Posts Tagged ‘Native American Heritage Month’

Native American Heritage Month

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Karey Herriman

My mom was half Choctaw Indian. On her birth certificate she was labeled “Illegitimate Half Breed,” a pejorative classification given by the government to identify those of Native American Heritage.

The Choctaw are a proud and independent Nation.  They are descendants of the peoples of the Hopewell and Mississippian cultures, who lived throughout the eastern Mississippi River valley and its tributaries.

At the age of nine, my mom’s life took an unexpected turn when her mother passed away from tuberculosis and she was adopted by another family with strong ties to the Choctaw Nation.  My mom became one of twelve adopted and biological children in a large and loving traditional family. 

Being a free spirit, and with the love and guidance of a new family, the journey of embracing her heritage began. Along with learning all the aspects of her Choctaw culture, she inherited a strong sense of service to the community and a love of music. 

Focused on pursuing a singing career, my mom preformed the blues in clubs throughout Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans. After struggling to make a living, she returned to California and landed a small part in a country western show.

"My brother and I were brought up with a strong sense of our heritage."

 It was there that she met my father, who was a stage coach driver. They were married 52 years. 

Although my dad was not Native American, he was just as passionate about passing on the Choctaw Indian heritage, as well as his own Amish heritage, as my mom was.

My brother and I were brought up with a strong sense of our heritage as well as the customs, culture and traditions of the Choctaw people. 

From my dad, we learned to hunt with a bow, respect the land, handle horses, play the flute and we attended powwows. 

From my mom, we learned how to jerk meat, weave and perform “woman’s work”.  My brother successfully avoided many of these lessons and at the time I thought it wasn’t fair but the torch was passed to me, I am grateful!

After my mom passed away, I realized the importance of sharing the unique ways of my ancestors. Now, I am fortunate to be teaching my niece about our heritage and culture so it is not lost forever.

Herriman says that thanks to her parents, she is able to take bits of her heritage and weave her own tapestry.

With the recent expansion of the Sodexo Employee Network Groups to include non-exempt administrative, technical and professional employees, I was able to join the Native American and Aboriginal Council (NAAC). 

Being a part of NAAC allows me to share the Choctaw culture as well as maintain a ‘sense of self’ within the organization.

Our Native American traditions are not documented in textbooks and cookbooks, but through storytelling and hands-on learning, so it is so important to share, carry on traditions and celebrate who we are.

Thanks to my parents, I am able to take bits of my heritage and weave my own tapestry, sharing with my family, friends, co-works and my community.

Karey Herriman has been with Sodexo seven years and is a Government Services Business Development Proposal Coordinator.

Reflections on Native American Heritage Month

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Eugene Magnuson

After soul searching, I came up with a few statements, which depict my Pokagon values and the meaning behind Native American Heritage Month. Certainly it is deficient, but I wanted you to respect our own way as well as that of others.

The name’s indigenous, American Indian, and Native American imperfectly label more than 500 diverse nations, and do not recognize their names for themselves (Stuckey & Murphy, 2001) such as Bodewamik, Pikuni, and Aniyvwiyai rather than Potawatomi, Blackfeet, and Cherokee, respectively.

As a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, I feel obligated to provide you with some of the foundations of my culture. I would like to elaborate on the Seven Grandfather Teachings. These teachings are well accepted among the Great Lakes Tribes and much of Indian Country in general as follows:


No’ek Mishomesnanek knomagéwenen

Seven Grandfather Teachings

We have many responsibilities as human beings. These sacred Nishnabé teachings that have been passed down through the Generations can help guide us in our lives if we practice and live by them.


Having courage and strength to make good choices when faced with difficulties and challenges in life.


To recognize ourselves as humble and human.


Using good judgment and attitude, we have the ability to teach others what we have learned.


To show affection and feel love for all beings. To be unselfish in our relationships with one another.


To be trustworthy and truthful.


With a good heart, we share our appreciation and thoughtfulness to all.


To show in our character and actions a learning, knowing, and honoring of truth.

What I have done is pour through what others have written, looked at my own writings from the past and thought back to the many, many times I have listened to the Spiritual Leaders who had provided us with teachings and led by action.

 I also learned from my Native Mother who taught me the Traditional Ways; she simply demonstrated them because she was raised in an Indian home.  My mother was send away as a little girl, by the Government to a boarding school, where Native children who made the mistake of speaking in their native tongue were severely punished for doing so.

Last November, I had the honor and privilege to be invited to participate on Sodexo’s newly formed Native American and Aboriginal Council (NAAC). I was fortunate to meet Ogemaa Paul Schultz, who also spoke about native cultures at last November’s Native American Heritage Month webinar.  

Faye Cowtuckmuck W. Magnuson inscribed on the Honor Wall

The day finished with a tour of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of The American Indian.  Words escaped me to describe how I felt seeing my mother’s name Faye Cowtuckmuck W. Magnuson inscribed on the Honor Wall. Emotions and pride swelled. I was so glad to be able to be there.

Eugene Magnuson is currently the director of food and nutrition for Mount Sinai Hospital a 325-bed teaching, research, and tertiary-care facility and Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital a 100-bed Rehabilitation hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Read his additional post on the Sodexo Careers blog here.