Atka Aleut tribal member and Cherokee descendent
“Connection is important, but how we’re connecting is equally vital to our identity.”
I’m a Native woman and I work in tech. I am an enrolled Atka Aleut tribal member and a Cherokee descendant. As an urban Native, I’ve always felt like a chameleon, finding belonging where I could. I grew up in San Diego, California, in a blended family raised by a single parent. I felt a connection to a heritage that most people hadn’t heard of, let alone understood. Because of that, I knew from an early age that personal topics like connection and identity felt unattainable in many public conversations unless other Natives were around. We had family trips dedicated to engaging with the local Native communities and traveled to Alaska for family reunions and culture camps, but my mother always said that honoring our culture is only half the battle. She taught us that education was a guaranteed path to success and security in life, but what I did with my education was equally important. I’m proud to say I have the opportunity to serve the Native community today, but in an unexpected way.
Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, is one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Meta’s technologies, including Facebook and Instagram, helped launch the company to its world renowned status with billions of users across the world creating community, supporting their businesses, and sharing content virtually. In 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Meta, bringing its apps and technologies together under one new company brand. Meta’s focus is to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses. The metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you. You’ll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more.
As Meta undergoes its transition toward the metaverse, what will Native and Indigenous identity look like? The answer relies on ensuring that representations in these digital connections reflect the diversity of the real world, where Native people are as unique as they are different.
Native and Indigenous peoples are a diverse community tragically forgotten in many aspects of U.S. and world history. Today, we are often overlooked by global companies and left out of diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Deciding to join Meta was an unforeseen opportunity embedded with a myriad of uncertainties. First, I did not come from a traditional technology background and I knew the transition to a new industry would come with its own challenges. Second, Native representation is a systemic struggle from which no industry, company, or institution is immune, and I was unsure about how I would be able to contribute my unique identity and perspective.
However, joining Meta exposed me to a strong Native community that I didn’t know existed at the company or in the tech industry. The Native@ Meta Employee Resource Group, is an inclusive community that provides support crucial to achieving Meta’s mission. The group is led by Native and Indigenous employees who are committed to fostering a sense of community and belonging by sharing our stories, celebrating our diverse cultures, and ultimately bringing awareness to issues that impact all Natives. Our group encompasses and welcomes all Indigenous peoples, from all intersectionalities, including our allies.
I serve on the Native@ Leadership Council as the Bay Area Chapter and Finance Lead along with seven other leaders across North America. Our council is composed of Native and Indigenous employees from all parts of the business who lead chapters in large cities like Washington, D.C., Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles, and more. We are committed to learning new ways to best serve our communities through local events in smaller cities and larger, company-wide celebrations for Native American Heritage Month. Building internal community, culture and mentoring Native talent are foundational elements of our mission. Our leaders advocate for inclusive thought and design for our apps and technologies, partner with external organizations to bring awareness to issues that impact our communities, mentor Native talent to grow and succeed within our organization, and promote inclusion and cultural competency for community members and allies. Working on the leadership team has been an incredibly enriching and humbling experience. Being surrounded by Native leaders who are working toward the same inclusive future is nothing short of groundbreaking.
Native people are as beautifully diverse as Turtle Island is itself, and there is no monolithic solution or a one-size-fits-all approach to represent Native voices. To achieve strength in diversity for Native people, Meta is invested in hiring indigenous peoples of America to amplify the voices of our sacred land and its original stewards. Inclusion means that we cannot build products for the world without providing equitable opportunities for representation, inclusion, and belonging. Representation means having an active presence at the table, having your voice heard and amplified by peers; belonging is having a community to ground and support you. The more we serve the Native community and the more Native people we hire, the more we can give voice to our community and our issues, opportunities and challenges.
WHAT: A virtual event in partnership with ICT
WHY: To learn more about the Native@ Meta ERG who we are, our culture, and our impact
WHEN: Wednesday, August 17, 2022
TIME: 12 p.m. EDT
RSVP: Join us by RSVPing at this link
In addition to my work with Native@ I’m also a project manager. My team and I work to combat hate speech, bullying and harassment, misinformation and violence and incitement along with other types of misuse on our family of apps. Specifically, in my role, I get to partner with global teams to prevent these abuses and enable our users to feel supported and protected. The foundation of my work includes cultivating a deep understanding of Meta’s community support processes, products and policies, analyzing current protocol and driving recommendations for process, policy and product improvements. As a Native woman, I also bring a unique perspective to my role because I understand that cultural integrity is an integral part of Native identity, and cultural rights are imperative for digital connections in the metaverse and beyond.
The metaverse offers monumental opportunities for Native people through a socially-driven economy and connections based on authenticity. For Native-owned businesses, the implications of an immersive, persistent and centralized digital world could be enormous. Digital goods and services are igniting demand in the early days of the metaverse and this will be especially true for Native creators.
The metaverse should also provide opportunities for Native people to connect and interact in new ways that do not mirror the inequities of the real world. Native voices can’t be fully represented until we have more Native and Indigenous people in all areas of the tech industry.
I learned from a young age that connection is important, but how we’re connecting is equally vital to our identity. We need more Native voices to make the metaverse the digital world we not only deserve, but are seldom offered in reality. As Meta transitions to the metaverse, it’s important that we build with people from underrepresented Native and Indigenous communities and with external experts at the table from the beginning – influencing our product strategies, policies and perspectives. The next evolution in digital connection also means making the metaverse a beacon for diversity, equity, and inclusion: a new world for fracturing stereotypes, not enabling them. Connection is evolving and it’s aspirational and the metaverse will enable future generations of Native people to connect unlike ever before. Native youth can and will shape the future of our cultural legacy with technology, and Meta is supporting it.
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