupid. But I was like, well, how was just changing my way of living any different than it? How is that going to do, how’s that going to mean?
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:45:28] And you say it’s the greatest change, right? It’s not just has the greatest change I can affect is my own.
Jacob Butler: [00:45:36] Yeah. And, and, and, and I, I, you know, I didn’t really believe that, but after 20 years of following things that I believe in what’s fundamental to me, those fundamental values that are, that are important to me, I focus my work on these things, you know, and through those, through my actions, I was really only working on my own myself.
And then I was placed into positions because of the work that I was doing on my own for myself. And then through my actions, other people came and asked, or I was able to teach. And and then I would like to say to like, I don’t, I freely offer my help, but I don’t force it upon anybody. And so even at work, it’s just a little different I don’t say, well, this is how you’re supposed to do something.
I wait until somebody asks and when they want my opinion, then I share it. And I, and I always share it in a way that’s respectful as well, because even within our own community, family circles teach things a little differently and communities vary even greater. And so, the way I like to say is this is how I was taught or how I know it, or how I was brought up.
This is what I learned. And then I share those things. And I also make the distinction to say that those may be different if you’re from a different community or a different family. But so, an example here is This, this garden program that we started was started in 98 and it started at a school here and then that stopped.
And then in 2004, I started again and at the time farming was not something that was conducive to success here in the community is not something that anybody cared about, and nobody really wanted to do it. And we’re a farming community. We’re an agricultural society. Well, today it’s a lot different there’s gardening components in a lot of different programs.
And when we sat with council a couple of years ago at the request of our youth council that wanted to know why don’t we farm anymore? Why can’t we, the foods that we’ve grown for thousands of years, you say to return to a traditional diet, but it’s no longer here. So why aren’t we doing that as a tribe?
And so the voices of our youth that came through our programs, went to our leadership and said, why don’t we have these? And they. They actually developed a farming feasibility study through because of their desire. And so, there’s been a big change. And when we’re sitting there talking to them, I said, well, did you work with the boys and girls club and see how they’re doing their garden program?
Or did you work with the food bank and ask them how they did their program? What about the high school? And they named a bunch of other programs within the tribe departments that have their own gardening components, even our juvenile detention center and our adult detention centers have gardens.
And one of the things that really touched me, like truly like, like impacted me personally, was that I had the opportunity to say we helped develop those. We started that every time they asked us about a program that exists here. We started that we started, we planted that seed with them. We set up their gardens, we gave them the insight, we built those programs.
And so when we’re done with those meetings, my director said, you know what? It’s easy to, to kinda downplay the impact that you guys have, because you’re just the gardeners and you guys go out and your garden over there. And nobody really sees a lot of the work, but he said, when the council asked you about 10 different programs, you’re the one that started them all.
And so, it was really cool day for me, but more so I can, I can see the change that’s in our people. When I drive home, I can see the gardens that are in their yards because of the programs that we had here. And so now gardening and hopefully agriculture on a larger scale. Isn’t just something to be respected as, as cultural heritage.
It’s something that we can actually get into. And in that there’s support behind from the people and. Eating, these foods is one thing and it helps to curb the onset of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But there’s something to be said about actually doing the work. That’s a big component of it. And so, to see this younger generation, that’s going to be the future leaders of our community really vested in some of this work is, is, is powerful.
And it shows that the impact that we make can be greater than yourself. And so, through that change that I made in myself, you know, I can see it in our community now. And so, I, I believe that it.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:50:05] It’s impressive. Again, what you just mentioned as far as the community garden and your involvement with that.
And as we discussed earlier of course you are a highly respected and successful artist. I want to ask you one more question, put you on the spot here. If you think about lessons learned, is there perhaps a lesson that you have unlearned in your life, anything that you used to do and you were happy and convinced it was the right thing.
And you came to a point where you said, you know what, I need to do things differently. Have you had a moment like that?
Jacob Butler: [00:50:44] Yeah, like I, I touched on earlier sort of, you know, it was very antisocial as a kid and, and for all the work that my mom and dad, you know, invested in me and all the time that they spent I was in boy Scouts and baseball and all these other different, like extracurricular activities.
And we were like the first boy scout troop in any reservation in, in, in the United States. And my dad had a hand in that and yeah. For all that effort. I was still a really bad kid.
You know, I did a lot of bad things as a kid and, and where I went to schools in the city. And, and at the time that I went to school was in the nineties, really in the eighties and nineties and Phoenix was, it was a dangerous time to be here, and it was very much segregated or separated by our own doing.
And so, when you went to school, you seem these little groups of all the native kids, and then you see all the little groups of like the, the church goers, like the LDS community, and then the, the Chicanos, and then not just the Chicanos, but the Mexicans, there are of Mexican descent that are from Mexico.
