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Joseph Grady talks about Native spaces, acting, art and storytelling.

Transcript : Meet the Board - Joseph Grady

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Marc Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Marc Moss: Get your [email protected]. We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennison theater, more information and tickets are [email protected]. The next, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

Marc Moss: You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra Ty Brownley interviewed the Tellum board for her podcast. Impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what [00:01:00] you may already accept.

Marc Moss: This week. Sierra sits down with tell us something board share Joseph Grady. Let’s listen.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Welcome back to impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, where I chat with a new guest each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I want to thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I’m joined by Joseph Grady, current academic advisor at the university of Montana in Missoula, Montana.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: And tell us something board member Joseph. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

Joseph Grady: oh, yeah. It’s absolutely my pleasure.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Thank you. I think we should just hop right in and if you’d be willing to share your impactful experience, I’d love to hear.

Joseph Grady: Yeah, absolutely. Um, again, thank you [00:02:00] for inviting me and, um, been thinking about this, um, impactful experience and, um, there’s so much in life to choose from.

Joseph Grady: Yeah. Of this kind of question. So it really was racking my brain about like, you know, what’s important enough or what’s cool enough, or what have you. And I decided to just kind of let it flow if, if you will. Mm-hmm um, the, what, the thing that, uh, has come to mind, I think most recently is for me as, um, not just an academic, but as a creative.

Joseph Grady: An artist, um, creative, an actor mm-hmm writer, um, painter, um, outside of the workplace. Uh, there’s a lot that I think goes on with, um, my advising position where there’s lots of amazing stories with students and so forth, but I’m not sure entirely if that’s appropriate to tell in this space. Um, but that said, I honed in.

Joseph Grady: Uh, a story with, [00:03:00] um, a recent acting opportunity that I had. Um, and I, you know, I applied for a lot of, uh, small roles, uh, a lot of walk on stuff here in Montana, and it gives me a lot of experience to, uh, do film acting, um, in a way, and kind of in a way that’s very fulfilling, but also, um, helps me, you know, with the creative expression.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm . Things. Um, and it’s very informative and I learned quite a lot from the process and so forth, but that’s it. Um, essentially I had applied recently for an acting gig, um, for, that was calling for a native American role mm-hmm um, and. Reached out for it and got a, a, a call back if you will. Um, from the casting director who reached out to me and, um, indicated at that time that it was, it was actually for local, they were making a local call for [00:04:00] actors and the gig was in Los Angeles, California mm-hmm

Joseph Grady: And, um, I was like, oh, well, I’m in Missoula, Montana kind of negates that one. Yeah. And then had just a, sort of a brief follow up and sort of conversation. And, um, you know, she expressed some, um, like, oh, you know, darn it because you’d be perfect for the role kind of a thing. And. Um, you know, I was apologetic that I didn’t really notice that it was in LA.

Joseph Grady: I hope I didn’t waste your time kind of a thing, you know, in that setting it’s I really, really wanna make sure that I’m, you know, keeping it on the professional level. And, um, that point was just like, okay, so, you know, no big deal, but then about two weeks later, um, got a call back from the same casting director, um, who reached out.

Joseph Grady: Um, asked me if I wanted the gig, um, which was to fly down to Los Angeles and, and do about three days of shooting mm-hmm in [00:05:00] various locations. And, um, that kind of, sort of tip things off. And I was like, uh, much was running through my head. You know, there’s a lot of planning that had to happen. It was a very sort of short turnaround time between actually getting the gig and getting to LA I think it was about a week and I.

Joseph Grady: uh, turnaround. And so, you know, just sort of that preparation and then what is even the job, right? Yeah. But then that was a lot of excitement and it turned out to be like a really amazing experience. And I, you know, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun and so forth and, um, it, um, you know, added of course to my resume and my credentials and, um, expanded my opportunities, at least in terms of like getting into unions and so forth.

Joseph Grady: Uh, but I think the, the actual experience of getting on set and working with other native American actors in those kinds of professional spaces was really sort of the, the real hook for me. Mm-hmm but, uh, overall that’s kind of [00:06:00] the, the gist of what was happening. Um, and it was, it’s probably one of the more significant sort of things to happen in, in the last year.

