Recognizing Native American Heritage Month in November

By Taja Blackhorn, Department of Labor and Industries and Member of the Kahodasi People

Pictured Above: Members from four Alaskan Tribes, Photo from US Bureau of Indian Affairs

November is Native American Heritage Month

Beginning in 1990, November was designated Native American Heritage Month, a time to pay tribute of the rich history and culture of the American Indian tribes.

All the verbiage surrounding that initial recognition seemed to place Indigenous people and Indigenous culture into a past tense.  

But we are still here

November is a wonderful time to recognize, honor, and celebrate Indigenous peoples and identities past, present, and future.

In order to properly respect and honor the original inhabitants, it is important to learn about the Indigenous People whose land this is.

Because you don’t know what you don’t know

Washington state alone encompasses the traditional homelands/ancestral lands of 29 federally recognized indigenous tribes as well as many unrecognized indigenous communities.

In addition to the Indigenous peoples whose traditional homelands exist within the modern state boundaries, numerous indigenous peoples of the Americas have made Washington state their home.

Learn more about Washington State Tribes

Because you don’t know what you don’t know

  • There is no pan-Indian culture. There are many Indigenous peoples each with our own language, customs, and lifeways
  • We are still battling against of 550 years of genocide, discrimination, erasure of our languages/cultures/beliefs.
  • We are still working on decolonizing how we are seen, both through internal and external lenses. 
  • When it comes to urban Indians [from federally or non-federally recognized tribes] we often exist outside the government-to-government power structure.
  • One way to think of Indigenous identity is one is Sovereign and one is Racial/Ethnic. Both are Indigenous.

November is also National Veterans and Military Families Month

Did You Know?

  • 18.6% of the American Indian & Alaskan Native population has served in the post-9/11 period
    • and at higher percentage than veterans of other minorities at 18.6% vs. 14%.
  • There are currently 31,000 American Indian & Alaskan Natives on active duty
  • There are currently 140,000 living American Indian & Alaskan Native Veterans and 11.5% are women

https://americanindian.si.edu/nnavm/heroes/

During World War I:

Although Native Americans were not considered to be US Citizens until 1924, they were required to register for the draft during WW I

 6,500 Native men were drafted, and about 5,000 more enlisted, eager to carry on the warrior traditions of their tribes.

  • 10,000+ in the Army
  • 2,000+ in the Navy
  • 14 American Indian women served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

As their tradition dictated the Onondaga and Oneida Nations declared war against Germany, so they could enter battle honorably

Choctaw and Cherokee Code Talkers

The Choctaw code talkers were a group of Choctaw Indians from Oklahoma who pioneered the use of Native American languages as military code.

Photo from US Army Archives

For many years, the code talkers’ work remained classified. Then on June 18, 2002, Congress passed the Code Talkers Recognition Act to recognize the important part that these Soldiers played in “performing highly successful communications operations of a unique type that greatly assisted in saving countless lives and in hastening the end of World War I and World War II.” The act further states that the code talkers operated “under some of the heaviest combat action … around the clock to provide information … such as the location of enemy troops and the number of enemy guns.”

Congress recognized the remarkableness of the code talkers’ achievements, despite societal discrimination against them. The act states that at “… a time when Indians were discouraged from practicing their native culture, a few brave men used their cultural heritage, their language, to help change the course of history.”

https://www.army.mil/americanindians/code_talkers.html

During World War II:

Did You Know?

An estimated 44,000 Native Americans served in the United States military during World War II

  • 21,767 in the Army
  • 1,910 in the Navy
  • 874 in the Marines
  • 121 in the Coast Guard
  • Several hundred Native American women served as Nurses

These three are members of the U.S. Marine Corps. They are [left to right] Minnie Spotted Wolf of the Blackfeet, Celia Mix, Potawatomi, and Violet Eastman, Chippewa.

Photo from US Marine Corps Archive

Navajo Code Talkers of World War II

Photo gallery 1. Collage of Navajo Code Talkers from World War II 2. Photo of last of the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers. Photo from Britanica.com

They devised a hundred-word dictionary of military terms, including ‘‘two-star chief ’’ for major general, ‘‘eagle’’ for colonel, ‘‘turtle’’ for tank, ‘‘sewing machine’’ for machine gun, and ‘‘pregnant airplane’’ for bomber. The main beneficiary of the code talkers’ unique ability was the Fourth Infantry Division, which assigned two Comanche soldiers to each regiment with others at division headquarters. Subsequently other code talkers joined the army program from the Chippewa, Fox, Hopi, Oneida, and Sac tribes.

