4 Native American employees share how they live, discover and appreciate their heritage

From Alaska to Arizona and New Mexico to Minnesota, Native American culture is varied and rich in history and tradition. We’re closing out Native American Heritage Month with an employee Q&A so we can all learn a little more about our fellow co-workers and what makes them who they are. For some it’s the beginning of a journey to discover and learn about family, culture and heritage. For others it’s the continuation of strong traditions still celebrated – passed down from many generations.

Q: What would you like us to know about your tribe/culture?

Jody: The Fond du Lac band is one of six Chippewa Indian bands that make up the Minnesota Chippewa tribe. The Ojibwe name for the Fond du Lac reservation is Nagaajiwanaang, which means “where the water stops.”

Frazer: It is very common for many people with Alaska Native heritage to participate in subsistence hunting or fishing as a means of providing food for family and community.

Carey: Tamaya is one of 18 pueblos, along with the Navajo and Apaches, and we are the indigenous peoples in New Mexico.

Jolene: The Dine’ (Navajo) culture is structured around family, tradition and history. The Dine’ people have 4 unique clanships. Clanship is determined through the mother’s clan, and a child is “born for” the father’s clan. In Navajo mythology, there were 4 original clans created by Changing Woman. In time, additional clans were formed from other tribes or created out of circumstance (for instance, a child born into or for a non-Navajo) and these were adopted into the clanship. Today there are over 140 clans. Knowing your 4 clans is sacred and identifies where you come from.

Q: What is unique to your tribe’s art, history, and/or customs?

Carey: Our traditional dances are open to the public and include the Harvest Dance, and the Buffalo & Deer Dance. Most dances are aligned with the Catholic calendar, because the Spaniards brought the Catholic religion during their “conquest” of the region. Our most religious dances are still maintained in secrecy and are not open to the public. My family and I participate in those dances as a way of prayer for the health and prosperity of family and tribal members, and all the world’s inhabitants.

Jody: My mother’s family are direct descendants of Chief Joseph Osaugie, one of the signers of the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe that resulted in the creation of the Lake Superior Ojibwe reservations. Ojibwe art includes rice baskets, birch bark baskets, birch bark canoes, dream catchers and beautiful beadwork.

Frazer: When I was 8 years old I received my first pocket knife which I learned how to use in cleaning and preparing salmon. The next year my grandmother had taught me to fillet salmon using a traditional Alaskan Native knife called an Ulu. From a young age, I was always curious about how things worked and how I could learn these practiced skills my grandmother expertly demonstrated.

Q: How does your heritage shape who you are?

Jolene: I loved being with my paternal grandmother (shinálí). She portrayed strength, humbleness and love by her actions. She cared for her livestock as if they were children, and herded them by foot from her summer camp to winter camp. She showed great respect and value for all living things that Mother Earth has blessed us with. My grandmother embraced our traditional ways of life and never complained of having to work hard. She taught me to embrace where I come from, to trust my traditional prayers, to work hard, to be humble and to make the most of life no matter what I may encounter.

Jody: Growing up, every summer I spent two weeks in Duluth, Minnesota where we attended family gatherings, fished with my grandpa, cooked with my grandma and picked berries and searched for agates with siblings and cousins. A family gathering is not complete without a wild rice dish; wild rice salad, wild rice soup or wild rice hot dish.  Family is everything and our traditions are connected to the earth. My parents instilled a strong sense of family and belonging and role modeled a strong work ethic, a deep respect and gratitude for their journey, a deep spirituality and an amazing love for learning.

Frazer: My family has always been a very strong source of support and encouragement, and I’ve carried with me respect for elders. And the same is true for respecting the experience and wisdom of those who have already navigated the major milestones in life, whether it’s earning a degree or earning your place in the work environment. The core values taught from generation to generation also translate into personal responsibility to pass on these teachings to others.

Carey: Our beliefs instill perseverance, humility, and commitment. My parents and the elder Tamayame have always taught us to work hard and to have respect for everyone and everything on this earth. As children we are taught to care for our animals and plants so they will take care of us. Even our homes and our vehicles are given a prayer of acceptance and included as part of the family, so they will take care of us as we take care of them.

Q:  What does Native American Heritage Month mean to you?

Frazer: Native American Heritage Month is a time to reach out and gain an understanding of the history of Native Americans across the country. It was a high school educational requirement in the Anchorage, AK school district to take a course in Alaskan history, which included Alaskan Native history. However, this is only a small representation of the Native American population in the U.S. This month is an opportunity for me to participate in the larger inter-tribal events and learn about other regions of the U.S. The land is as ecologically diverse as the various tribes who call those areas home.

Carey: It is reminder to stay grounded and to remember who I am. The Pueblo tribes of New Mexico still hold onto to the customs that have been passed down through many generations and are resolute in maintaining them for our future generations. It also a time to share and educate others what it means to be Native, because there are people who believe Native Americans are too privileged and want see our sovereign status taken away.

Jolene: For me it’s a time to not only embrace the value of my unique heritage, but an opportunity to teach others. Native culture and traditions are not taught in U.S. schools – the history books lack this teaching – so it’s an opportunity for our Native employees to learn about other Native traditions while sharing their own knowledge with others.

Q: What else would you like to share?

Jody: My mom talks still about the discrimination she and her family faced growing up. As a young child, she couldn’t understand why classmates would be mean to her. Her experience had an influence on my upbringing and, subsequently, on how I raised my four children. We were raised to be kind to everybody. Everyone has a story.

Frazer: I’ve come to realize after years of attending inter-tribal gatherings and conferences is that the generic term “Native American” is a very wide umbrella that covers 573 federally recognized tribes. When our elders speak to us they don’t draw attention to our differences instead, they always refer to us as One People. And although we have our differences in language, culture and food there is still so much that we can find common in our core beliefs and values if we take a moment to grow our understanding.

Carey: I feel very fortunate to work for such a great company. Throughout my Intel career all my group leaders and managers have been very supportive of my desire to maintain our tribe’s cultural and spiritual beliefs. My hope is that Intel will continue to forge the path where all employees are supported no matter our cultural, religious, and philosophical differences.

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