Joseph Grady: Um, and so that was, um, That was really cool. I really, really had a, a really good time with that one.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah. I know you had mentioned this to me, um, around when it was happening or a little before. And so I think that’s very exciting and I’m glad that, um, it seems things went well and you really enjoyed your time.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: So, what about this experience, um, made you choose it kind of getting at, how has it either changed you or impacted you since?

Joseph Grady: Hmm. Um, it’s. I working here in Montana as an actor, just speaking from the acting, um, space alone. Yeah. Um, there’s, I’ve had a, I think a real opportunity in the last, probably [00:07:00] five to 10 years where I’ve this.

Joseph Grady: Um, I guess you wanna say, I don’t wanna say movement necessarily, but a shift is happening in the television to film. Okay. Where, um, the call for native American actors is, um, becoming more. Of a qualified type position. Um, and it’s one that is for me as an actor created all of this access, right? While at the same time, eliminating a whole bunch of competition for roles that was previously, you know, sharing the same space.

Joseph Grady: Yeah. You had a lot of, um, what, what you’ll hear calls for and sort of acting resumes and on acting calls, looking for ethnic ambiguity, right? Mm-hmm so that, you know, if you are classified as ethnically, uh, [00:08:00] ambiguous, you can fulfill many. Right as, um, Latinx, um, middle Eastern, um, you know, sort of Arabic identities to, um, to any of the Pacific is or Asian.

Joseph Grady: Classifications, if you will. And historically, I think particularly, um, in film and TV, back in the old days, it was like if you had black hair and any sort of a complexion, they would slap a little makeup on you and you were it, that was, you know, you were this role. Um, and so the, you know, the scope for ethnically ambiguous was even wider.

Joseph Grady: I think back then, mm-hmm and nowadays it’s a lot more. Arrow, um, to even like more recently where you have calls for specific ethnic identities to, you know, fulfill roles. And, um, that’s quite a, a, a big shift in, in an industry that is so fast paced. And [00:09:00] so like, concerned with anything in production other than getting.

Joseph Grady: Cultural humility pieces, um, on point or correct all the time. Um, and so that for me, I think was kind of the big takeaway more recently is the work that I’ve been doing as an actor has allowed me to work with entities, people, and productions, where that. Um, attention to cultural authenticity has been really out front.

Joseph Grady: Um, and so as an indigenous actor, that’s refreshing, uh, because what it says is these roles are for you mm-hmm and for like, for you, not just alone, but, um, people who also identify as, as indigenous and so forth or come from native communities. Yeah. And so it creates opportunity, um, as well. Allow the stories to be more authentic, I think, um, from where they’re coming from, [00:10:00] um, with that with people sort of thinking about that stuff automatically, what you get in those spaces are people who actually start to kind of ask questions and really express.

Joseph Grady: Their humility. Um, there are certainly incidents of that that were on this last job, as well as like other like projects that I’ve worked on. I think, um, probably the first, well, one of the first like major acting gigs that I ever got was winner in the blood and. Um, the directors actually, we had a, a night where we went out and had Oros at Scotty’s table and we sat around with, uh, a whole bunch of our in native actors from the film mm-hmm

Joseph Grady: Um, and we were able to have a conversation of really sort of candid conversation with the directors who were like we’re too white dudes. And. We don’t know the first thing about being native American or what that’s like and so forth. So you need to help us please help us understand, uh, what those are like so that we can like really sort of give this very accurate [00:11:00] portrayal and invited us to give feedback and sort of, um, you know, scan the, the script and so forth.

Joseph Grady: And Hey, this is kind of how we would say it kind of a thing. Um, and that information. Like onboarded with that process in a way that was very respectful and mindful. Um, and I, I wanna say very sort of forward thinking if you will. Um, where I was very impressed at that moment with the directors was like, well, I’m, I’m in with the right gig.

