My name is Trey Kierl (Bid Niskadet), and I am a participant of the Potawatomi Leadership Program class of 2008. I am a graduate of Creighton University with a B.A. in political science and international relations, and a current masters/Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma. Over the past five years, I have been working for the Department of Homeland Security as an Information Officer to support the mission directives of the U.S. Department of State, both at home and abroad, before leaving my post to pursue higher education.
I am penning this piece to encourage the many young people within our Tribe to submit applications and subsequently participate in the upcoming Potawatomi Leadership Program this summer. I can say with the utmost certainty that my time with the PLP not only encouraged my interest in my heritage but also gave me invaluable tools and connections that guided my path through college into the workforce.
When I think back to the summer of 2008, I will always remember the time spent with Tribal leaders and elders. Those interactions shaped my confidence in my approach to connecting with those in positions of influence and respect. In our nation’s capital, making social connections with superiors and peers is paramount to success in both personal and business atmospheres, and the confidence garnered through those interactions with Tribal employees, leaders, elders and my classmates was a benefit I may have otherwise never received.
Additionally, as a native Oklahoman, the PLP gave me numerous insights into not only my cultural history but also the often-untold history of our state and nation. The CPN Cultural Heritage Center was a particular highlight for me. The opportunity to assist in exhibit construction and information cataloguing opened my eyes to the proud history of our Tribe. It effectively solidified my interest in studying Native American history when I returned to school — which, I might add, served as the basis for my thesis with assistance from the Harvard American Indian Project, winning awards and earning publication in multiple Political Science journals.
Connecting to the past was enthralling as I learned more about my family name that appears on our original Tribal Rolls, and it was even more of a surprise when I was able to meet extended family during the Family Reunion Festival that June. Even now as I continue my path through life, I proudly represent the Rhodd family in all my endeavors, a true testament to the personal benefits of my time in the PLP.
To be frank, I could write at length about the benefits of my time in the PLP, which culminated in my attendance at the Gathering of Potawatomi Nations in Walpole Island, Ontario, Canada, in August of that same year. The language I learned, the information I gained and the close friends I have still to this day — I owe it all to this program.
I cannot stress enough the benefits our young Tribal members would receive from this program at our headquarters. Chairman Barrett, Vice-Chairman Capps, Language Director Justin Neely (who most graciously served as my naming elder), and of course, our housemother Margaret Zientek are all brilliant and wonderful assets to our Tribe and its mission. Nothing but good could ever come from time spent speaking to and learning from these individuals.
If you or someone in your family qualifies for participation in the PLP, encourage them to apply today! They could discover so much about themselves, their history and their future during one incredible summer with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
PLP Class of 2008
Applications for the Potawatomi Leadership Program are being accepted from February 1st through April 1st at plp.potawatomi.org.