All text and audio copyright, 2015 by the Native American Development Center ©
Scott: My name is Scott James Davis. My Indian name, Lakota name, is […], which means "his celebration." I am a proud member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and also a descendant of the […] Chippewa. My family, married to my lovely wife Lorraine Shepard Davis from Sisseton Dakota Oyate. We have four lovely children, Anthony, Angelina, Santana and little Scotty. We're also proud grandparents now. Proud grandparents of Kion and also of Anton, so two grandsons, so we're pretty happy. My education, I have a two year degree from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. I also have a four-year bachelor degree in business from the University of Mary, and also a masters degree in management from the University of Mary, and also an executive education certificate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard. That's pretty much the sum of my education, my background.
Employment, I've had a lot of jobs over the years, everything from school teacher, adjunct instructor at the college level, coach, coached basketball, track, cross country. Also, I was a wild-land firefighter for some time, for a few seasons. Did a lot of construction work, concrete, asphalt, framing houses. Also did some sales, I worked as a sales consultant out at West Fargo for a firm called Northern Documents, out of Fargo. Also did some work for the United Tribes Technical College here in Bismarck as a business manager for the transportation department, wellness activities coordinator. Also a development officer for about two years, and currently I serve the governor of our state of North Dakota, as his liaison, serving as a Commissioner for Indian Affairs for the State of North Dakota, been doing that now for six and a half years.
Well, I grew up quite all over the place thanks to my parents. My parents were lifelong educators and health care providers. My mom did thirty-plus years in the Indian Health Service as a dental assistant, served a lot of patients over her career, is now retired, and enjoying her life, and enjoying the grandkids, and getting some rest. She put a lot of years and time on serving people. My father, lifelong educator, one of the first, I think in Indian country, to get doctorate degree, back in the 70s, a doctorate in education administration from Penn State University out in Pennsylvania.
Throughout those ... My parents' career we moved all over the place quite a bit, back and forth to Pennsylvania, Montana, Rocky Boy, Montana. Was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, just across the river from Wahpeton, North Dakota, where my father was a school teacher and coach. Lived in Belcourt for a time or two when I was really young, I think in the kindergarten era, and finally end up here in Bismarck. My dad, working for state government and also the United Tribes Technical College.
What that did for me moving around from various places on and off the reservation, is provided me a way, a learning tool of how to live in two worlds, as they say. Living off the res and on the res can be somewhat different and somewhat the same. But, obviously when you're living off the reservation in a city area, like Bismarck or Mandan, you're accustomed to a lot of different cultures, a lot of different people, a lot of different ways of doing things. The same holds true with living on the reservation, whether I lived in Belcourt as a child or down in Fort Yates Standing Rock during my young adulthood working down there for my tribe in the environmental department.
Had a lot of good experiences. A lot of good friends, to this day, have a lot of good non-Native friends around the country. My time at Haskell Indian Nations University, I still have friends, college friends, and even classmates, and teammates all over the country as well, even into Alaska.
I was very active growing up in sports, thanks to my father. Very active in competing, track and field, basketball, probably the two main sports there. Very competitive family, so a lot of work, a lot of work ethic, a lot of practice. A lot of practice growing up. It's one thing that I think my dad and mom instilled in me was that along with the education was the competitiveness, to be competitive at what you do and to not just to win, but just to compete. To work hard, strive hard, and to be a graceful loser as well. A lot of those things were instilled by my father, mother. Work ethic, very strong work ethic growing up ... Had to do a lot of chores, a lot of work. A lot of homework.
But it's really molded me to how I am today as a parent, and also with my work ethic and my career, and my profession. I am a big believer in a lot of work ethic or you're going to really struggle. So I'm really thankful for my parents for providing that experience with me. Probably the biggest lesson my mother taught me was about communication and speaking up for yourself.
I recall a time when I was selling cookies for the Boy Scouts, I was in Boy Scouts at one time. Of course you got to go door to door and sell cookies and candy bars and so-forth. I was kind of afraid to knock on people's doors and talk to them and so-forth. So I told Mom, "Can you come with me to sell these cookies?" And she said, "No, I will not do that because you need to learn to speak up for yourself. Mamma's not going to always be there for you in your life, so you need to learn these things on your own, my boy." So I really took that lesson to heart. I still apply that teaching with some of the speaking I do. Some call it a soft skill but I think communication, speaking up for yourself, knowing how to speak up for yourself, is really really an important tool you need in your life, how to speak up for yourself.