Joseph Grady: I mean, this is like I had a feeling I would walk in here and be like, you know, here’s how you be native American, Mr. Um, and, uh, you know, I kind of roll the eyes and you, you jump into the role and do the gig. As an actor, that’s kind of what it is really. I mean, I’m an instrument. I mean, actors, theater people, we are sort of the paint on the canvas.

Joseph Grady: And so it really is, you know, we it’s, we’re trained to follow directing, um, and that’s not always like fulfilling if you will. Yeah. Um, in, in those kinds of ways, [00:12:00] Especially when it comes to cultural and racial identity. Um, and so I’ve seen a big shift in, in the more recent years where you have more of that presence of mind on set and in the conversation.

Joseph Grady: And even in the invite where those people will be very respectful out front acknowledging culture and identity and their own humility in that space where they’re actually looking to you to be the expert on that experience. While also sort of like infusing this whole dialogue and role into the process.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm is like kind of some new stuff. I mean, at least for me, it is, um, and this experience in Los Angeles was, was very much the same.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. That’s exciting and great to hear. So would you say you do believe you’ve been experiencing, or you do think there are changes in the industry?

Joseph Grady: Yeah. I mean the, the, the little that I experience that I do have with film, um, or television has just.

Joseph Grady: [00:13:00] Historically been either as an observer or as a learner in the classroom space, um, you know, learning about critique and, and understanding stories. Um, and you know, there were there, I think various examples along the way. I don’t really want to draw attention to too much. Yeah. But I think prior to, to my experience, what you would get is kind of what I would describe, uh, the actor would show up, they would dress you up.

Joseph Grady: Here’s how you play Indian and then sort of onto the film. And then you do your best to sort of infuse your own personal characteristic and into the, into the storyline and, and into the setting. Um, but there’s not a lot of like, um, collaboration between director and the creative production and the actor themselves, as the, say the indigenous person mm-hmm

Joseph Grady: And that goes all the way back to the, um, you know, to. The the Oscar incident with, um, I’m just forgetting Marlon Brando, um, and the young, [00:14:00] uh, native woman who accepted the award for him, you know, from that point, you know, you, even prior to that, you had indigenous people like calling for greater respect in these spaces.

Joseph Grady: And, you know, here it is, um, you know, in, into the 2000 and twenties, um, and into the two thousands, and you’re starting to kind of get this recognition and. I think there was a hesitancy along the way to mm-hmm for that, because maybe people just didn’t know how to communicate that. I, I don’t want to like sound like I understand where that was coming from necessarily where the hesitancy was coming from.

Joseph Grady: Um, but in terms of like the outcomes, um, you know, with television shows like. Reservation dogs and, and some of the others that are, are now out on, um, various outlets, like FX and so forth. Um, you, what you have is our native American voices and creativity actually driving the ship mm-hmm and it turns out that it’s it’s it’s really.

Joseph Grady: Funny. There’s a [00:15:00] lot of crossover. Uh, it communicates, well, no matter which culture you’re coming from, it’s just an indigenous perspective. Um, and that’s really refreshing. And I think that that for when we start talking about storytelling and, and being part of the story, Yeah, we as indigenous people tend to thrive because, um, that’s, and not just indigenous people, but many, many stories, but indigenous people as continent, um, storytelling has been deeply infused into who we are as people mm-hmm, our process, how we learn together, the way we built community, uh, et cetera, was, was very much like stories under the stars.

Joseph Grady: And so that’s, that’s how we identify largely. And so when we get, you know, opportunities to be in these creative spaces, we thrive as storytellers. And so I think that that’s, for me watching that happen throughout my lifetime, I mean, I’m 51 years old and. When reservation dogs [00:16:00] dropped the first episode dropped, I was able to watch it.

Joseph Grady: I remember thinking, man, I’ve been waiting like 50 years for this TV show. Um, you know, sort of speak my, speak, my language, and represent, Hey, that’s me on the screen. And identifying in those kinds of ways where we’re not just backdrop characters, we are the foreground and we are the interest of the narrative.

