Race as an entrepreneur in America…Happy Indigenous People’s Day
What is “race” in America to me? It’s not a skin color. In fact, it’s not a race; it’s a chase. It’s chasing the American Dream. I want to share my paradigm…these are my experiences. I do not intend to paint with a broad brush. My experiences are personal. Perhaps if you come from a similar background, you can relate or gain some insight.
Growing Up Colorblind – with a Vision
I grew up a military brat. My father, David Mojica, served in the Army for 20 years. I was born in Germany, and I grew up colorblind. I never knew there was hate among us. I saw all walks of life as an Army brat. I saw my father, a Mexican American/Native American, salute all shades of skin. He became a Master Drill Sergeant, and I witnessed all shades of skin tone salute him. My parents taught me to work hard, study hard, ask questions, and chase dreams. In my world, the military opened many doors for my parents, and I was privileged to be part of their storyline.
We didn’t grow up wealthy, but we did grow up with vision. I was able to get scholarships, grants, and loans and receive a great education. I actually attended college while my parents worked to get their bachelors’ degrees. On occasion, we would help each other out. It was awesome to see my parents take part of the American Dream. The military afforded my parents a higher education and upper mobility. I was part of the Mojica family’s first and second generation of higher education (at the same time).
Although my parents were fluent in Spanish, they did not speak Spanish in our home. As I child, when we made our annual pilgrimage back to El Paso, TX, to see extended family, I was completely thrown with this foreign language. I had no idea what was going on. It was later in life that I also realized my Native American heritage. My father, while working for the VA (Veterans Affairs) was involved in several Native American outreach programs. We knew we had native heritage on both sides of the family. My parents took one of those DNA tests and both came back over 45% native. As my father reached out to the local Native community, he became more involved as he learned more about his culture and heritage. My dad’s maternal linage side shows that we come from an Apache tribe but later his great grandmother was adopted in by a Laguna tribe. My father later became a gourd dancer (he pronounces it “gore” dancer). There was a ceremony and dance for this honor. He is now recognized as a wise person who knows how to pray.
Ceremonies of My Ancestors
I was honored to learn and take part of a smudging and sweat lodge ceremony hosted by my father. I felt a deeper connection with my father and my ancestors’ traditions. This provided me insight on how to both raise my family and guide my business. Again, this was my experience. Each nation may do it a little differently.
The smudging ceremony can be done before a grave observance, before a public speech, or any event where the individual desires clarity, good thoughts, and spiritual peace. My dad used hawk or eagle feather to cast smoke around me. The smoke was created by burning a mixture of sage, sweet grass, and cedar.
The sweat lodge is used for a deeper spiritual and physical cleansing. Within the Pueblo Nation, this ceremony is done with only males or only females (no co-ed ceremonies). 12 fresh willow branches are used to create the vertical portions of the dome. 4 willow branches are used to make the horizontal sections. The 12 branches represent the months of the year and 4 represent the four directions. There is only one door which faces east, where the sun rises (the door also faces the fire). Large lava rocks, referred to as “grandfathers” are used at the base of the fire and are moved within the lodge to provide the heat. The dome lodge is covered with blankets to prevent any sunlight coming in. Before I entered the lodge, I circled it clockwise and entered on my knees. This showed a sense of order and humility. There are 4 rounds of cleansing during the ceremony. A fireman (person tending the fire) moved a grandfather near the door and my dad would grab it with deer antlers and place it in a hole in the center of the lodge. This hole was referred to as the womb. He sprinkled the grandfathers with water and copal stones. These copal stones almost glow and quickly clear any sinuses. The grandfather stones represented my forefathers who watch after their posterity. During the ceremony I was allowed to ask questions and speak with the Great Creator. I found this experience very insightful and meaningful. It was truly cleansing to disconnect from the world and have this moment with my father. It was great to reflect on my family, my business, my life goals and purpose. It was humbling to think about my forefathers who paved the way for me to have this moment.
Meaning for Me
My father always has a Native American Medicine Wheel nearby. I love the meaning of each color and strive to apply them in all aspects of my life including professionally as we work to grow Outdoor Element.
Yellow: relation between Father and sun. The sun shines down on Mother Earth feeding the plants. The plants provide oxygen for us to breathe. Mother and Father provide life for us; therefore, we need to respect and honor them. We do so by taking care of the Earth.
We have taken steps to reduce single use plastics in our packaging. Our firebiners® and fire escapes™ carabiners used to be shipped in bulk with single plastic bags, protecting each item. We now place cardstock in between each carabiner (removing the plastic). We also created a pot gripper, handled™, that does double duty as tool to recycle used fuel canisters. Our camp hand towel is made from recycled plastics. We have new camp organizer webbing, Charlotte’s Webbing™, that is also made from recycled plastics. These are examples of small steps to take care of Mother Earth, but they are steps in the right direction. Many small steps can carry us a great distance in the correct direction.
White: Purity of soul. Always tell the truth, a handshake is as good as a contract.
At Outdoor Element, we do our best to be honest, transparent, and to hold to our word in all that we do.
Black: All work and no rest is not good. We must have our life in balance to perform our best.
You know as well as I do, that burning the candlestick at both ends is non-sustainable. The medicine wheel serves as a great reminder that we need to find balance and rest in our lives to yield the best outcomes.
Red: We are all related. We all bleed the same color and thus we must treat each other like family.
I cannot think of a time where this is more relevant. I feel we live in a time with much divisiveness. The outdoors can be a great equalizer. The outdoors does not care what color you are. There is peace and revelation waiting for you in the great outdoors. Our hope is that our products provide all consumers the opportunity to explore with confidence.
I have mentioned this before; my native name is Bodaway which means “fire starter”. There is a reason why much of my product line has a common theme. I come from a rich heritage. I have gained a deep appreciation for my family roots. I want to honor my lineage. I love the country America has become. I know we have some dark moments in our history. Today, to me, America represents hope and dreams. This is the country where anyone can literally become anything they choose. I know it’s not an easy road and it demands much sweat, but the opportunity is there for anyone. My father put his life on the line at the call this this great country. My father has taught me some of the ways of our forefathers. Embrace your family tree and take from the best branches, graft in some new branches where needed. God bless America. Happy Indigenous People’s Day. The dream is alive and the race is American…go chase your dreams.
Get outside, explore with confidence, and discover your best self,
Bodaway -Fire Maker, Mike Mojica