- Since 1990, every sitting U.S. President has acknowledged November as National American Indian Heritage Month.
- The theme of Native American Heritage Month 2021 is “Gifts of Our Ancestors: Celebrating Indigenous Knowledge and Cultures.”
Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the many contributions of the Indigenous peoples of the United States. RingCentral’s Indigenous Employee Resource Group (RCIG), is shining a light on Native American Heritage Month with educational efforts, recipe sharing, special speakers and movie screenings designed to give everyone here the opportunity to learn about the impact of Native Americans within our company and in our international communities.
We sat down with a few of the leaders of RCIG to share some of their experiences and reflections from this year. Our participants include:
Renee Mann, Senior Manager, Partner Enablement (Denver, CO)
John Julian, Site Reliability Engineering Deployment Engineer, (Denver, CO)
Jeffrey Perkins, Technical Account Manager Lead (Denver, CO)
RINGCENTRAL: What was the inspiration behind this year’s slate of activities honoring Native American Heritage Month?
Renee Mann: “We knew there had to be other folks at RingCentral who share our experience, as well as allies who want to learn more of the history and experience of Indigenous communities around the world.”
John Julian: “I was looking for a place to be able to share Native American/Indigenous news and history, so I asked around to see if there was an existing Employee Resource Group focused on Indigenous people. There wasn’t, but Renee suggested we should create one, and that led to the creation of RCIG.”
Jeffrey Perkins: “Before I joined RingCentral, my husband shared the joy he felt being a part of RCIG; so I felt as if I had already experienced it. When I came on board, I was added to the group. I had no real connection to Indigenous people before meeting my husband. When I was given the absolute honor to meet his family and extended family, it truly opened my world to such a kind, warm, loving group of people. I wanted to share that experience with our RingCentral family and give them the same opportunity to explore a culture deep with tradition, family, history, and a connection to Mother Earth.”
RC: What part of the program are you most excited about?
JJ: “I’m excited to see what people think of our presentation of “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” and of course share Indigenous history, culture, and issues…and bring people’s attention to the Indigenous group.”
RM: “The opportunity to share the history of the Indigenous community, celebrate the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous people. This is an important opportunity to learn more about the ways we can all continue to support this underserved community, and find new ways to unlock its potential.”
JP: “I love sharing the amazing recipes that are deeply ingrained in the Native communities. It is also very special to have two such eye opening events like the showing of “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” and the truly inspirational storyteller Tai Simpson.”
RC: Why is RingCentral celebrating NAHM particularly important to you?
RM: “It’s great to have the company’s support as we reflect on the contributions of the Indigenous communities. It’s an important opportunity to provide visibility into the ways we can lift the community up to achieve equality, prosperity, good health, and the right to control their own resources.”
JJ: “It’s a great opportunity to help the Indigenous community by bringing awareness to current issues, past history and help with Indigenous charities like the Denver Indian Center Food Bank.”
JP: “RingCentral is a worldwide organization with many amazing cultures represented. Being given the opportunity to share the Native American culture and the cultures of Indigenous people around the world with RingCentral’s support is truly a blessing. When we have opportunities to highlight traditions, food, legends, and even struggles of all cultures that are represented in this amazing company, we are being shared a glimpse into the lives of our RingCentral family and we ourselves grow to have an appreciation for people outside of our immediate community.
RC: What could RingCentral do to increase equity for Native and Indigenous people?
RM: “I think we can bring awareness, support Native American businesses, advocate and support the Indigenous ERG, through communication and resources. Be the light for change!”
JJ: “Most of the time, native/Indigenous news stories get buried by other news, or not even shared at all, so as Renee said, simply raising awareness is a great start.”
JP: “Awareness is key. Before I met my husband, I would never have imagined attending a pow wow. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I was fearful of being seen as inappropriate or invading. I have since learned that the pow wow is a celebration for all people. Now, I’m an advocate—helping friends and family find pow wows in the area to attend. We love listening to the drumming and singing, watching the dancing, learning by asking questions, and just enjoying the moment. The regalia the dancers wear is so beautiful. I have found such peace, warmth, laughter (the announcers are usually characters), and even breaking out of my shell and joining in when they have an Intertribal event where everyone is welcome to dance.”
RC: Tell us a little about your own personal Native heritage?
JP: “I recently learned that I have a small portion of Iroquois bloodline through my mother’s side of the family but nothing significant. I feel most comfortable with my husband’s native family who are mostly Salish/Flathead from Arlee, Montana.”
RM: “I am 48% Native American according to Ancestry.com. The story passed down from my Father’s side is that my Great grandmother was full Apache. I am still researching to see if I can find any documentation supporting this.”
JJ: “I am about one-quarterNative. Mostly Salish/Flathead out of Montana, and some Iroqois. My mom grew up on the Flathead reservation, so I’m familiar with some reservation life, through Mom’s, her sisters, and our cousin’s stories.”
Native history is American history. Native American Heritage Month is an important opportunity to reinforce the importance of that idea—and ensure no one’s story is forgotten. Moreover, It’s an opportunity to shine a light on ways people can invest in Native communities, Indigenous-led nonprofits that support native history, and — most importantly — becoming a true ally.
This Native American Heritage Month, RingCentral and RCIG are proud to remind everyone: The beauty and resilience of Native and Indigenous people has been here all along, every November, every month, every year. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating our history and contributions every day.
Originally published Nov 18, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022