Joseph Grady: Um, and. The kind of moving forward more recently having that access point is I think in part even largely as to why I’ve had any kind of success as an actor, uh, because most of the roles that I step into are have a, you know, a call for a native American, um, of my bearing mm-hmm. Um, it’s not like, um, you know, some person who’s not native American who slaps on a wig and a little bit of sort of brown makeup can then step in there and be like, oh, you know, [00:17:00] it’s like, did you know you called for a native American, uh, to walk through the door and, you know, show up at the audition.

Joseph Grady: And so, um, it, and I think along with that, what I am seeing are when I do go to these auditions, at least when they were held in person. Yeah, you would see a lot of like young, sexy native people, like hanging out, you know, good looking like mm-hmm of all walks and looks, right. Native people showing up to say, Hey, I’m gonna take a swing at this thing, uh, and try this acting gig.

Joseph Grady: And you know, maybe they did a little high school or whatever, you know, sort of goofed around, you know, nowadays you it’s, most of it’s like on the social media, you can film little, um, skits and so forth. do those, uh, sort of have an audience without like having the actual audience and so forth. Yeah, yeah.

Joseph Grady: That I’d be, I think that’s really cool. And, um, the, you know, I think there’s more to say about LA, um, in more in greater [00:18:00] detail, but I mean, in terms of the overall experience for me, the, you know, the, the access point for other indigenous actors, not just myself is probably, I think a huge turnaround mm-hmm

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. So you’ve talked about kind of being a little bit in the industry and acting a fair amount. And I was curious to kind of see how that ties into, um, you also like working at the university and if this has changed, maybe would you hope to pursue, or do you enjoy having that balance? Because it does seem like you are doing, like you said, many different.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Artistic ventures as well. Yeah.

Joseph Grady: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. And I, I, that was actually one that I was really sort of reflecting on as I was doing this because, um, it is, it is a concern for me, you know, being, you know, in an academic professional setting, um, you know, fulfilling a role within that space.[00:19:00]

Joseph Grady: Um, and having a. You know, sort of set objective and, and goal for, for that position. Um, and then going out and doing like professional acting along with it, how is that going to be accepted? Is it going to be accepted? Is it going to be one of those things where it’s, you know, um, someone doesn’t like the idea of that maybe.

Joseph Grady: And mm-hmm um, so trying to like, just be mindful about those factors. Um, and fortunately the, um, I think the, the team that I work with and, um, and you know, my supervisor who’s absolutely amazing has been nothing but support. In that space. Yeah. And so I think that I’m really sort of kicking this around and like, you know, oh my gosh.

Joseph Grady: And how do I find that balance point? Right. Um, where it’s, it’s not only, um, fulfilling, uh, an objective for me, but also, you know, keeping me fair and in tuned [00:20:00] in with my students, you know, because I also, um, that, that is a very realistic consideration for. That said, um, balance to this point hasn’t been terribly difficult.

Joseph Grady: Um, you know, realistically, um, you know, you get the work done and so forth, but that said looking forward, I think the way that I’ve, I’ve thought about this, and I think the way that I’ve always thought about this, like with photography or with writing, um, any of the script writing that I do any of. Like the illustration or, or art that I do a graphic novel that I’m working on.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm um, any of the, like the acting they’re in all of that stuff is like creating opportunity if opportunity is needed. Um, Kind of fallbacks, if you will even. Um, I mean, let’s face it. We live in some pretty uncertain times. Mm-hmm , um, there’s a lot out there that is just putting to question even some of [00:21:00] the old standards that we’re used to just having around, you know, like education.

Joseph Grady: It was, I think at one point it was just like one of those things. Thought never would be it, it just was always going to be the way it was, you know, teacher in the classroom, attitude from the student that doesn’t look the same anymore. I mean, people are talking about arming teachers. The guns and so forth.

Joseph Grady: And so the it’s a very different sort of world right now. Mm-hmm, uh, than what I had grown up in as a kid. And so like, as I look to the future, I wanna make sure that I have, um, I think a lot of experience under my belt. if at some point something a shift needs to be made, um, that certainly is an objective or a goal of mine right now.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm, , I’m pretty stoked about the life that I have. Yeah. You know, with, um, the, even the roles that I fulfill in my professional life, um, you know, there’s tell us something which serving on [00:22:00] the board and the committee there, you know, has its, has it. Peace in my life. And then there’s the artistic thing in all, its sort of various forms with the writing mm-hmm uh, to, to create right now it’s like a lot of focus on photography.