Again, those are experiences that I've had as a child. I knew, I think in adulthood, that we were financially poor growing up. I would never know it when I was a child, because Mom and Dad did a really solid job raising us and providing for us, food on the table, clothes on our back. Never once did I ever feel or was ever had the feeling that we were poor. And again a lesson my Great Grandma, [00:08:49], taught us, on hear death bed, I wasn't born at the time but from what my parents told me, she talked about family and how rich you are in having a family. Those are things that have been passed down from my folks and our generations about the value of family and the richness that we have as a family.
Again, growing up, my parents worked very hard. My dad, I could say, was, and probably still is, a workaholic. He loves to work. I think that's just what his era, the Baby Boomer era, they were all raised that way, work-ethic. That hasn't changed, and I certainly got a big characteristic of that too, in the work ethic and working. For me it's probably a little different, learning from him how to manage and I guess you say, smell the roses from time to time, and try to do my best to make a commitment to my family to work very hard but to balance that with my children, my grandchildren, some of the hobbies that I do that I think are important in keeping a balanced life, keeping my well-being, my happiness in tact so I can be a good father, a good leader, a good husband, a good uncle, a good role model. You got to really find that balance in your life, too.
Other than that, over the years, again through my parents ... Life was pretty good growing up, I think. Parents did a good job, a very good job of raising us kids. Things like that, too ... As you get older, especially for me after my track and field career in college ... I ran, competed at a high level in college in track and field and cross country, and when that ended for me I really found myself really, kind of lost. I didn't have a meaning, my purpose of what I'm to do because all I did went to school and competed in sports.
I had a lot of free time on my hand and I didn't know how to manage my time very well, and I started running with the bad crowd, so to speak. Started to indulge myself in alcohol and also in drugs. That was probably a big, big struggle, an adversity that I started facing called self-inflicted adversity, where a combination of too much time on your hands and not being focused and surrounding yourself with people that have different ideas and different ways of life can get you in trouble pretty quick. So I found myself in needing of treatment. Committed myself to a treatment center in my early twenties, mid twenties, and did my best to change my life around.
Over the years I've battled with that addiction and to this day still in recovery. It took me a couple times to get that right, to get beyond that adversity, that self-inflicted adversity of the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. But really what that taught me is a lot about myself. Taught me a lot about my limits, my strengths. It really gave me a good focus in the mirror of who I am and who I could be. Since now I've been sober for over 9 years it's life-changing.
These opportunities that I've created for myself and my family through hard work, dedication, it just proves that no matter where you come from or what background you come from you're going to face adversity. It's really how you personally are going to take the self-initiative to change that ... Because over those course of times where you're in that mindset of drinking and using drugs, people tell you over and over. People who love you, people who are close to you, they love you and they care about you and they tell you things.
You're blinded. You get blinded by the addiction and so-forth. Sometimes, some people, most people, have to hit that rock bottom before they can change. That's kind of what I went through. That was probably the biggest adversity challenge I had in my life, was that.
Granted there was other things I went through with just friends, loss of friends. Not so much tragic things but I've had a lot of family and friends around me that I've lost over the years from suicide and accidents, car accidents, things like that. Sometimes it's made me numb to some of those things about death. It's given me a different perspective. It's given me a very different outlook, now that I have children and grandchildren, of the importance to stay healthy and take care of yourself, do your best to live in balance, do your best to have that personal sovereign relationship with God.
Those things I really try my hardest to focus on each day is to focus with prayer first, and do what He tells me to do to the best I can and just live my life to the fullest. But, also enjoy it. I think it's very, very important that you try your best to laugh, to joke, to have humor in your life every day. Sometimes it's a struggle with, at least my profession, my profession of politics, can get pretty stressful at times. But you really need to have humor in your life, and prayer, surround yourself with good people, like-minded people, and just live life. Be happy.
The other thing, too, I think about the past and compared to the future. I kind of say this, I learned this from my wife and I were having a discussion about the past and future, not only of ourselves but of our people, as the Americans, is that we all have a big past. We all know that historically our people have had a big past. A good past and a tragic past. But I think we're at a time today, in modern times ...
