Lift Every Voice – Native American/Indigenous People Heritage Month

The U.S. celebrates National Native American Heritage Month during November, while Canada commemorates National Indigenous History Month every June. At Gannett Fleming, we celebrate all North American Indigenous and First Nation peoples’ rich, varied cultures and histories as we honor their many accomplishments and contributions to our society.

1. Why do you think it’s important to know the history of Indigenous people from the native perspective?

Stasys Fidleris, Civil Designer, Transit and Rail

Progress comes from understanding and empathy, and the only way to achieve this is to learn an unbiased history from those who have been oppressed. History is colored by those who write it, but as our society matures, we’re realizing how incomplete the history that we’ve learned truly is; Indigenous history didn’t start when the white man showed up. As a native friend of mine once described it, there is an incredibly complex and rich history of numerous and varied peoples built over thousands of years of interaction, kind of like how we treat European history today. Understanding this context helps us move forward with solutions that don’t boil down complex dynamics into single issues. The way forward is not straightforward, but the first step is to admit gaps and learn by listening.

Tim Morda, Corporate Recruiter

Their history is important because it establishes a sense of identity and belonging. It’s about broadening the human system and ensuring that all cultures are recognized equally.

2. Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives important to you as a Gannett Fleming employee?

Stasys Fidleris, Civil Designer, Transit and Rail

I don’t have nearly enough time to answer this question thoroughly enough, but it’s something that influences every aspect of human interaction. To relate to my previous point, if we want to live in a society that aims to minimize suffering and maximize happiness and empathy, then understanding those different from yourself is going to be the foundation. Plus, people’s experiences shape how they think. To find the best solution to a problem, you need to come up with and evaluate a varied set of solutions. And of course, this is only possible with a diverse set of people who have empathy for each other.

Tim Morda, Corporate Recruiter

To put it simply, it’s important because people deserve better. It promotes respect, acceptance, teamwork, and innovation despite the differences that we may have. When different minds are able to collaborate to achieve a common goal, everybody wins. By also providing a more well-rounded, more inclusive culture, this is an essential first step in improving overall employee engagement.

3. Which iconic Indigenous person do you most admire for their contributions to the arts, sciences, or society as a whole and why?

Stasys Fidleris, Civil Designer, Transit and Rail

I’m a big fan of music. I’m really into it, and a big influence for me has been a band that used to be called A Tribe Called Red, and they now go by The Halluci Nation. Not only are they incredible artists whose songs I jam out to all the time, but their concerts showcase more than just Indigenous music — they’re incredible. They’ve got dancing and lots of other cultural elements all integrated into the show. They’ve been such a strong, important voice for Canadian Indigenous peoples, and they played a huge role in bringing Indigenous culture and issues to the mainstream.

Tim Morda, Corporate Recruiter

Jim Thorpe. Growing up in central Pennsylvania and being involved with sports, the Thorpe name was always talked about out here. He attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which is also known as the U.S. Army War College and Carlisle Barracks, where he was a two-time All-American under Pop Warner.

After leaving Carlisle, he went to the Olympics, and he ended up being the first Native American to win a gold medal for the U.S. in the 1912 Olympics. Even more remarkable about that story is that right beforehand, somebody stole his shoes before he was due to compete. And he actually went out, found a pair of mismatched replacements (pulled one right out of a trash can), and at the end of the day, it didn’t matter; he still won the gold. He accomplished these athletic feats during a time of severe inequality in the U.S. It’s often been suggested that his Olympic medals were stripped by athletic officials because of his ethnicity. At the time when Thorpe won his gold medals, not all Native Americans were recognized as U.S. citizens.

And also, in a poll that was published around 2000, they wanted to know who the greatest athlete was in the 20th century. You had names on there like Jordan, Gretzky, Ali, Ruth, and Jesse Owens, and Jim Thorpe was voted the greatest athlete of the 20th century.