The last of the original 29 Navajo code talkers who developed the code, Chester Nez, died on June 4, 2014. Three of the last nine Navajo code talkers used in the military died in 2019: Alfred K. Newman, died on January 13, 2019, at the age of 94. On May 10, 2019, Fleming Begaye Sr., died at the age of 97.

Keeping Traditions Alive During a Pandemic

Social Distance Powwow

In the time of COVID-19 traveling & performing during Pow Wow Season is impossible and dangerous. So, the Indigenous Community came up with a way share and participate through Facebook:

Social Distance Pow Wow

Roc Your Mocs

Traditional Native Moccasins. Tribe unspecified. Photo from pixabay.com.

First established in 2011, the worldwide Rock Your Mocs events calls for American Indians and Alaska Natives to wear their moccasins on November 15 as part of Native American Heritage Month. Watch the tag #RockYourMocs on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see how people celebrate across the country.

Taja Blackhorn, a member of the Kahosadi People from southern Oregon, has engaged in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outreach and education for more than 30 years, and has recently added Native Land Acknowledgements and Lunch and Learns for state agencies to her efforts.

ICSEW Recruiting Individuals to Deliver Native Land Acknowledgements

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women, ICSEW is recruiting for an individual (s) to deliver Native Land Acknowledgements at meetings and events.

Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.

Part of this effort is to be deliberate in including an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement at the beginning of each of our general membership meetings. Our goal is provide space for Indigenous identities and agency for Indigenous voices to be heard, welcomed, and honored.

We are respectfully reaching out to those of Indigenous descent, whether your people are federally recognized or not, in search of those who would be willing to share an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement at the one or more of our ICSEW general membership meetings. Individuals do not need to be state employees nor members of the ICSEW.

The ICSEW meets the third Tuesday of each odd numbered month from 8:30 a.m to noon. Due to the pandemic, ICSEW is hosting its meetings virtually, via Zoom and Facebook Live until further notice. The Land Acknowledgement is held briefly at the start of each meeting.

If you are interested please contact us at ICSEW@ofm.wa.gov

Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past and Embrace the Future

latino leadership network logo

Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15-Oct. 15

From the Latino Leadership Network:

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, your Latino Leadership Network Executive Board has put together a new video to welcome all Washington State workers and allies into the familia that is LLN. We took this opportunity to speak from our hearts about the value we see in participating in this group. See the video on YouTube.

A special thank you to a rising star in LLN, Larry Delgado, for being our editor on this project.

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the contributions and importance of Hispanics and Latinos to the United States and those American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Hispanic Heritage Month also marks the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period.

In the U.S. this observance began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover September 15 to October 15.

Last year, LLN marked the occasion with a fascinating presentation by Antonio Sanchez, PhD, Director of Intergovernmental and International Relations at Central Washington University. Sanchez presented “A Proud Past – Building a New Future, the History of the Accomplishments and Contributions of Hispanics in Washington State.” The presentation included several revelations about the roles Hispanics have played in the history and development of Washington State. See the Facebook Live recording

 

Disability and Inclusion Network Intersectionality Lunch and Learn Sept. 17

Intersectionality is a popular word in today’s news, but what does it mean for people with disabilities who are experiencing other forms of marginalization and identities, such as being Black, immigrant, or transgender?

Join the Disability Inclusion Network for a Lunch and Learn led by Carrie Basas, Director of the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds, where we discuss what intersectionality is from a disability perspective and how we can act in solidarity to advance racial and disability justice, as well as social change. Let’s create a WA workplace together where we can bring our whole selves.

Register now for this virtual Lunch and Learn

September 17th 2020

12:00-1:00 Pm

If you need accommodations for this event please email DIN@OFM.WA.GOV

RAIN Seeks Outstanding Agency Nominations

Deadline for submissions is close of business Friday, May 22

RAIN

Does your state agency do outstanding inclusion and diversity work? The Rainbow Alliance and Inclusion Network, (RAIN) business group is seeking nominations for its RAIN Outstanding Agency Award.

