Why Native acknowledgements are important.


Today, October 10 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “Indigenous people” is a broad term that refers to any culture that lived in a place first. It is good practice that we honor the original inhabitants, understand the losses they suffered and recognize the inequities that exist in our treatment of indigenous people.

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According to Howard Zinn’s “A people’s history of the United States,” in 1515, there were perhaps 50,000 Indians left and by 1550, there were 500. Today, approximately 1.5% of the U.S. population — 4.1 million Americans — identify themselves as having American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) heritage.

It’s important that we acknowledge the truth that the historic homelands that we are on were originally inhabited by indigenous people. Taking a moment to authentically recognize the sacrifices of the original inhabitants not only shows respect but also progress towards social justice. And, it can be done in a simple sentence like: ” We would like to take a moment to recognize the sacrifice of the tribes (name them) that once lived and thrived here.”

Most American Indians now live in Western states, with 42% in rural areas compared to 23% of whites. In 1980, most American Indians lived on reservations or trust lands, compared to only 20% today. Over 50% now live in urban, suburban, or rural non-reservation areas.

American Indians speak over 200 indigenous languages. Approximately 280,000 speak a language other than English at home; more than half of Alaska Natives who are Eskimos speak either Inuit or Yup’ik.

One woman’s fight against the boys’ network


In late January 2016, Jamie Fiore Higgins, one of the most powerful women at Goldman Sachs decided to call it quits. For two decades, she was at a workplace filled with misogyny. Her book Bully Market reveals the inner workings of a powerful boys’ network that permeates corporate culture in America.

Jamie Fiore Higgins

Higgins came from a hardworking Italian American immigrant family. She wanted to be a social worker but her dad wanted her to be in a financially lucrative career. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, she joined Goldman Sachs and the money was good, really good.

Bully Market is a riveting account of how the boys’ network systematically excluded her and used their abusive power to pin her down at every turn. This is the story of Tom White kicking her out of an open meeting, Eric choking her and pinning her against the wall, Mike screaming at her for going against the Goldman “family values”, of Justin sabotaging her review and Jerry and Vito mocking her.

This boys’ network is still alive and kicking and not much has changed for women in corporate America. In a non-linear work culture, hybrid work environments now allow instant online bullying instead of bullying at the workplace.

Bully Market is a candid, tell-all story, very few women would dare to write. Higgins exposes her vulnerability, her daily conflict of money versus values, her relationship with her husband, and how she withstood two decades of abuse in corporate America.

“Leaving your desk to get your wing tips shoe-shined was a worthwhile endeavor. Providing breast milk for your infant at home? Not so much. Those men in the offices clutched on to their old boys’ club values with white knuckled fists,” she writes angrily about how she was treated during and after pregnancy.

As an intern, she was subject to humiliating treatment at the hands of trainers. Later, when she became a trainer, she was upset about her own behavior. “Like the long-bullied kid on the playground who becomes the bully, I had become a part of the cycle of abuse at Goldman Sachs,” she writes.

According to her, Goldman’s value system was so different from what was shown in glossy brochures and their website. Higgins calls out human resources and employee relations departments for being the least helpful and the least confidential.

This was a value system created by men in glass offices. Higgins always felt that she was owned by the brand and she was nobody without it.

All this happened prior to the “Me Too” movement and the killing of George Floyd. Since then, corporations have made paranoid attempts to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their mission statements. In her parting advice to the C-suites at Goldman Sachs she writes: “Don’t take the company’s ideals and create a list of business principles or best practices, or stick them as chapters in an employee handbook. Instead make them permeate the offices and be modeled by everyone in senior management.”

Hope things have changed at Goldman Sachs and other corporations. In an age of non-linear working and quite quitting, it’s better upholding the values that you were taught at home and not at your workplace.

Disclaimer

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.