I first found the Native employee resource group through Vanessa. I don't even know how it came up. But I realized, "Oh, shoot. I actually have a connection here," and started to pepper Vanessa with questions here and there. I slowly warmed up to the idea of being open, revealing myself and participating.
But the crazy thing that I did not expect was that the Native community at Meta is the first place that I've felt like this part of me was actually valued or significant. It's easy, when there's not anybody else to connect with (through that part of you) to just push it aside and not cultivate it.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, reminders of Native culture are all around. I do love that and anytime I see those reminders in my environment, I feel good about it. But that may be me feeling an illusion of connection: It’s a bit satisfying, but it allows me to be a little apathetic to my actual connection to my culture.
Joining the Native community at Meta has made me realize how much responsibility I have to learn about my culture, celebrate it or to give back, even if it’s in tiny ways that I slowly warm up to. It’s important to keep the culture healthy, because a culture doesn't automatically survive on its own. People have to work on it.
This has been said many, many times in many different contexts, but representation matters. It’s taken me this long in my life to find people who I can connect with through this unique part of myself, and I'm grateful to have been able to do that here at Meta. It makes me want to explore my Native heritage a little further.
Finding even just a handful of people who you feel like you can connect with and relate to a bit just blossoms this motivation to understand more. I just don't have that anywhere else in my life. I don't come across these people, or also, these people just, like me, haven't revealed that part of themselves, and so, it's hard to make those connections.
Joining our Native group, I didn't feel like an imposter. I felt safe relating my journey and my story, and I’ve seen that other people have similar experiences.
I'm one of the leads for the Native employee resource group, which means I volunteer to drive diversity and inclusion initiatives for Native employees and allies. Together with the other leads, I also often represent the Native perspective in conversations with company leadership to raise awareness about issues that impact our communities when it comes to the policies we create or the products we build. This is in addition to my role as a content designer.
The Native employee resource group started several years ago. When I first joined Meta, I discovered all these resource groups for employees, including one for those who identify as Native. The group had a welcome lunch for me, and I’ve been involved ever since.
We represent those who identify as being Native or Indigenous to Turtle Island -- which today is known as North America. We also have a sister chapter for those who identify as being Indigenous to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. We have a shared history of resilience after centuries of attempts to eradicate our existence. Many people think of these atrocities as being locked away in history books, but they are actually very recent events that even continue today.
I think what makes the Native employee community special is that some members who have a strong sense of their Native identity—who grew up connected to their culture— are helping those of us who didn’t, on our journeys back to reconnecting and reclaiming this part of ourselves. The community provides healing and a space to exchange shared histories, regardless of teachings from a particular tribe or nation.
We've found during COVID that geographic boundaries have sort of disappeared, and we've all been able to connect virtually, which has brought us even closer. It can feel pretty alienating when you're the only Native employee in your office or one of very few, or you don't know who else might be Native because, well, identity is pretty complicated for a lot of us.
I came across the Native employee group early on in my career at Meta. There was one other Native employee who was on my team as well. I saw one of his group posts and was like, "What is this group?"
I saw that the group was a blend of outreach and community engagement, as well as a place for people to share stories, some about them learning about their history for the first time, and it made me feel like I wasn't the only one who felt disconnected. Because, again, that gateway to my life was through my father with whom I didn't have a relationship.
From there, I reached out to family members who I do know. I also reached out to an old friend who teaches Tlingit language in Ketchikan, Alaska. I asked him, "Do you have any resources? I'm just now dipping my toes into this huge and lifelong journey, which is understanding my culture." He replied back immediately with a list of resources, and I shared a couple in our Native employee resource group.
But it was our group that sparked my excitement and that brought down this internal wall. I think a lot of us put this wall up between ourselves and things that we want to learn or understand. We almost act as our own gatekeepers. We're like, "Well, I don't have enough community," or, "I don't have enough historical context to explore that part of my life." Seeing people just do that anyways within the Native employee group, I was like, "Yeah, what's holding me back except for myself?" And so, I just hopped right in.