RuralX Continues to Connect the Dots

Posted on December 15, 2016

Paula Jensen
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Story by Carey Grosdidier, Freelance Writer

Maybe it was the timing. Maybe it was the event. Maybe it was a little bit of both.

At RuralX, we’d like to think the connection made between Angela Tewalt of Sioux Falls and Barry Zephier of Flandreau was by design.  One of the main objectives of RuralX is to bring rural “thinkers and doers” together in powerful ways. While the two had met before, Angela and Barry were given the opportunity to have a deeper conversation at RuralX during an Open X forum hosted by Vince Two Eagles.

“I didn’t expect to find so many opportunities to talk about native and non-native relations at RuralX,” said Angela. “I was sensitive to the topic because of my recent work as a freelance writer, so I joined a group discussion of about 15-20 people. We had an amazing conversation and I was especially inspired by Barry and his willingness to listen to both sides and offer an insightful perspective. He is so focused and motivated—unlike anyone I have ever met.”

After RuralX, Angela and Barry met in Sioux Falls for more conversation.

“He brought me some of his custom jewelry and artwork, which is just fabulous. We talked at length about some of the issues I had been writing about, such as problems on the reservations,” said Angela. “He helped me understand so many things, and to not be afraid to ask the uncomfortable questions. We both realize there is a gap between native and non-native people and bridging that gap starts with collaboration and understanding.”

For Barry, getting a chance to make deeper connections with people like Angela was a highlight of RuralX. Barry is a fairly well-known public figure in South Dakota, serving in tribal government for 25 years and holding positions that include Tribal District Chairman, college instructor, teacher, entrepreneur, coach and Native American advocate.

“I recognized many people at RuralX, but I’ve never had a chance to sit down and talk to most of them,” he said. “I have always felt that the only way rural communities are going to thrive is if native and non-native people collaborate and work together equally. I made a connection with Angela and that connection will connect us to others and it will continue to grow. That is powerful.”

Since their meeting, Angela has asked Barry to bring his jewelry to a few craft shows in Sioux Falls and she has inspired him to think about “saying more things, writing more things and getting the word out about what I feel is important.”

In addition to meeting Angela, Barry also connected with Katie Boone, founder of Envision Labs in Mankato, MN.

“I am part of Bridge Flandreau and we are looking into turning an old building in Flandreau into a place where hobby businesses can rent office space. Katie is doing that very thing with Envision Labs in Mankato and I would like to meet with her and talk more about how it’s done,” said Barry.

Both Barry and Angela agree that meeting new people, hearing their stories and learning from them is important not just at an event like RuralX, but in life.

“Things can happen if we all realize we have something to offer,” said Barry. “It’s like that web we were building at RuralX…every connection grows into another connection and another. And every connection represents an opportunity. You never know who might lead you to your next job, your next idea or your next connection. I never know what’s next for me, but I do know that it will come from a connection—probably over lunch somewhere. And that’s awesome.”

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