Joseph Grady: Um, and then there’s, there’s also the work thing, right? Yeah. Um, I wanna make sure that I’m building my own experience and resume along the way, um, because you never really know what’s what the future holds. I wanna. Or that I’m, I’m prepared enough in a way. So if something does happen where change is like, oh, um, here’s how tomorrow’s going to look.

Joseph Grady: And it’s not like it was yesterday. I have the kind of footing and I think, um, world experience where I can go out and, and make a pivot or a shift if I need to mm-hmm . And, you know, like right now with the acting thing, kinda like what we’ve been talking about, [00:23:00] part of that is building that opportunity to look towards maybe getting an agent.

Joseph Grady: Now, do I join the unions? Is that something that is, is going to be equitable? Um, for me as a professional. Yeah. Um, and right now, um, where I am, um, making advances is in the workplace, um, at the university, um, and we’ve been making considerable strides and that’s on the backs of a lot of work and a lot of focus and a lot of effort and a lot of teamwork as well.

Joseph Grady: I mean, as a, as an entity, our Montana 10 has had a lot of success. If you will. Um, and we just want to continue to grow that, um, so that we can, you know, our work with other entities yeah. In university campus settings, um, is kind of a full package if you will. Mm-hmm because right now it seems to be working for students.

Joseph Grady: Uh, works for me. I love it. I, I find it [00:24:00] very, very fulfilling. Um, and so. Both are kind of on this trajectory of their own, if you will. Yeah. Um, and if anything, I, what I’ve learned in my life is that, um, just to be present for the ride, um, and, you know, make those big choices when they have to be made. Um, but for the rest of the time, just really, really try and make the most of it.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm um, this has been a, a pretty tough. You know, there’s, um, things that happen with family and, and, you know, there’s things that happened with students. I mean, this is, this last two years has been incredibly heavy. Um, yeah. In terms of people getting sick to, um, people. Struggling with mental health mm-hmm and in my work position and my job position, that’s, that’s very much at the forefront of what we do is, is working with students sort of navigating that stuff.

Joseph Grady: And, you know, it’s like you [00:25:00] need mental health services. Here’s where to go for that. And sort of just taking a lot of time to listen and so forth. Mm-hmm and it’s been a waity year. I mean, a lot of people are struggling with a lot of like really dark. Um, and I think the isolation and the uncertainty about future, especially now more than ever, um, you know, sort of this eruption of just violence in the way that we are, I’m not used to necessarily experiencing.

Joseph Grady: In what is this country is supposed to be mm-hmm um, I think is leaving a lot of uncertainty in terms of one sense of their own safety. Just going out into the world for, to go shopping or to go to school, you know, places where once that was like, those were the safest places to be. Um, and so the, you know, the students that I’m working with right now are, are kind of reflecting, I think, on a lot of that stuff and, and, you know, living through it while also trying to be students and in very [00:26:00] similar ways, think about their own futures.

Joseph Grady: What’s gonna come next. What am I gonna invested in? What’s gonna create opportunity. Um, what is my life and family going to look like moving forward and so forth? Yeah, definitely. There’s so much diversity in that realm that, um, right now the, the position that I find myself in, I kind of feel like roles like this are needed.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm um, and so, uh, for the moment, um, the university gig is, is the main focus. Whereas the creative sort of electric forces in my life are the things that allow me to kind of process that stuff and find a different kind of fulfill. Yeah, um, in life and I don’t know, maybe it’s just sort of come to that where I’m like really sort of seeking those additional bits of, of input.

Joseph Grady: And I’m also getting older. I mean, you know, I’m not getting any younger right now and, and, you know, I don’t wanna be, I, I, I’ve always sort of, I, [00:27:00] um, worried about that time in life, where you’d get to a place where it’s like, I wish I had done that, you know, Um, I, I wonder what would’ve happened if I ever ever made a go of that acting gig right.

