You can tune in directly from this page by clicking on the above link, or you can subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music.
Meet April, Owner of Tinhorn Consulting, LLC
April is the owner of a marketing firm called Tinhorn Consulting, which was recognized as the American Indian Business of the Year in 2018 by the Arizona American Indian Chamber of Commerce. She was crowned Ms. Hualapai 1994 and in 2014 she received the Native American 40 under 40 award. Most recently she was recognized as the ASU Native American Alumnus of the Year.
As we were creating my introduction for you, I asked you about proper terminology because for me, I know that I've been trying to be really conscientious about eliminating the word “Indian” from my vocabulary. What are your thoughts?
I think it really depends on the individual. From my viewpoint, I would prefer to be called Hualapai because that’s who I am. We are one of 573 federally recognized tribes in the United States, 22 of which are here in Arizona.
Back in the 70s, American Indian was popular, so a lot of organizations in our communities used American Indian and things that were created more recently tend to skew Native American or Indigenous. In my circles, we use Native.
Again, it depends on the individual. It’s always a good conversation starter. I like how you just asked what the preference is. That’s a really good thing for anyone who is learning about another culture.
Can you set the stage for what school is like for Native students?
Like I mentioned, there are 573 federally recognized tribes. Some of us are in rural communities, some of us are on a reservation, some of us and so some of us are in rural communities, some of us are in urban areas and some of us are somewhere in between. So when we look at the educational experience of Native youth, it's going to vary. There really isn't a typical experience. I'll speak about mine.
I grew up on the Hualapai reservation, which is in the northwest corner of the state of Arizona. Our reservation at the time we had about 1,200 enrolled members, less than 2,000 people living there and we did have a public school, which is unusual for a reservation. Most reservations that have a school onsite would be underneath the Bureau of Indian Education. Even though we were on the reservation, most of my teachers didn't look like me, and so it was a big deal to have that. My first teaching was Hualapai was Mr. David Clark my 7th grade teacher.
When we went to high school, at the time we didn’t have a high school, we have choices to make. All those choices involve either getting bussed daily 30 miles east or 50 miles west or your parents may have made a choice to send you to boarding school.
(April made the decision to attend Kingman High School) We traveled 50 miles one way and we picked up all the border town kids along the way. So, you know, I remember getting picked up 6:15am and I played sports. So then it would have to wait for everyone to finish the practices and we didn’t head back until a little after 9pm.
When did you have dinner?
After practices. Those of us who played sports, we would wait in the hallway for everyone’s sports practices to be over. So we would probably be eating around 7:30 or 8:00pm, at a Taco Bell or something along the way. And we did our homework, if you chose to do your homework, in the hallways. That was kind of a good supportive environment among those of us who were there.
For me, I didn't see my mom a lot.
You mentioned to me that a lot of students didn't want to go away for school, whether that was for boarding or for college. Can you talk a little bit about that and why you think that's the case?
My mom would always ask (she was a Kindergarten teacher), “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A lot of people, a lot of students will pick what they see as jobs within our community. So I really think it's important to expose our youth to different things. For example, I have a Masters in Computer Science. So when I speak that's one thing that I ask youth, “Have you ever met a computer scientist?” A lot of times they don’t raise their hands, which really still surprises me to this day. And I tell them, “Today you have. I’m a Hualapai computer scientist.”
I’m not practicing anymore but it matters that people are exposed to because you can’t dream of being something you don’t know. For instance, my husband grew up on the same reservation and would talk about going to Kingman, which is where you go to grocery shop, movies, or those types of things. That kind of was the extent of his world was going to Kingman, not Phoenix, which was four hours away and I think that goes back to what you’re exposed to. My mom always asked me not, “Are you going to college?” but “Which college are you going to?” So that already planted the seed in my mind that I was going to college.
What inspired you to become a computer scientist?
Oregon Trail! All the way! I loved the fact that it was a keyboard. We had no joysticks back then. And it was COOL! It was “j” or “k” to go left and right. I remember thinking, “When I touch this key and I go left, how does that work?” My teacher told me that computer scientists do that. That’s how I chose my major.
Let’s talk about Ms. Trahan
Like I shared with you, I went to Peach Springs Elementary School, which is predominantly Hualapai students. I was a smart kid so when I decided to go to Kingman High School I was in advanced freshman classes. I remember the first day of school, looking at my schedule I had advanced English for freshman and got to the class and I actually tried to sit in the front all the time but all the seats were taken. I ended up sitting in the back by the door. Class hadn't started yet Ms. Trahan made her way to my seat leaned into me and said, “I think you are in the wrong classroom.” And I was so oblivious. I had no idea the hidden context of that. I pulled out my schedule on a slip of paper and said, “I’m in the right room right? This is advanced English.” She said, “Yes it is, but are you sure you’re in the right room?” It was my first time ever encountering, I guess, some profiling that was going on.
