The GSBA Blog

Your Investment at Work: Johnny Buck

| Jan 25, 2017

My name is Johnny Buck and I am a proud father of a beautiful and intelligent daughter, Tatiwyat Buck.  I am from the Wanapum (River People) community from Priest Rapids on the mid Columbia River in Washington State and also an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation.  My ancestors have lived on our lands since time immemorial.  We are deeply rooted in our homelands and our spiritual, emotional and physical lives are intimately intertwined with our environment.

Johnny and Tatiwyat BuckAs a first generation college student, I am passionate to lead and model to Native students across the country, that higher education is a powerful resource in the health and wellness for our communities.  I chose to complete my undergraduate degree at Northwest Indian College because I am able to blend the best of both worlds of traditional ecological knowledge and the technical components and practical skills of modern science and mathematics.  These combined will serve as the foundation for policies and practices that best support the protection of our environment and precious natural resources.  I am currently a junior in the Native Environmental Science program at Northwest Indian College, with long-term goals for a PhD in Environmental Engineering and JD in Environmental Law.

As an ally, I focus my activism on mentoring and supporting young LGBTQ and Two Spirit identified young Native leaders on the front lines of community change in Tribal communities. 

As an ally, I have also grown in using my local, regional and national leadership roles to verbalize directly the importance of expanded awareness of gender and sexuality, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and how in practice we can all consciously ensure there are safe spaces for LGBTQ and Two Spirit identified community members and leaders.

I have been fortunate to receive a Pride Foundation and GSBA scholarship.  Since joining these communities, I feel like I have been part of a family, who informs and inspires me to be more bold in creating and sustaining spaces that are safe, inclusive, and equitable for youth in Tribal communities.  Having the opportunity to participate and build community with the Pride Foundation and GSBA has also given me a sense of belonging and a strengthened foundation as an ally, which has magnified my leadership over the past year.  I am also proud of my leadership to connect LGBTQ and Two Spirit identified Native youth to the Pride Foundation and GSBA, to help expand engagement in Tribal communities.

31476969166_bf63d71823_oThe direct financial support of the scholarships gave me the assistance I needed to prepare for graduate school with specialized training for the GRE and LSAT. I was also able to access the equipment I needed for my coursework and research, and demonstrate the power and potential of the social impact my research can have as an undergraduate Tribal College student.  These investments also enabled me to take the needed steps to set myself up for success to apply for the number one school in the nation for hydrology research at the University of Washington school of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  The scholarships removed barriers for me to achieve and contribute my own unique contributions as an academic and an activist. 

I have grown in my role as an ally over the past year, becoming more empowered and assertive in my advocacy and supportive role.  For me, being a role model as an ally is exhibiting the values of equality in my life and leadership, and having the courage to speak up in all of the spaces I lead in – from my rural, insular home Tribal community to national Native organizations reaching thousands of Tribal members. 

There are many layers of trauma our indigenous communities have embedded within our ways of relating to one another.   We are reeling from the impact of the loss of our traditional knowledge in many of our communities, which is the source of many barriers to equity in Tribal communities.  While we cannot erase the traumatic past of our ancestors, we can lead forward with common values of love, acceptance, openness and the sacred value of relationships.

As an advocate for Tribal youth across the Northwest, I have many young eyes watching me.  I also serve as a bridge between younger and elder generations in Tribal communities.  As a role model, I serve as a strong advocate and speak up in all the spaces I lead in to intentionally create a safe, inclusive space for LGBTQ and Two Spirit identified youth, and for all community members to come together to create loving, supportive, interdependent relationships.  These relationships are at the heart of any real community healing and community change towards greater equity.