Joseph Grady: Or putting some of those skills to use, um, along the way. And I, I don’t know if I necessarily wanna find myself there. So maybe even subconsciously I’m kind of like pushing myself in directions where I can kind of spread out into those areas, get that experience. Yeah. You know, dinner in the blood. That first movie role was like a bucket list moment.

Joseph Grady: And I remember just not only landing the role, but going and doing the gig and then coming home and then seeing the film at the end and taking part in the whole process for me was like, that’s kind of it. I mean, I was a native, I played a native role, so I was a native actor, a black feet character in a story written by a black feet, man.

Joseph Grady: I think I’ve done it. I think of. [00:28:00] Accomplished all I wanted to do. Mm-hmm but then moved on to like these other sort of roles and so forth because it just it’s it’s really great work.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah. Okay. Um, kind of slightly related, but is there any maybe form of art that you really hope to start doing or to take part in?

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Um,

Joseph Grady: I think that, I mean, for me, the, the, something that is less fulfilled is the writing. Mm. Um, that’s where I think I’m, I’m really trying to tie a bunch of things up, so to speak. Um, I have a couple of different scripts that I’ve been writing. Um, I’ve got a story for graphic novel that I’m trying to round out.

Joseph Grady: Um, and all of it is like sort of indigenous influenced. Um, so I guess you would wanna say more contemporary type work or even into like science fiction. Okay. Um, that’s the sort of the area that I’m going. And then something that is, [00:29:00] has always been a natural fit for me is comedy. Um, When I was like in my early twenties, used to do comedy open mics.

Joseph Grady: I used to go out and do sets and get up on stage and try and exercise some of that theater experience as well as the, like the creative writing side of things always loved comedy as an outlet and trying to do it creatively as a, as a native. Uh, person trying to reach the audience in a way, um, with that aspect of my identity, um, has been infused into that.

Joseph Grady: And so the, the writing piece for me right now is something that, um, I really wanna see kind of, you know, bubble to the surface next. Um, yeah, like I said, there’s a lot more outlets these days. Mm-hmm for a lot more. Call for native writers, actors, creative types, even production people. And I mean, I’m talking to the production people out there, the young folks who are like going into the, into, into, you know, either [00:30:00] theater or film or TV, if you’re a native American and you’re on the.

Joseph Grady: and you’re on the production side. You’re on the postproduction you’re behind the camera. You’re in this sort of creative force behind the scenes. Um, that’s that part is like, I think really, really significant and important. Yeah. And I’d like to, I’d like to break into that a little bit. I’d like to see some writing represented and so forth.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm because we need the, the turnaround for that is creating opportunity for the next native writer or indigenous actor down the

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: road. Yeah. All right. Well, I think that we will start wrapping this up, but thank you once again. Um, and as my final question, what is the best piece of life advice you’ve been given?

Joseph Grady: Oh, man. Um, Well there’s one and I can’t say it here. Um, because it’s, it’s, I think three quarters of the phrase is cursing. Um,

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: [00:31:00] okay. I mean, whatever you wanna share, you can share

Joseph Grady: let me, let me dig for something else, maybe. Okay. Um, basically I think in the, some of the greatest. Perspective I’ve I’ve learned in life or, um, come from the, the people that I know in life who got sober, um, you know, the people who struggled with addiction and, and alcoholism I’m, I’m one of them, you know, I’m one of those people who’s thankfully, you know, recovered from alcoholism or, or is recovery.

Joseph Grady: You’re always in recovery. Um, but one of the things that has just made life, particularly for me, way more doable and has made all of the rest of this stuff, like really accessible is just to keep it simple. Um, I have this real capacity to overthink. Um, I think that that’s present in my photography and my, in my acting and my writing and my creativity and my [00:32:00] painting and my process and all of that stuff.