When I think of our peoples' past what I've learned is that if our peoples' past is bigger than our future, the past will always control our future. I'm real adamant about that when I say that. It's tough to go back and rekindle or recapture some of those bad memories we may have had whether that's through our tribe, through our personal experiences ...
I look back and have learned from our ancestors, and I believe this whole-heartedly, that our ancestors were psychiatrists, were psychologists. What I mean by that is that our ancestors were smart enough to say hey, when we experience tragedy in our life as a tribe, as a community, as a people, as a family, it's good to grieve. You have to grieve.
I've heard of some tribes where some people were put on the hill and they were just allowed to be and act however they want to be. Give them their time and space. We all understood that. They all understood that, I should say. But the key to that was that they were given a time frame, whether it was a year, two years, four years, it just depends on each tribe. After that time frame was up, the rule was you will grieve no more. You're done. Now it's time to move on, live your life healthy.
The thing that was so important of that type of traditional rule ... What that tells me is that our people were healthy and balanced. When adversity arises, it's good to mourn to grieve, but also you have to have that time to move on. What that teaches me the most is that it benefits the whole tribe. It benefits everybody. It keeps the whole tribe in balance.
Something important that I think about when I think about our past, whether it's a person or a tribe, is that we need to understand the wrongs that were done to us but also to learn from it, to gain experience, and to grow in a healthy way from those experiences. That's done with my adversity in my life too.
It's just part of life. When there is adversity or there is struggle, a lot of us may utilize prayer, may utilize a ceremony, may utilize a church. Some may use a doctor, may use medication, whatever that may be ... But the key to all that is that there's got to be self-work, self-equity behind that.
I've been a big believer that God can create all things, that God can cure all things. There's no doubt about that in my mind. But, I think some of us tend to believe that a certain ceremony, a certain church, a certain pill, a certain medication, may fix us. I don't think there's ever a fix for anything. The only way we can do our best to fix things is to fix them ourselves, within ourselves. That's what I call self-sovereignty. Sovereignty of one's self where you have true ownership of your being, of who you are, of where you want to go, of what direction you want to go ... I'm a big believer of self-sovereignty, in controlling your direction, where you go.
Those are things that I've come to learn over the years. And knowing your limits, knowing your strengths, and knowing how to pick yourself up when you fall ... It's really okay to fall. I think if you don't fall from time to time that means you're not trying. That means, to me, that means that you're not willing to take a calculated risk. I really believe that we all should take calculated risks in our life. You need to take a next step forward. Understanding the faith in yourself, the confidence in yourself, the faith of God helping you, guiding you, I think, is probably the most important step in giving you the confidence to take that step.
Again, those are just some things I think about, some things I would share as advice for somebody. The basic thing is that if you try your best to live with values, treat people with respect, communicate, love one another, no matter what ... We all have our so-called enemies out there. But it's so important just to continue to love them, to pray for them, and do your best for them. I'm sure some time around it will come back to you and help you as well. That's kind of my thoughts about my life. Try to keep it simple, not too complex.
I am a very very lucky man, a very very blessed man with a beautiful wife, educated wife, a very hard hard working wife. Sometimes I think she works too much. I am blessed.
And my beautiful healthy children, my grandchildren, they're just the world to me and my wife. That's the biggest thing why we work so hard is just to keep them happy, try to be a role model for them. Having that balance with my wife as the nurturer ... When there's tears and things like that they go to their mamma and that's a good thing. Whereas daddy, I can be a little bit more tougher on them and that's my role.
It's my role to have that discipline to prepare them for life when you fall down and hurt yourself and you got to learn to get back up ... Sometimes what I call be there but not be really be there. You're watching them but you got to watch them fall. It breaks my heart to see that, watch that, but in the long run I'm a big believer that the sooner they learn to pick themselves up, learn from things, the better of they're going to be in the long run.
Those are just some pieces of advice as a father. The key to anything, like with marriage, any type of relationship, is that you've got to understand each other, forgive, take the time to listen, set things aside, have... and communicate. Those are just things that I want to share and really appreciate this interview. I just look forward to ... Hopefully this advice helps somebody out there or helps you understand, now, with something. So, thank you very much.