Native American heritage, values, and contributions are woven into the fabric of our nation. Every day, we all benefit from the knowledge and influence of this country’s Indigenous peoples — from many of the foods we eat to several innovations in science and medicine.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we asked two of our own people who are a part of the Navajo Nation in Utah reflect on their heritage.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Natasha Gruet. I’m a client developer at CompHealth [a CHG Healthcare company]. I’ve been with CHG for about four years now. I was born in North Ogden and have lived in Utah my whole life. My grandparents met at an Intermountain Indian school in Brigham City, Utah. They both chose to leave the reservation to pursue new opportunities and lifestyles.
I’m Emily Hatfield and I’ve been with CHG on the corporate payroll team since 2019. I grew up mostly in New Mexico but moved to Utah in 2005. I am half Navajo on my mother’s side, and we still have family in the Navajo Nation.
What does Native American Heritage mean to you?
Natasha — My heritage and cultural identity are so important to me and my family. It really stems from my grandparents — our elders — who are my tie to tradition and culture. Though, in a sad way, for so many, tradition and language are disappearing. That’s why it’s even more important for us to preserve as much as we can, whether that’s through food or learning about your clan. In Navajo culture, everything is rooted in your maternal clan. So, for me specifically, I am Mą'ii deeshgiizhinii (Coyote Pass Clan).
Emily — The first thing that comes to mind is that my heritage is a huge part of my identity. It’s so important to hold onto whatever you can so you can pass it on to another generation. We need to tell those stories and remember our history and the different struggles we’ve faced. Without that, we run the risk of losing so much that’s close to our hearts.
How do you celebrate your heritage and culture?
Natasha — Through food and ceremonies. For my family, gathering for powwows is a big part of how we honor and celebrate our heritage. A powwow is a celebration of culture and clanship.
Two or three times per year, my family from the reservation visits us and we participate in local powwows. Each tribe will perform traditional dance and music, dress in traditional regalia, tell stories, and pay respects to animals and Mother Earth. It’s probably one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see.
Emily — For me, ceremonies and family gatherings are two important ways we celebrate our heritage. Although I didn’t grow up in a strictly traditional household, we always held space for Native teachings and continue to expand our knowledge to this day. Language is another thing. Both my mom and dad are fluent in the Navajo language. My sister and I are not, but we do have some understanding.
There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes about Indigenous communities in America. What would you like us to know about your culture?
Natasha — The biggest thing is that we still exist. True Native American representation is far below where it should be. How much do non-Native people actually know about life on the reservation and the history behind that? It saddens me that it took a pandemic for people to realize there is a severe lack of supplies, food, resources, and medical services on many of the reservations. Mostly, I want others to be open to learning about our culture and history. Understand and respect our connection to nature and why we fight so hard to protect our sacred lands.
If you’re looking for a way to support those living on the Navajo reservation, check out the Adopt-a-Native-Elder program.
Emily — I want other people to understand that not all Native people are the same. There are vast differences in culture, tradition, and language spread across more than 570 federally recognized tribes in the United States. There’s also a misconception that all Native people who live on a reservation sit around and do nothing but get money from the government. That’s far from the truth. A small number of reservations are compensated minimally for their natural resources, while a scarcity of food, growth, and economic opportunities can be seen in nearly all reservations. People don’t understand the social and economic roadblocks so many Native people face.
One final thought I’d like people to know is that in Native culture there’s this overarching sense of oneness. We believe we’re all made of flesh and blood, and we’re all here on this earth trying to achieve the same goals no matter what your ancestral background might be.
Are you looking for a company that celebrates diversity? Take a look at our current openings to see if CHG Healthcare is right for you.