Native American Representation at Interworks

Culture

Native American Representation at Interworks

by Gavin Holzworth
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InterWorks is a fun place where we specialize in everything technology. There are many advantages to choosing InterWorks as a corporate partner, employer and a meeting place of friends. Something I find the most underrated about my employer is the diversity of people, their experiences and their backgrounds. InterWorks fosters a community where all groups of people, including Natives, feel comfortable share their heritage and express their perspectives on everything work and non-work related.

I’m a Cherokee citizen living in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Being a native in the tech/engineering field is a very prideful point for me. In tribal communities, there are challenges at times to enter the field, but I can attest that that challenge isn’t present at InterWorks.  In Oklahoma, you never know who’s Native American around you, so I decided to explore the perspective of tribal citizens represented here at InterWorks!

Tribal InterWorkers

There are hundreds of registered tribes in America, and InterWorkers belong to a handful of them! When reading  their perspectives, remember that being native means something different to each person. This also applies to each individual tribe. For example, Powwows are an important, near spiritual, activity for some tribal cultures, while other tribes have no history of participation in Powwows and view them no more than “indigenous meetups.”

Jenny Parnell is our Global Marketing Director, and she’s a Cherokee citizen. She has great appreciation for her tribe’s involvement in her college education:

“Through the Cherokee nation, I was granted scholarships to help pay for my education at OSU, which led me to a career in tech and helped me and my sister to be the firsts in our family to go to college.”

-Jenny Parnell

Kyle Smith is our Web Experience Manager that works on our Operations team. He’s a Caddo tribal citizen who belongs to the Nadaco band.

“I am a member of the Nadaco band, which means “bumblebee place.” My great-grandmother, Vivian Williams, was the last blooded princess of our clan in the Caddo Tribe. She is forever immortalized with a statue in Guthrie, Oklahoma where she stands proud in traditional dress, holding the hand of a young cowboy which symbolizes our two cultures coming together in harmony. I am immensely proud of my heritage and love sharing our history with others.”

-Kyle Smith

A bronze statue of a Native couple

Above: The statue of Vivian Williams in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Kyle’s tribe also loves sharing their heritage and history, and many participate in medicine bag traditions:

“There’s a tradition in my family where grandfathers make a medicine bag for their grandchild when they turn 13. These bags are handmade and are decorated with traditional bead, shell or bell work. The bag is filled with items that are meant to protect you in life, such as items from you ancestors, tobacco, herbs, tools, etc. Natives believe that their medicine bag brings them strength and protect them spiritually. I am looking forward to the day that I can make one for my grand-child.”

-Kyle Smith

Dustin Wyers is one of our Support Leads here in Oklahoma. Being a Cherokee citizen, he particularly enjoys gardening and how his tribe promotes that:

“I love how the tribe takes care of those that have needs. I myself participate in the heirloom seed program and grow many new crops because of this yearly distribution.

The Cherokee nation has a “seed program” where they distribute native heirloom seeds to their citizens during the springtime to encourage use of native plants.”

-Dustin Wyers

Nathan Ojeda is an engineer for our analytics hosting product, Curator. Being a Choctaw citizen, he enjoys learning and speaking the language:

“When I was young, my grandpa loved to teach me words in Choctaw. Whenever we went on trips, he would drive around and point at things before saying what they were in Choctaw. He loved his Choctaw roots and would take us to special events to teach us about the culture. I even learned how to make dream catchers with him, which I would sell back in the day.”

-Nathan Ojeda

As for me, I’m a Cherokee citizen who works on our Delivery team as a Project Coordinator. I have serval hobbies that have native roots. My tribal involvement has helped me get better in these pursuits. Many tribes regularly post articles and videos on how to most effectively participate in hobbies and activities.

Being a Native, I have a great deal of reverence for my heritage and the activities I do honoring said heritage. Shell work is a hobbies that I actually learned to do directly from my tribe’s website! This is a practice performed by many tribes, and popular to wear even amongst non-Native jewelry fans.

Homemade shell jewelry

Above: Some of my latest shell work.

Outside of this, I enjoy many outdoor activities commonly practiced in Native American communities today. This includes things like crawfish-ing. This is where you use a flashlight at night to find exposed crawfish in shallow pools of water. Here’s one I caught this summer (2023):

Crawdad, measuring about 3 inches long

These hobbies aren’t exclusive to Native people.  Everyone can participate in these hobbies, and I think everyone should! I know that catching crawfish by hand can be intimidating and potentially dangerous.

With that being said, my latest hobby is one that can easily be practiced by all. “Gathering” is the act of searching for wild edibles and harvesting them for later consumption. My favorite wild nut in Oklahoma is the pecan. Pecan trees start dropping nuts in late October. I have many trees in the wild that I enjoy harvesting every year. Here is an image of pecans developing on the tree:

Pecans

In Summary

The history and origin of native people is filled with turmoil and complexity, but it’s also filled with happiness that’s very much alive today. I wanted to highlight this through the fun hobbies and cultural relationships that we have with our heritage as tribal citizens working in tech.  I think what best summaries this is a response I received from Kyle Smith:

“I think it’s important, especially in my tribe which comes from a rural and impoverished area, to show that you can absolutely go after those tech or STEM jobs. It’s important to show that other career paths are out there and they’re attainable.”

-Kyle Smith

I’m proud to work for a company that appreciates and fosters minority representation and multiculturism. This is one of the things that makes InterWorks feel special and unique. Check out the career page!

Tribal Seals Represented at InterWorks:

Caddo Nation Seal

Caddo Nation Website

Cherokee Nation Seal

Cherokee Nation Website

Choctaw Nation Seal

Choctaw Nation Website

Iowa tribe seal

Iowa Nation Website

More About the Author

Gavin Holzworth

Data Engineer
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