Formed in 2016 under Gov. Jay Inslee’s Directive 16-11, this state LGBTQ+ business resource group helps establish best practices for state agencies to “create a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees, allies, and customers in Washington State,” wrote Best Practices Co-Chairs Marisa Sanchez-Reed and Jasper Marino.

“We look forward to receiving nominations from all state employees and strongly encourage those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to tell us about the great work and many ways their agency encourages a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace,” the co-chairs wrote.

 Please submit any nominations by the close of business Friday, May 22.

If you have questions please reach out to RAIN’s Marisa (she/her/they/them) or Jasper (they/them/he/him).

About RAIN: The Rainbow Alliance & Inclusion Network (RAIN), Washington State Employees’ LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group (BRG), is an equal opportunity resource group. RAIN welcomes all Washington state employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or other diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression groups, and their allies. RAIN encourages all members to bring their authentic selves to the BRG.

April is Diversity Month: A Message from Your State Business Resource Groups

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” -Audre Lorde 

diversity

Washington State’s six Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are excited to present the following message in celebration of Diversity Month.

During Diversity Month, the business resource groups wish to generate awareness about the intersectionality of characteristics that make us unique and the need to demonstrate appreciation for each human being we encounter.  This month, we encourage you to create space for courageous conversations about identity and to learn more about someone who appears to have a different cultural background or experience from your own. Some ways to learn include: engaging in open dialogue, reading a book, watching a movie or video clip and more, all with an open and empathetic heart.

Statewide BRGs unite employees who identify with common backgrounds with allies under shared values and goals. All BRGs have a mission and goals outlined in their charters and bylaws. BRGs contribute to an overall statewide business strategy in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in a respectful workplace.  Each BRG member brings unique knowledge and perspective, making them an asset to our state business needs, helping Washington move closer to being the employer of choice.

Visit the Office of Financial Management’s website or select the links below to learn more about each BRG.

Thank you for choosing to be a public servant for the people of Washington State!

 

Commentary: Black Community Business Resource Group on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Editor’s Note: Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Washington State Black Community Business Resource Group has submitted an article about Dr. King’s Legacy and the work the group is doing to apply diverse perspectives and experiences to the examination of the issues facing the state of Washington.

Martin Luther King, Jr
Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo from Wikemedia Commons

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day Message 2020

Submitted by the Washington State Black Community Business Resource Group

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), was a man of great integrity, values and principles. If alive today, Reverend Dr. King would be 91 years old. Leading the effort toward social justice and equality, Reverend Dr. King’s impact went beyond his local community to inspire change in America and the world. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law, an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This day is officially observed the third Monday of January each year (sometimes referred to as MLK Day) which annually coincides with Reverend King’s birthday, January 15.

Reverend Dr. King taught us that there are far more commonalities that unite us than divide us. He often remarked in speeches delivered across the nation, that if we all took time to talk and get to know our neighbors, we would find that our values, ethics, morals and sense of justice are strikingly aligned. He was the first to acknowledge that while people may disagree on policies and procedures, we are generally in agreement on humanitarian causes centered on love, peace, and compassion. In recognition of his nonviolent works towards hope, peace, and prosperity of all Americans, this year let us refocus our attention on the elements of life that draw us together and less on the conversations the divides us.

Each year the month of February is dedicated to honoring and remembering the numerous achievements of Black Americans. The year’s Black History Month Theme, African Americans and the Vote, set by the Association for the Study of African American Life and Heritage (ASALH), would have been preaching to the choir for Reverend Dr. King. He intensely understood the importance of the right to vote in the right for equality. In 1957, he delivered a speech entitled Give Us the Ballot, where he argued that if we (Black Americans) had the right to vote, we would by voting, receive our basic rights.

As the newest Washington State Business Resource Group, we (the Black Community Business Resource Group) seek opportunities to engage communities around Washington. Our commitment is to share our perspectives on the varying aspects of the social, historical, and current trends in equity, diversity, and inclusion from the Black Community viewpoint. As part of this effort and journey, we welcome and value allies from all communities to join us in this transformative venture.

In the words of musical genius Stevie Wonder (circa 1979):

“If we cannot celebrate a man who died for love, then how can we say we believe in it? It is up to me and you!”  

