Honoring Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Posted by Office of Diversity & Inclusion on Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 8:20 AM PDT

Dear Campus Community,  

As we begin Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, Seattle University celebrates and honors the rich tapestry of cultures and traditions that constitute Native American and Alaska Native heritage. This heritage month serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy and resilience of the First Nations, Inuit, and Native American tribes that have called this land home since time immemorial. Recognizing Indigenous People’s Day last month, and with the month of November so designated, this time presents a unique opportunity to continue reflecting upon the immeasurable impact of Indigenous communities on our nation, unearthing the long-standing systemic issues they face, and joining in the quest for health (of land and people), peace, and justice. 

In growing our solidarity with Indigenous people, and honoring their knowledge, culture, and contributions, we can learn from and celebrate our Indigenous Peoples Institute, the Indian Law and Policy Center, and the array of student-led groups including SU Indigenous Student Association, SU First Nations, Hui O Nani Hawai’i Club, and Native American Law Students Association. Thank you for being a part of our community. To our Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and alumni: we see you, and we honor you.  

Additionally, in line with our LIFT SU principles, and in support of our commitment to pursuing inclusive excellence, we recognize that fostering inclusion means amplifying voices from a variety of perspectives. We have invited two of our colleagues to share their stories and reflections on what Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month means to them. We offer deep gratitude to Caroline Pedro, Sr. Administrative Assistant, Office of the Provost; and Dr. Natalie Welch, Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing, Albers School of Business and Economics, for sharing their stories and perspectives, and trust that you will receive their words with openness. 

Caroline Pedro 
Sr. Administrative Assistant, Office of the Provost 

In a pivotal moment in my 8th grade science class, my teacher left us with a powerful message: "Help Earth, help save us." Instantly, an innate passion that had fallen dormant was ignited. As a Native woman, I understood at that moment that my purpose was to better protect our Earth, just as my ancestors have for generations before me. 

In spring of 2018, as an undergraduate student, the connection between health and climate became even more apparent. In a matter of months, the urban heart of Seattle was enshrouded in smoke. The headlines were stark and foreboding: “Wildfire Smoke is choking Seattle, obscuring the view and blocking out the sun.” On that day, it was evident those without homes were especially vulnerable. Nearly five years later, headlines read, “US East Coast blanketed in veil of smoke from Canadian fires.” 

A year ago, the formidable term 'Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS)' became a part of my vernacular. PFAS have woven their way into the fabric of our society, showing up in the most unexpected places—from cookware to waterproof apparel and even in the breastmilk of mothers—and are linked to the leading cause of death for firefighters: cancer. 

In a world marred by division—both foreign and domestic—amidst the ongoing shadows of genocide, war, and violence, there is a subtler yet potent threat to our very existence: global climate change. Catastrophic natural events are on the rise, showing no discrimination. Their frequency and intensity surpass prior projections, underscoring the urgency of our response. 

These lands are not just my home; they are yours too, I hope. I implore you to be the stewards they deserve, safeguarding not only the earth beneath our feet but also yourselves, your loved ones, and the delicate balance of life that intertwines us all. We can advocate for our lives, together. Below is a list of actions you can take: 

  • Support Indigenous initiatives. [1][2
  • Embrace the wisdom of traditional knowledge. [3][4]
  • Get involved in reforestation and conservation efforts. [5][6
  • Dedicate yourself to educating and raising awareness. [7][8


Cowichan, Makah and Swinomish 

Natalie Welch, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing, Albers School of Business and Economics 

First, if you’re taking the time to read this, thank you! As a marketing professor, I often tell my students we are not competing as much for consumers' money as we are for their time and attention. So, the fact that you’re taking the time to read this means a lot. I grew up in the small western corner of North Carolina on the Qualla Boundary. Also known as “the Rez” among my Eastern Cherokee people. My ancestors hid out in the mountains to avoid removal. I am forever indebted to their resilience and sacrifice as it has allowed me to take an amazing path to being a professor and advocate for Native people. My entire life I’ve had an amazing support system that helped me reach my goals. The Indigenous belief in reciprocity is one I truly believe is needed for all of us to grow and thrive together.  

For this year’s Native American Heritage Month, I want to stress the need to go beyond land acknowledgments and empty gestures toward Indigenous peoples (and all marginalized communities). I can’t speak for all Indigenous people, but I can say from my perspective as a Native woman I want more than acknowledgment, I want true engagement. As Brooke Pinkham urged in last year’s message – always think of Native people in the work you do. And do your best to ENGAGE them. Don’t just listen to Native people when it’s in your best interest. Dedicate meaningful time to listening, learning, sharing, and including Native people. Confront the dark histories and be a part of all the great work being done to change the narrative.  

I must also use this space to applaud Christina Roberts, Anthony Monroe, and Father Patrick Twohy. When I interviewed with SeattleU two years ago they were a big reason why I chose to come here. They have exceeded my expectations with their dedication to Indigenous involvement at SeattleU. We have only started to scratch the service of what’s possible for Indigenous engagement at SeattleU and I look forward to being a part of that continued evolution. Sgi (Thank you). 

Resources and Renewal to Inclusion  
We invite you to visit the Indigenous Peoples Institute webpage for resources and information. Additionally, to show support throughout Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, you may visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website to find inspiring Zoom backgrounds, and a range of other educational resources.   

As we recognize Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, let us acknowledge and pay tribute to the remarkable contributions, traditions, and knowledge of the Indigenous peoples throughout our country and the world. Let us also reaffirm our commitment to work against ongoing racism and injustice against those in the Native American and Alaska Native community, and to do our part to continuously co-create a welcoming and inclusive environment and experience for all. 


Eduardo M. Peñalver, President  

Natasha Martin, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion