Taylor Keen is a teacher, community builder, and Native American thought leader based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His back story is as diverse as it is impressive—he’s a member of both the Omaha Tribe and the Cherokee Nation, attended Dartmouth College (BA) and Harvard University (Masters of Public Policy, MBA), and enjoyed a successful stint in corporate America before returning to Nebraska to teach entrepreneurship and management at Creighton University. His most recent undertaking is Sacred Seed, a project with the goal of preserving Native American heritage and history through collecting, growing, and spreading the seeds of corn and other traditional Native American foods.
The writer Wallace Stegner theorized that people generally fit into one of two categories—“Boomers” or “Stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run” and want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are just the opposite—they are “motivated by affection, by such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”1 Taylor is the walking embodiment of a Sticker. Given his drive, intelligence, and education, he could’ve followed the path of the Boomer and pursued any number of careers. But a deep love of his Native American heritage and his community called him back home to teach, lead, and live a life devoted to service of others. It’s an inspiring story.
I could’ve talked to Taylor for hours and I only asked about a third of the questions I had prepared, but we still managed to dig into a wide variety of fascinating topics. We discussed the history and mission of Sacred Seed and where he sees the project going in the future. We talked about his path from the West to the Ivy League, the decisions that led him to transition from corporate America to higher education, and some very interesting Native American history. One of my favorite parts of our conversation was Taylor’s recounting the advice he received from his grandfather soon after graduating from Harvard Business School.
This was a very enlightening conversation for me, and I greatly appreciate Taylor taking the time to chat. I encourage you to visit the Sacred Seed website and watch the video—you can find links to everything we discuss in the episode notes on the webpage. Enjoy!
All photos courtesy of Taylor Keen
1 Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection (2012)
- Taylor Keen – Creighton University
- Sacred Seed
- Taylor on Facebook and Instagram
- Sacred Seed article in the Omaha World Herald
- Sacred Seed video
- Omaha Tribe
- Cherokee Nation
- Corn Among the Indians of the Upper Missouri by George Francis Will and George E. Hyde
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
- Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr.
- God is Red: A Native View of Religion by Vine Deloria, Jr.
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Mitakuye Oyasin: We Are All Related by A.C. Ross