Happy Birthday, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr!

group picture of members of the Washington State Black Community Business Resource Group
Members of the Black Community Business Resource Group

About the Black Community Business Resource Group:

 Statewide business resource groups, BRGs, bring together groups of employees and their allies who have a common interest or characteristic. . BRG members bring their unique knowledge and perspectives, making them an asset to state business needs such as recruitment and retention.

The Black Community BRG Goals Include:

  • Promote state government as an employer of choice supporting efforts that increase representation of individuals of the Black Community at all levels of employment.
  • Better the lives of state employees through advocacy, outreach, opportunity, and advisement to the Governor and agencies on policies that affect state-employed black people, and ultimately, communities in which they live and serve.
  • Contribute to a more diverse understanding of the unique, multi-faceted aspects of the Black Community in Washington State.
  • Integrate the history, cultural experiences, values, and knowledge of both black people and their allies into the workforce of Washington State government.
  • Provide advice and assistance to state agencies regarding strategies to hire, retain, and develop black people in Washington State government.
  • Apply diverse perspectives and experiences to the examination of the issues facing Washington State. Diverse perspectives enhance the fullness of our understanding of these issues and open opportunities for the consideration of new ideas and better solutions.

 Questions? Email BlackCommunityBRG@OFM.WA.Gov

 Black Community Business Resource Group Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community-Organization/WA-State-Black-Community-Business-Resource-Group-111351510275919/

 

Immigrant Network Business Resource Group Meeting Discusses Diversity Jan. 6

Washington Immigrant Network Logo

OLYMPIA–Are you interested in learning about or joining the Washington Immigrant Network (WIN), a business resource group designed to support current and former Washington state employees?

WIN will be hosting its next meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, in the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s Columbia River Room 108 and 109 (1025 Union Avenue SE, Olympia, WA 98504).

Diversity Consultant Jarrod Irvin with the Department of Corrections will be the keynote speaker. You can find the meeting’s agenda here.

WIN’s mission “is to expand opportunities for immigrants who are current and future employees within Washington state government. The group serves as a resource for all immigrants who are state employees to connect, share and educate each other and Washington state agencies on the skills, expertise and cultural value of a diverse workforce.”

WIN defines “immigrant” as someone who was or has a parent who was born in a foreign country.

According to the Office of Financial Management, “Statewide business resource groups (BRGs) bring together groups of employees and their allies who have a common interest or characteristic. All BRGs have a charter, mission, goals and bylaws and contribute to an overall statewide business strategy.  BRG members bring their unique knowledge and perspectives, making them an asset to state business needs, such as recruitment and retention.”

You can learn more about all the BRGs here.

First Native American Woman Appointed to Washington State Supreme Court

portrait for Raquel Montoya-Lewis
Raquel-Montoya Lewis, the first Native American woman to be appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court

OLYMPIA–Gov. Jay Inslee helped usher in a historic day for the Washington State Supreme Court when he appointed Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis as the first Native American justice Dec. 4 in Olympia.

Montoya-Lewis has more than 20 years of judicial experience, including five on the Whatcom County Superior Court. She spent years working with tribal communities in Washington and elsewhere, and is uniquely familiar with the challenges that tribal and rural communities face. She also worked on issues to protect children from exploitation, and received the Children’s Advocacy Center Community Leadership Award in 2018.

“Because Judge Montoya-Lewis is Native American, many will focus on the historic nature of this appointment,” Inslee said. “And it’s entirely appropriate to do so. But I want the record to show that Judge Montoya-Lewis is the kind of exceptional judge I want serving on the highest court in our state because she is the best person for the job.”

Read the rest of the story on the Governor’s Medium Page.

Chief Administrative Law Judge to Share Her Path as Immigrant in America

Judge Lorraine Lee

TUMWATER–The Latino Leadership Network is honored to welcome Lorraine Lee, Chief Administrative Law Judge and Director of the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings, as guest speaker of our next Lunch & Learn. The event takes place from noon to 1 p.m. December 10 at the Labor & Industries Building, 7373 Linderson Way SE in Tumwater

Judge Lee will share thoughts and lessons learned about becoming American as an immigrant who has lived and worked in diverse places and work environments.

Please pre-register for the Lunch and Learn and plan to bring a friend. If you are unable to attend in person, we will stream via Facebook live.

Judge Lee came to America from Hong Kong as a young child. She attended public school in New York City and Moses Lake, Washington. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and obtained her law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She would go on to serve as a military lawyer in the U.S. Army.