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Nick Tilsen

  • Grown up around activism, politics and law his entire life

  • Participated in the Honor Earth Campaign

  • Worked with the Prairie Island Coalition Rallies because of nuclear waste storage on the reservation, located on the Mississippi River

  • Toured the South studying the Civil Rights Movement

  • Worked with and traveled with blues band Indigenous

  • Recalls how Muy Tai Kickboxing has helped him with his temper

  • Toured the South studying the Civil Rights Movement

  • Three years of Commercial Fishing has changed Nick and helped him "grow up real fast"


Nick has grown up around a really good atmosphere. During the summers he would travel to The Pine Ridge Indian reservation and visit his mother and participate in traditional ceremonies and going to Pow Wows. Because of this, he never lost touch with his culture and never became ashamed of where he came from. He more or less became very proud of his roots and his culture because of this. While in Minneapolis, he would go to school, be around political conversations, and go to rallies and meeting with his father, Mark Tilsen. He remembers standing outside of the Metrodome during the Super Bowl protesting against the Washington Redskins name. He liked football but didn't like how the name offended him. He also remembers growing up around a lot of AIM people talking about Wounded Knee and always showing interest in it. Sometimes, he even tried to pretend that he was Dennis Banks, an AIM leader. He traveled a lot with his dad. He would go to Concerts and get to hang out backstage.

He was always at the Prairie Island Coalition rallies not only because his dad was involved but also because he enjoyed them. People were always filled with energy and there were always people that he knew. When he was in high school, he realized what those rallies were all about, and he was glad that he participated in them. The people were always so cool and let him think freely at these types of things.

Nick toured the south studying the Civil Rights Movement in Honor of his grandma Rachel Tilsen. He and 52 of his family members went deep into the South, picking family up on the way. They traveled to The National Civil Rights Institute and he also traveled to the Loren Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. He visited the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Voting rights museum in Selma, Alabama, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Martin Luther King memorial in Atlanta, Georgia. Nick recalls this trip as being a very powerful experience: on the way back to the Twin Cities he interviewed everybody on the bus and he never slept all the way home. He also said that it was a very emotional learning experience because of the hate that he learned about when he was down there. The tour was called the Rachel Tour 2000 and was motivated in the memory of Rachel Tilsen, Nick's grandmother and a Freedom Fighter in the 1960's who worked with the Civil Rights Movement.

Nick started studying Muy Tai Kickboxing at a school in St. Paul, MN and he enjoyed it greatly. It helped him with his temper and actually made him want to be less violent. He looks at the kickboxing has an art and even a different religion. With Nick’s constant travel, he studies the art on his own and works out when he can. He thinks that everybody should be involved in some type of martial art, because "it helps you relieve built up stress that today's society tends to put on your back. It is also very healthy for you mentally and physically."

Nick as been a commercial fisherman on the Prince William Sound for about three years now. He has been on the same boat ever since he first started fishing. He doesn't know what exactly motivated him to pick up and go to Alaska and look for a commercial fishing job, but he did it any way. He recalls walking the docks everyday for a week until he finally got a job with an Aleut Indian named Jim Totemoff. Jim taught Nick just about everything he knows about fishing and Nick is still on his boat. Nick says he doesn’t just go to Alaska to make money, but to get away from the craziness of the Lower 48 states. "It helps me think with a clear head every time I comes back from there," he says. Nick spends his summers in Alaska, from June until September. He thinks it's a very honorable lifestyle and it doesn't hurt the environment because salmon is a manageable resource that if we watch close and take care of will be there forever. This is where Nick was before he joined the U.S Odyssey Trek.

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