They will hang out with each other and then, and the black students would hang out with each other and then the. The white students would hang out with each other and they would all separate themselves. And at the time there was a big like skinhead group that I went to school with. And so, we clashed a lot and I got in a lot of trouble fighting with them.
And so for me, I was very antisocial. I only hung out with my own with my own people from the res that I knew and people that I grew up with and had a lot of hate in my heart. And I had a lot of hate towards people that I didn’t even know because of the things that were done to me by people that look like them.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:52:33] Yeah.
Jacob Butler: [00:52:35] And didn’t have anything to do with the people that I was maybe later in life. It was, it was done by, by specific people at a specific time. But I carried that with me and then I went to school and I learned all the atrocities that happened to the Americans in general, you know, and, and things that I didn’t learn in high school or junior high.
And, and then Kind of develop that anger in me, but I think I’m traveling as an adult meeting different people and, and really being able to see past some of those things and know somebody on a personal level really helped me overcome a lot of that. And I don’t think I would be the same person that I am today if I would’ve stuck to some of that and kept that hate in my heart and being able to let go of that and really fall back on these traditional teachings of acceptance and, and, and helping, not just our own people, but everybody because we all are the same, you know, and, and those differences is what makes us special.
And so, I think that that’s what I’ve learned is, is, is to be more accepting and then to let go of this hate for things that That I can’t just throw on a whole group of people for no reason.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:53:45] What an incredible journey. And like you said, you’re being confronted by various mixed messages, many of them quite negative, and you managed to grow out of that, learn by experiencing people, places having an open mind.
I think this is, this is a great lesson of wisdom that you’re sharing with me, with our audience. And I want to thank you for your participation in this in this podcast.
Jacob Butler: [00:54:14] Well, thank you. Before we go, though, I would like to, I would like to mention one other thing, cause I, you know, I give a lot of credit to my dad, but my mom was a big factor in my life as well.
And so I can remember a time when she taught me how to stand up for myself and since to know my value and one, one big lesson in life was in high school, well actually junior high. It was our first day of school. And our teacher is that I want everybody that’s from the reservation to raise their hand.
And so we all raised their hand. I was in English and he said, I want you to stay after, and I’ll give you a note so that you’re not counted late for your next class, but you need to stay after so I can talk to you. So we all did. And he said, you know, all of you guys are from the reservation. I will tell you right now, I have no respect for you.
You guys are in trouble. You, your people have always made trouble in my class. You’re never going to succeed in life. You never going to amount to anything. Okay. So just sit in the back, don’t talk, and don’t waste anybody else’s time because my students are here to learn. I was pissed off. Right. And so, I went home, and I was mad, and I was, I was like, man, I don’t want to go back to school.
This is the first day of school. Yeah. Wow. So, my mom she’s like, well, what’s going on? So, I told her the first thing in the morning, she marched us down to the principal’s office and demanded that the teacher come in there and like, she like chewed them out and she didn’t just require him to apologize to me, but to all of those kids.
And I don’t know, it’s weird. Like I usually don’t get emotional, but like it was something that really like resonated with me. And
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:55:49] That’s a big that’s a big moment. I, I, I can understand to be addressed first of all, in, in that manner. I mean, that is, I want to say the definition of discrimination. Right to be treated like that.
And then for your mom, I happened to know your mom for your mom to step up and go out there and set things straight. And I hope with the positive effect was that was the teacher or the principal. Were they open to that? Were they?
Jacob Butler: [00:56:22] Yeah, actually, no. The, the teacher or the principal first started downplaying everything and then the teacher and followed suit and the principals really protecting his staff and my mom wouldn’t stand for it.
She’s like, no, you guys are gonna make it right. And I don’t know, that was something that like, to this day I can remember clearly. And it’s something that always resonated with me. And my mom has been like a big advocate for me even. Even with all the, the, the trouble I’ve given her and put her through, like, she’s always came to my side and, and, and she’s a big advocate for me.
And so, when my dad is like this ultra-giver, my mom is this really steadfast force behind me that that’s really there to support and, and, and fight. And that taught me a lot. And so I always stand up for, for the things that I believe in. And I think that’s, that’s where I get it is, is I know my value and your opinion of me doesn’t really affect my own worth of myself.
Siebe Van Der Zee: Thank you, Jacob. For, for joining us, you have been listening to the international podcast of 10 Lessons it Took me 50 Years to Learn produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum (PDF). PDF provides webinars, social media discussions. Podcasts and parties for more information, please visit https://professionaldevelopmentforum.org/
Thank you. And stay safe.