"Because I chose to work at a Tribal institution, I am part of a greater
effort in creating a better future for our people as well as the World."
"Wolakota means to act and behave with ultimate respect, harmony, peace
and friendship. Wolakota has always been an integral aspect in development of
Sinte Gleska University and is clearly the path for accomplishing our future
"Because of our cultural knowledge and vision, I am better able to understand
the role of geotechnologies in the larger context of our institutional mission.
SGU is very unique in its commitment to cultural values and way of life. So,
because I work at SGU, I have chosen to further my growth in my culture as well
as the geospatial technologies.""The future looks very bright for this emerging technology."
Land and Natural Resources Developer - James Rattling Leaf
Field: Environmental Science and Policy
Job Title: Land and Natural Resource Developer
Place of Employment: Sinte Gleska University,
Mission, South Dakota
What is your current job and what does it entail?
Currently, I serve as a Land and Natural Resource Developer at the Sicangu
Policy Institute, a program at Sinte Gleska University (SGU).
The very essence of Sinte Gleska University stems from its location on the Rosebud
Reservation. From the beginning the founders of Sinte
Gleska University sought to establish a tribal higher education institution based on the philosophy
of tribal control and tribal self-determination. An important premise of this
philosophy was to effect change for our tribal nation. Today, in the 21st century,
Sinte Gleska University remains committed to its earliest purposes: to preserve
and teach Lakota culture, history and language and to promote innovative and
effective strategies to address the myriad of social and economic concerns confronting
the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. To further the vision of SGU’s founding fathers,
the geospatial initiatives at the Sicangu Policy Institute seek to further the
vision of the future that's a mix of traditional wisdom and modern spatial technologies.
In your day-to-day activities, who are the people that you interact with regularly?
We work with Tribal Governmental programs, Tribal community members, K-12
teachers and their students, SGU students, state and federal government programs,
and private industry. Through the NativeView
Initiative we work with 32 Tribal colleges across
the U.S. to further the development of geospatial activities at their respective
For your position, what skills do you need in geospatial technologies?
I need a broad understanding for the planning, implementation and maintenance
of our Geospatial initiatives with regard to how geospatial elements integrate
into SGU as well as the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, our K-12 schools and our communities.
Also, I need business practice skills to facilitate and fulfill federal grant
requirements that fund our efforts. Interpersonal skills also play an important
role in communicating your programs to a broad audience who might not have technical
knowledge or background.
For your position, what skills outside of geospatial technologies are required?
Leadership skills are an important part of my work. For instance, you have
to have soft skills in terms of dealing with governments, communities, and education.
I think you need the ability and skill to develop a team approach to this work.
Hiring your team is very important to your success.
What was the key factor in your career decision?
As a graduate of SGU, I found a great opportunity to build a geospatial program
from scratch. This opportunity would allow me to be responsible for the planning,
development and maintenance of the program in terms of developing all my skills
on the job.
What do you like most about your career?
Because I chose to work at a Tribal institution, I am part of a greater effort
in creating a better future for our people as well as the World. At the core
of our future plans is the institutional theme, Wahope Ungluwa Sakapi Hecel Oyate
Ki Wolakota Gluha Tokatakiya Unya Pi Kte (Reinforcing our Foundation for the
People to Go Forward in the Lakota Way). The centerpiece of this concept is Wolakota
(peace), a term conceived during the turbulent era of intertribal wars resulting
from emerging tribal nations and armed contests over resources. Tribal elders
discussed behavioral rules and codes and after many years of trial and error,
Wolakota was finally achieved. Wolakota means to act and behave with ultimate
respect, harmony, peace and friendship. Wolakota has always been an integral
aspect in development of Sinte Gleska University and is clearly the path for
accomplishing our future plans. The mission and vision of Sinte Gleska University
invites participation in growth and change on the Rosebud Reservation. Because
of our cultural knowledge and vision, I am better able to understand the role
of geotechnologies in the larger context of our institutional mission. SGU is
very unique in its commitment to cultural values and way of life. So, because
I work at SGU, I have chosen to further my growth in my culture as well as in
What do you like least about your career?
When we started the geospatial initiative at SGU, I worked many long hours
to lead, develop and sustain our geospatial efforts. At most Tribal Colleges,
new efforts are primarily led by individuals. Because of this situation, I had
to make decisions that took time away from my family, like traveling to meetings
and conferences that were necessary to find the resources to build a geospatial
program. Because of this experience, it is my goal to continue to build the necessary
infrastructure that will allow me to do the work at a high level, yet spend time
with my family. Today, the challenge is to live a balanced life.
What do you do to relax?
The majority of my free time is spent with my family and their activities.
Also, I enjoy playing sports like softball, basketball, and golf.
Who are your heroes/heroines?
My father and mother serve as my most important role models in my life and
work. Also, I do have professional colleagues that play a significant role in my professional
What advice would you give a high school student who expressed an interest
in pursuing a career in your field?
If you have an interest in geotechnologies, I would recommend that you seek
opportunities to intern or volunteer in organizations that utilize the geotechnologies.
Also, I think it is important to seek out a geospatial mentor who can work with
you to better understand all aspects of a geospatial career.
Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why?
Careers in the geospatial technical fields will increase in the near future.
Many studies have documented the need for a geospatial workforce in the 21st
century. The future looks very bright for this emerging technology.
Sinte Gleska University
University of Colorado-Boulder