"I used to say I walk in one moccasin and one heel," says Chenae Bullock. "I can walk into a boardroom in a badass suit and I can walk into a ceremony in my traditional clothing, barefoot."
As an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Nation and a descendant of the Montauk Tribe, who is also African American, Chenae has always valued the importance of cultural perspective and preservation. So much so that she's turned it into a career - and her very own thriving business.
In 2019, after years of working in the museum space as an Indigenous perspective historian, Chenae launched Moskehtu Consulting, a first-of-its-kind, Native American owned and operated, cultural heritage consulting firm. Offering education, resources, and, most importantly, a direct Indigenous perspective on everything from public policy to school curriculum to diversity training in corporate HR departments, it's been meeting an increasingly rising demand to (finally) include Native voices in conversations across all industries.
"I've worked in the museum field for about 15 years as an Indigenous perspective authority," Chenae explains. "I started realizing that a lot of times, I was working in institutions that were owned and operated by non-Indigenous people and their interest, bottom line, was how much money was coming in. It became really challenging and it was a conflict of interest with who I really am."
Knowing that museums and cultural institutions would consult with outside firms on certain issues, "I said to myself, I think I have enough of a skillset to do this on my own."
Since its inception, Moskehtu Consulting has worked with museums, historical societies, government agencies, and even the Tribeca Film Institute. "It was a beautiful partnership,
Chenae says. "They had shot a film series representing gender identity and race and they had curriculum written to go with the films for when they showed them in schools. One of the films, The Boxers of Brule, was regarding Native Americans and they felt that it was very important for them to actually hire a Native company to develop the curriculum. So that's what we did!"
"As a business I find it fascinating because now there is a demand for this kind of stuff not only in museums, but in government settings, in schools, organizations. A lot of HR departments are looking for diversity and inclusivity training... huge companies will hire well-known, award-winning [consulting firms] to help with HR training, but there's a gap - people don’t talk about Native Americans," she explains.
"So what Moskehtu Consulting provides is that educational component but also perspective and resources. A lot of times it’s not that people do it on purpose, they’ve just never thought about it. Now they just have to be open to educating themselves."
In the months since the pandemic struck, Chenae has also led canoe tours through sacred waterways in Long Island (which she says was "a big eye-opener" for many locals unaware of their hometown's own history), and has given keynote speeches at virtual presentations for the likes of NYU, Harvard, and Yale, along with moderating a 4 hour virtual town hall called “From Smallpox to Covid-19; Let’s Heal One Another” with 29 global Indigenous leaders.
As an activist, she's also remained intrinsically involved with her community, from the Shinnecock Nation's actions in Southampton to preserve sacred lands and burial sites to organizing COVID aid including essential holistic tools, medicines, food, and strategic planning to Indigenous communities around the world through Moskehtu (funds for which you can donate HERE).
For Chenae, helping to promote a stronger general consciousness of the fights and voices of Indigenous people is just the start - but it's something all of us can participate in.
"Find local Indigenous communities [in your area] and see what their challenges are. The more positive change that we can all do together, the better our world is actually going to be."
[Photos courtesy Chenae Bullock/Moskehtu Consulting]