Joseph Grady: And, um, I, I think the one thing I’ve learned in my life is that, um, the, the biggest thing that is standing in my way, ways of me, uh, and it always has been, it’s always been this, this sort of internal dialogue that has been happening and has been informed of course, by. Influences and factors and other voices and so forth.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm but I think that keep it simple thing was just a way for me to learn, to just sort of get out of my own way.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah, no, I like it. I think that’s a great piece of advice. Okay, well, Joseph, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

Joseph Grady: Awesome Sierra. This is really cool. Um, good job on your podcast and I, I really appreciate the opportunity to come on and, and share my experience.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Of course. Thank you for sharing and thank you guys for listening and take

Joseph Grady: care.[00:33:00]

Marc Moss: Thanks, Joseph and Sierra. Joseph Grady is a professional actor and artist with roles in films like winter in the blood, Jimmy P and slant streets. He has been painting and selling art for more than 30 years throughout the Northwest. Joseph graduated from the university of Montana with a degree in social work and a focus in native American studies and lives in his community.

Marc Moss: As a change agent addressing social justice. And anti-racism action. Joseph serves on the Missoula food bank anti-racism task force. And is the chair for tell us something’s board of directors, Sierra Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice.

Marc Moss: To sitting down to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty brownie Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share. You can find the impactful experiences podcast, [00:34:00] wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks to her. Inkind sponsors, Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and Missoula broadcasting company.

Marc Moss: Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast. Remember to get your ticket to the next. September 27th, 2022. Live at the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go more information and tickets are [email protected].

Joseph Grady shares a story about sitting drunk in a field full of ramshackle abandoned, decaying buildings and the conversation he has with a crow that changes his life.

Transcript : Conversation With Crow

Amazing to be in such company. I’ll start by saying that. I want to tell you a story about a crow. It’s kind of a transformative story as well.

I’m a drunk and a horse thief. Wait, it gets better. That’s actually how a lot of people in the sober community refer to themselves when they straighten up, fly right.

I started drinking when I was 21 years old, by the way, this is not an AA meeting. I started drinking when I was 21, and that first experience I blacked out. Which should’ve told me something, but I really took to it, or rather it took to me. However you want to look at it, and off I went.

Let me back up real quick. I was born in Browning Montana. I’m an enrolled Blackfeet Nation member. My parents died when I was very young, just a baby, and I was adopted off of the reservation by an Irishman and a woman who was Swedish German. Beautiful people, some of the most beautiful people that I know. I grew up in Catholic school and public school, like many many people in the United States. The suburban central Arizona, Indiana, Washington. Parts of Montana. My father’s a professor of electrical engineering dragged us around the country. Very smart man.

To get back to the story, after taking those first drinks I drank for the next 17 years. I started my day with a jug of wine, and that was my lunch, my dinner, my dessert, that was actually my life. There’s a son in there as well, who was born at the beginning of this downward spiral. And the downward spiral started very, very quickly, much to my chagrin. I was homeless throughout most of that, disconnected from my kid. We didn’t connect with each other until much later on in life.

Public school did a deplorable job of informing me about Native American people. I was a little bitter about that. I don’t have as long an acting career as many of the people here. My first role was the Native American in the Thanksgiving pageant as a child and subsequently every Thanksgiving after that. That being said, by the time I was out of high school and had graduated, I was over mascots, the Bellingham high school Red Raiders. I was over the Thanksgivings, I was over the Columbus days. I was so freaking sick and tired of it, because I had no idea who I was.

The only person that I had ever connected to, who was Blackfoot, in my life, was James Welch. It was a book that I had found when I was a child called the earth, Riding the Earthboy, Riding the Earthboy 40. It was a book of poetry, and there was one poem in particular that stood out to me. I won’t share it with you tonight. Suffice to say, that was kind of a huge role model for me. Something I was very disconnected from.

Moving forward, I went on from high school, to this lengthy homeless tirade. Where I went through friends, I went through women, I went through jobs like they were going out of style. The last job I lost was right here in Missoula, Montana. A little restaurant that had just opened up.

Subsequently, I had been fired for being drunk on the job. I had been kicked out of the home I was at. I had lost connection with my son again. I hadn’t eaten in three days I was sort of lost. A couple bottles of wine in my bag, my backpack. That’s where I lived, was used to living there.

So at the end of this, I was sitting in a field, in a little place that’s now known as the Old Mill District, I think that’s what it’s called. It used to be an open field with nothing but crumbling concrete, weeds, refuse, old broken buildings. Quite appropriate for how I was feeling. Felt right at home.

