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Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month

By Charlie Mark, Intern, Office of Public Affairs

In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, I recently attended a presentation by motivational speaker Milton Hunt, a member of the Native American Lumbee Tribe.

Hunt first thanked the Department of Commerce for recognizing and celebrating Native Americans.

“I thank you so much for celebrating this rich culture,” said Hunt. “I thank you so much for taking the time to just acknowledge the great Indigenous people of our country.”

He discussed his personal experience as a Native American and recounted the discrimination he has faced. “I’ve been the only Native American in the room my whole life,” said Hunt.

He then shed light on the many educational and employment disparities facing Native Americans. These conditions shape the day-to-day lives of many Native Americans across the country. As is the case, Hunt proposed solutions non-Native Americans can implement to foster a more equitable environment for the Indigenous community.

“Here is the first thing you can do - hire Native Americans,” said Hunt. “Bring Native Americans on as interns. Give them opportunities.”

As an intern in the Office of Public Affairs (OPA), I’ve witnessed first-hand how the Department of Commerce works every day to provide these opportunities. I’ve seen how committed Secretary Raimondo and Deputy Secretary Graves are to diversity in the workplace.

Their commitment takes many forms. It’s reflected when honoring each national heritage month. It’s also reflected by the training and career development programs run by Commerce, all of which promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Secretary Raimondo and Deputy Secretary Graves know that a diverse workforce is a successful workforce.

I am grateful for my experience in OPA, for the people I’ve met, and for the knowledge I’ve gained. But above all else, I’m grateful to intern on behalf of an agency and administration that values diversity to such a large extent. Happy National Native American Heritage Month.