I remember she pulled out the workbook where you dissect the sentences and everyone in the class groaned. For me, that was the first time I saw that. I had dissected a tapeworm in Biology but what is dissecting a sentence? At Peach Springs we were more of a creative writing school. So it was all about expressing yourself, journaling, and creative writing, but I never had to dissect a sentence. So that was all new to me. I remember the first week I was failing all the workbook assignments.
I guess to say something positive about that experience is that Ms. Trahan took me aside and told me I was failing. She told me that Lisa Sanchez was doing really well and she had offered to help me but that I would have to work extra hard.And so it was on. She threw the gauntlet. But I had never been scared of hard work and I knew I’d find out how to do the work. I’m so glad that Lisa offered to help me and that Ms. Trahan at least gave me that option.
I believe I did get an A in that class. I wasn’t gonna go down like that.
When we first met, you mentioned that you struggled to fit in as a child. Why was that?
I never fit in. I'm actually Hualapai, Navajo, and Chinese. When I started first grade the kids kept calling me China Doll and for whatever reason, I knew the way they were saying it that it wasn't a compliment. I was always made aware by others that I was different. You know, just growing up, especially as a teen, all you want to do is fit in. That's when I suppose I honed my chameleon skills. You can drop me in any community in any country and I’m gonna adapt. I wanted to fit in there, but I didn’t. I was always different. As an adult, I have come to a point of acceptance. What I've found is that the things that make me different are actually my strengths.
Can you share with us about the UNITY Conference and why was that so impactful for you?
UNITY is a 501(c)(3) organization that really helps Native youth to grow into the next batch or tribal leaders. They have an annual conference that travels around and they have different regional trainings now.
For all the 90s kids...I just remember this video where there was this little girl with glasses and she's in a bumblebee outfit. (Blind Melon, No Rain) If you’ve seen that video, that was UNITY for me. I was that kid, that little chubby girl with my glasses and bumblebee outfit wandering around Peach Springs. In the video she comes up over this hill and she sees all these other people in their bumblebee outfits. That’s how I felt when I got to UNITY.
I was like, “I’m not alone. There are other people like me. They speak and they laugh and they're passionate about different things and they're Native! I’m with my people.”
How can educators create environments and moments in their classrooms where people think, “Hey, I'm not alone. I am enough. These are my people,” especially if they're going into schools where students are no longer totally surrounded by their community members?
Oh, that’s the million dollar question. The first thing that comes to my mind is being aware that we don't know what we don’t know. I would say that being open and talking in order to make connections. When I went to South Africa I didn't know about the country but I knew I wanted to be respectful. So I went and did my research. I Googled and I started thinking about my circle and who I know that’s South African or has lived there. Or, who else do I know who may know somebody?
I'm still old school. Even though I’m a computer scientist I still believe in the power of human connections. So for teachers, who is someone in your inner circle who can give you that experience or who is able to dialogue about that? Once you talk to them, they will share their circle which can be a resource. I think that social media is also another way to do that.
As far as Native youth, I would say to look at the organizations that exist, whether it's UNITY or government or leadership. If it's sports foundation, there's the Notah Begay Foundation and N7 with Nike. There are different clubs that exist. There's religious activities. Just to look at all these different circles that intersect with youth.
Through your company, you want to change people's perceptions of Native communities using facts. So tell us how.
So I always go back to the story. Everyone has a story and I believe as Native Americans that a lot of times we have others who are telling our stories for us in their voice. In the past eight years of what my company does, we usually have a strategic planning session where we pull out whatever that story is for our client. Then, we help them connect and engage with their target audience but it's always through their voice.
Another thing about tribal communities is that in mass media you usually hear the negative things, if you hear at all about Native Americans.. So you hear about alcoholism and diabetes rates. There is a misconception that we’re all casino rich. In this election we have different Native American women who are running for Senate seats, to mayors, to governors to the House of Representatives. In my company, it is a company value that whatever projects and whatever clients we work with that it's definitely going to be informative and/or positive sharing of information.
What is a common, frustrating question you get when people find out you’re Hualapai?
It depends on my mood, but the fact that I am always educating. Having the burden of educating others.
How do you love to crush stereotypes?
Through action. Being the best version of myself and, now that I have a daughter, raising the 2.0 version of that.
Shout out to Studio 85
Many of the interviews were recorded there and every now and then you’ll hear my good friend Joe, who is the techie behind the microphones chime in on the episodes as my consistent, honorary guest. Studio 85 is a FREE community resource provided by Highway 85 Creative, a local, experiential marketing agency specializing in trade show exhibits and office and retail interiors.If you’re in the Phoenix metro area you should check them out!
Carla Rivera-Cruz (CRC) is an educator and entrepreneur committed to helping like-minded educators reach their fullest potentials.