Honoring Native American Heritage Month at Brio Living Services
November is Native American Heritage Month, a time when we join together to honor the rich ancestry, traditions, languages, and stories of Native Americans. It is also a time to celebrate Native culture through the exploration of art, music, and food. Most importantly, Native American Heritage Month is a time to pay tribute to the achievements, contributions, and sacrifices of the original inhabitants of our country and their descendants.
For Lauren Bosserman, an LPN for Porter Hills Home Health Care, it is a special time to think about her own ancestors. “Actually, I am 38% Choctaw Indian,” said Lauren. “My grandfather and grandmother lived on a reservation in Mississippi for many years and migrated north when my dad was young.”
One of Lauren’s favorite memories of her grandmother was the traditional hominy dish she would bring for family celebrations. Her grandmother also taught her to make jewelry from stones and turquoise. Lauren has attended the biggest Choctaw celebration in Oklahoma that takes place over Labor Day and brings about 40,000 people. “It’s a place to see their cultural arts displayed, including jewelry making and wearing traditional dress. I’ve visited Oklahoma a few times during their festivities and got to meet the Tribal Council.”
Lauren says her grandmother taught her to “take care of the planet and each other. It contributed to me wanting to be a nurse.” For Native American Heritage Month, Lauren believes it is a good time to learn more and ask questions. “My grandma told me some of the hardships that she experienced with life on the reservation. It’s important to ask questions and be patient with cultural differences. She taught me to always listen and be kind.”
Another important part of honoring the heritage of Native Americans is honoring Native lands. Land acknowledgement is a traditional custom that dates back centuries in many Native nations and communities. Today, land acknowledgements are used by Native Peoples and non-Natives to recognize Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of the lands on which we now live and work.
Brio Living Services is grateful for the lands of many Native American tribes on which our communities and locations reside across lower Michigan. These include the Potowatami (Bodéwadmi) tribe of Native Americans in the Chelsea area and the Ottawa (Odawa) in the Grand Rapids area. Traditionally known as the Neshnabek or Man Sent Down From Above, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodéwadmi made up a confederated nation referred to as “the Three Fires Council, recognizing that each tribe functions as brethren to serve the alliance as a whole.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee member, Angela Edward, LMSW, Social Worker at Thome PACE, shared a land acknowledgment with many Brio Living Services team members at a recent Culture Leaders Retreat which took place in Okemos, Michigan:
“The space we share today sits on Ottawa (Odawa) land. The Ottawa people originally called themselves “Nishnaabe” meaning “original people.” They’ve lived across the East Coast, Canada, Michigan, and Ohio and, after the U.S. government became involved in Native history, many indigenous Ottawa people were deported to Oklahoma. Today, there are about 15,000 living Ottawa tribe members.
“We, the DEI Committee, honor the land itself and those who remain stewards of this land throughout generations and also acknowledge our committed relationship to Indigenous peoples.”
Angela shared that she put a lot of research into the land acknowledgement she offered to her fellow Brio team members at this retreat. “I wanted to assure that it was done ethically, and also make sure it’s not just something done as a way to ‘check a box.’ The DEI Committee wanted it to be meaningful.”
Angela, who identifies as Micronesian-American, added, “From a personal perspective, my family comes from indigenous Pasifika, and some of our lands to this day are still not sovereign nations. The land acknowledgement is a reminder that most of us have settled here, and the hope is to express humility above all else. I truly hope that was a takeaway for those who attended.”
We All Belong at Brio Living Services! Along with the DEI committee, Brio Living Services is dedicated to celebrating and honoring observances such as Native American Heritage Month. Together, we are working to support a welcoming place for all to work and live. Learn more about our commitment to our Guiding Belief of Inclusiveness at our website and careers site.