As I sat there that day, drinking my breakfast of wine, feeling like I’m going to go back home to Washington with my tail between my legs and my kid off somewhere. I don’t know what’s going to happen. After a short while, this kind of fog lifted, if you will. It’s like the booze wasn’t working. It’s like it was just very clear, and situated to my right, on this concrete piling, this old sort of slanted broken piece sticking up out of the ground.

There was a crow, there were several others around. They were flying around, but this one was a little bit different. It spoke to me. I didn’t know what to do with that. So I continued, I had this conversation if you will. Talk about an existential crisis. There I stood, or sat rather, with this bird, and it was telling me things.

As it spoke something became very clear to me. I was thinking about Native American history. Thousands of years of Native American history. Suddenly, just hit me like a fist, like a memory almost. There was a clarity to it, a deep fulfilling breath. I asked the bird, “What about all of this religion stuff, and stuff I grew up in? I’m lost and I don’t know what to do.” “Give it up. Put it on the ground and leave it. Leave it for the spirits.”


Well, I kind of went on. I listened a little longer and after a while, I was just sitting there alone. I was drunk, felt like I had just come out of a blackout. Which I had done many, many, many times in my life. Except for I never remembered any of the blackouts. That stuff was just sort of lost to the world, but this was crystalline in my head, what had happened. It was clear, and the thing I realized in that moment is that I don’t have to do this anymore.

So, I stood up and I went across the river and I checked into this hotel. I had a couple hundred bucks in my pocket, and I rented a room. I detoxed in that room. I spent about a week in there convulsing, seizing, throwing up. By the time I could keep a glass of water down, and a little bit of food, my time was up in the room.

And what I realized at that moment was that it doesn’t matter if I’m homeless, penniless, jobless, no prospects. I’m going to stay here, and I’m going to be with my kid. I’m going to figure it out, because I’m going to listen to that bird.

I moved on, of course, and I haven’t, that was October 11th, 2006, and I haven’t had a drink since. Thank you. Turns out this is an AA meeting. Alright, this doesn’t have to stay here by the way.

Alright, so, I have this experience and I’ve every moment since that point, I take that with me. I wake with it, and I say thank you. I think about that bird. I go to bed I thank that bird. I’ve been through school, I’ve acted. I’ve been around amazing people. The first role I was cast in was Winter in the Blood, a James Welch story. It was a bucket list moment, full circle.

The thing I’ve come to learn throughout all of this, aside from being an actor, not being an actor, telling stories etc. is that the Blackfeet are storytellers. That’s who we are. We share with community, and that’s the thing I took away that day with that bird. Ever since that moment, all of that disconnect, and loss is completely gone. I feel like I’m part of a community. It’s unbelievable, for a guy who was looking at the possibility of just checking out.

I’m going to end with this real quickly. I was invited to the home of Lois Welch, where James used to sit and think, and I sat for a moment, out by this, on this wood carved seat. And it wasn’t like everything had started to make sense. That feeling of being part of something actually became real. I felt inspired. I wanted to help my friends. I wanted to be a part of something much larger, and it was the most humbling experience of my life. To be in that place in that moment. So I thank that crow for all of these experiences, whatever comes next. I’m going to capitalize on it. I’m going to make the most of it. Life is really juicy now, I really love that.

Anyway, that’s all I have.

CALL FOR STORYTELLERS! It’s *your* turn to share your story! THEME: “The First Time” WHAT: Call for stories for the live storytelling event: Tell Us Something – Theme: “The First Time” WHEN: Thursday, March 30, 2023 WHERE: The Dennison Theatre PITCH DEADLINE: February 20, 2023 REQUIRED Group Workshop: March 18, 2023 PITCH LINE: 406-203-4683 You have 3…

LAST CALL! We want to hear your stories on the theme “It’s the Little Things” (remember – storytellers are [financially] compensated for sharing their stories and work with a story coach and peers to refine their stories) Call 406-203-4683 to pitch your story. Our Deaf friends can pitch by sending an email to [email protected]. [the…