I teach Native American Studies and Native Science at Northwest Indian College, Lummi Nation, Bellingham, Washington. I have now been invloved in Indian education for over 30 years at all levels from middle school through graduate college. This includes 19 years of teaching on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. I have also taught on the White Mountain Apache reservation, Winnebago reservation, and in urban schools in Tucson, Arizona.
I hold two master degrees from the University of Arizona, one in American history, the other in American Indian Studies. While at the UA I studied under what is generally regarded as being the greatest collection of native scholars ever gathered together at one time. Among my professors was Vine Deloria, Jr., N. Scott Momaday, Robert K. Thomas, and Tom Holm. Vine directed my thesis. He became my mentor, colleague, friend, and without question had the greatest influence on my intellectual and professional development. Whatever success I have had I owe to him, what ever failures or shortcomings I have experienced, I assume full credit for.
Over the years I have done quite a bit of writing. I have edited three books and have published over 70 other articles. I have also made more than 100 professional presentations at various conferences and workshops. My main broad interest – and the focus of much of my writing – has long been Native American religion and spirituality. I have also spent a considerable amount of time studying Native American ethnozoology. I hope to complete my next book – The Navajo and the Animal People: Essays in Native American Ethnozoology and Traditional Ecological Knowledge – by the end of this (2012) summer. More recently I have been researching and writing on cognitive ethology and the rights of nature as these concepts apply to Indigenous people.
In regard to mylife and work in Indian Country, I remain foremost a teacher. I love the classroom. I also love the challenge of teaching new classes and exploring new ideas with my students. Since coming to NWIC six years ago, I have taught nearly twenty different classes. My favorite classes are Native Science and Philosophies of the Natural World. I think I enjoy these classes most because they are “thinking” classes. There is no simple memorization of facts, but rather the sharing of ideas. These classes are truly intellectual in nature and the depth of my students never ceases to amaze me. With the variety and scope of the classes I teach, and my role in the new BS degree program in Native Environmental Science, NWIC is an exciting and rewarding place to be.
My greatest passion is the natural world. I am happiest when I am outdoors, preferably alone on a high mountain trail or perhaps in some isolated place in the Sonoran desert. A bad day in the outdoors always trumps a good day indoors.
I have always had an interest in wildlife and especially carnivores – the meat-eating predatory animals. When I lived in Arizona I was very envolved in various carnivore conservation programs. I did volunteer work with Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and the Sky Island Alliance. I was especially involved in tracking as a form of wildlife (mostly mountain lions and black bears)monitoring. I also did a considerable amount of work with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, including volunteer time in their Mexican wolf and Black-footed ferret reintroduction programs. One of the most memorable events in my life was when I helped to reintroduce a pack of wolves into the Blue Mountain Range of northcentral Arizona – an event that was shown on the Animal Planet special, “Wolf: Return to the Wild.” (Look closely and you can see me carrying a crate with a wolf in it to be released).
Oh, I am also something of an amateur herpetologist. I love reptiles, especially snakes, and most especially rattlesnakes. The thing I miss most about the Southwest and Arizona are the rattlesnakes. It is my goal to one day photograph every species of rattlesnake in North America (I am up to 12 species now). I also have the distinction of being the only person to have witnessed – and photographed – arboreal (tree-climbing) behavior in Tiger rattlesnakes, AND I have also captured (as part of a University of Arizona project) one of the largest Twin-spotted rattlesnake on record. Impressed?
Other more personal things about me: I was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania – the famous “flood city.” My parents – both gone – were George and Ann Pavlik. I have one brother, Richard, who lives with his wife Judy in Sonoita, Arizona in the foothills of the beautiful Huachua Mountains where I so dearly love to hike and camp. His only son Steve, my nephew, lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with his wife Carla and their four children, Chelsea, Jon, Andrew, and Molly. That is the extent of my family.
My one own “significant other” is Robin, my Labrador retriever – quite possibly the most spoiled – and deservedly so – canine on the planet. I love Chinese food and watch far too much television in the evening. My favorite shows: Justified, NCIS, Nikita, Hawaii Five O, Person of Interest, and Grimm.
Being originally from Pennsylvania I retain a degree of loyalty – especially in sports – to that state. I am a hardcore Pittsburgh Steeler (Make that the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers!) and Penn State Nittany Lion football fan. If I have one “hero” in life it would be the late head coach at Penn State, Joe Paterno. He finished his career as the winningest coach in college football history, but most importantly, he won the old fashioned way – with hard work, passion, honor and integrity.