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Vanessa Roanhorse

Vanessa Roanhorse

CEO, Roanhorse Consulting LLC

A trusted voice for advancing Native women in business and leadership, Vanessa Roanhorse challenges systemic barriers and reframes systems through an equity lens.

Q: Why is now the time, and what do we “double-down” on to leverage this moment to take strides for long-lasting change?

As the first people on this land, we had enough. My grandmother always reminds me that when she was growing up there was always food on the table and purpose for the day. They did not need programs or government to fill the gaps.

That time is past. However, at this moment, we have an opportunity for our communities to finally get the sort of investment to build their own infrastructure. An infrastructure that understands and recognizes the nuance needed in our tribal and rural spaces.

Q: For real systems change to happen, how must perspectives, and how we approach the economy and education, shift to meet the needs of an inclusive, equitable economy?

If anything, we have seen how easy it is for us to adjust and make changes to these systems with hard work and the willingness to dream beyond it.

Our communities need long-term investment, time, and the ability to leverage existing institutions and intermediaries to receive these resources in an equitable way. We cannot fall back into the practices of accepting it has always been this way or that we do not have the innovation to work through the barriers. If anything, we have seen how easy it is for us to adjust and make changes to these systems with hard work and the willingness to dream beyond it. We need everyone to double down and do the hard work, have the hard conversations, and push past the fears of failure. To be moderate and conservative in our approach would ensure we fall back into the same patterns that have led us to this point in our country.

Q: Where do you find hope and inspiration in the work, conversations, and shifts you see happening, and how does that shape your thinking?

I see hope in so many places, people, and efforts. I am seeing the rise of Indigenous ways of thinking and being across the country being led by Indigenous people; NDN Collective, Native Women Lead, Roanhorse Consulting (my company), Change Labs, Decolonizing Wealth, Pueblo Action Alliance, Sogorea Té Land Trust – and really, many more.

I am also seeing hope in collaborations, coalitions, and cooperatives: the Inclusive Capital Collective, Zebras Unite, Southwest Native Business Coalition, Black Innovation Alliance, Crux Cooperative, Main Street Phoenix, I-Collective, and again, so many more.

What all of these groups and organizations have in common is a collective model of power building. They work together to acknowledge we are stronger and smarter together. We come from many places but share common dreams, a dream in which we all live dignified lives filled with opportunity and joy. The power of connectedness and relationship cannot be overstated enough. When we start with relationship and kinship, we start from a place of understanding our place in this world around us. 

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