+SPOTLIGHT | Taneel Filesteel
What are your tribe(s): Aaniiih, Apsaalooke, and Nakoda
Whats your age: 24 years old
Ndn Name: Chiiwakaalachiish meaning One Who Always Prays in the Apsaalooke language
White Name: TaNeel Filesteel
What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?
Acceptance, growth and forgiveness
Bio/ backstory, tell us what you DO and a bit about how you came to do it.
I was born on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation to the Aaniiih, Apsaalooke and Nakoda people. I was raised by my mother’s side, the Filesteel family, who value education and our traditional practices. My Grandfather Edward Filesteel Sr. was a Veteran who served in the Air Force and survived the Boarding School Era. My Grandmother Faye Filesteel attended Flandreau Boarding School and is the first in our family to receive a college degree in education. My family values education and my grandfather always wanted a lawyer in the family, which it what I am working towards now. I am a student at Salish Kootenai College majoring in Tribal Governance and Administration and previously attended the Pennsylvania State University majoring in Political Science and Economics. In 2017, I was appointed to serve as the Deputy Prosecutor for the Fort Belknap Tribal Government, a position I continue to occupy until I attend Law School in the fall of 2020. I recently worked as the Regional Organizing Coordinator for the Montana Democratic Party, where I organized the Native Vote on the Fort Belknap and Flathead Reservations in the 2018 mid-term election cycle. Currently, I work with the National American Indigenous Business Leaders as the Indigenous Scholars Program Coordinator.
I feel very blessed to have so many opportunities in my life to serve and help my people, and I recognize that this is all happening for me because of God and the values He has instilled in my family. It this base of faith and gratitude that has guided me along my path.
How do you heal?
Healing is as unique as the individual seeking it. I heal through praying and writing, which have been outlets for me since I was a little girl. I was taught by my mother’s to give my burdens to God through prayer, which has truly allowed me to heal, grow and forgive. I believe it’s this reliance on God that has allowed me to heal from the sexual abuse I experienced as a child and the emotional abuse I experienced in my family.
What is your calling rn?
Since I was a little girl, I was sent dreams that told me it’s my purpose to be a public speaker. I feel it’s my purpose to speak words of truth and harmony, especially during this time of civil unrest and our divided political climate. Many speaking opportunities have been opening up for me and I know it’s because I am ready to take on this responsibility.
Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live? If so, how? Like in what way?
I live my life in a way that I believe is honoring my Ancestor’s prayers and sacrifices. I know that my ancestors are always with me and they help me through life. I understand they prayed for me long before I was born and they made great sacrifices so that I can truly live today. This is a source of strength and purpose for me, which helps me
Who are your Mentors/ role models?
I grew up in a family of women. We belong to a powerful matrilineal line that has given me strong women to look up to. They carry the ancient knowledge of our ancestors and are women of faith. I feel very blessed to be born into my family, because they are my strongest support system.
What inspires/ drives you to keep going?
Every day I see many Indigenous people succeeding despite their circumstances and hardships, and this is so inspiring. Our elders dreamed of the time we’re living in right now. They prayed that we would have the ability to dream, and now we do. There is so much good that is happening and we are reclaiming our power through our ancestral teachings. I just feel lucky to be a part of it.
If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?
I feel there is a hunger to make sense of the chaos around being Native. We have this rich heritage, we’re the first people of this land, and our ancestors were slaughtered in hopes of terminating the American Indian people as a whole. We know this.
Who are we now?
How do we understand this and create an identity?
How do we prosper in a country that has made it clear we are not welcome?
Healing is the answer.
Choosing to heal is a bold & courageous act. It takes guts to first accept you’re own need to heal and then have the strength to do the work.
I am choosing to heal so that I can have the best life I can possibly have. I don’t believe that God put me on this earth to experience small forms love. He created all of us to experience full, unconditional, sacred love. I am healing for my future children. They deserve to know what true unconditional love is, one free of abuse and control. They deserve a mother who has healed herself, so that she can be fully present for them and guide them in accordance with God.
My healing is not just my gift, it’s theirs too.
We each heal our Nations by first healing ourselves.