“If you want to achieve success in whatever you set out to do, you have to start as though you are hand-in-hand with all of creation.” – Keetoowah Cherokee Saying
From an early age, these words were instilled upon me by my dad as enrolled members of the Cherokee tribe – one of over 560 federally recognized tribes – with roots from Indian country in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. There are seven Cherokee clans and I’m from the “Hair” clan.
This saying served me well as I made my way through school, while I worked in commercial fishing — running crab and long-line boat – and through philanthropic endeavors I participate in. It has even served me well as I began a career in tech start-ups, and yes, as a Customer Success Executive at Cisco.
This saying motivates me to try new things – to step outside of my comfort zone, to not be afraid of failure, and to inspire others.
I was taught at a young age to learn and teach and mentor others – to help keep our culture relevant and to help progress our people. I went to Pow Wows with my dad, learned about our culture, an eventually began advocating for Native rights – which briefly led me to advise on broadband policy for Native Americans in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Presently, there are approximately five million Native Americans in the United States – and we don’t easily represent a single demographic, voting bloc, or cohesive financial conglomerate.
We cannot be compartmentalized into skin color because we are beautiful shades of brown, copper, red, tan, beige, black and white. We have diverse shapes – tall, short, wide, and thin. As a people, our issues often get overlooked or glossed over by politicians, corporations, and society in general. When not being represented as stereotyped caricatures by media or in movies – we have become invisible.
To that end, I remain committed to Cherokee Nation, participating in Tribal Land Connectivity policy work, supporting our Cherokee immersion language program, working with local elders, supporting tribal domestic abuse programs, and mentoring STEM students. These activities keep me grounded and connected to Native causes and the Cherokee Nation – even thought I don’t live in Tahlequah.
This dedication extends to what I do at Cisco, too.
About two years ago, a few of us at Cisco came together to launch the Native American Network (NAN). It started as an informal network with the goal of sharing Native experiences with others at Cisco. With the hard work of my fellow NAN peers, we gained Employee Resource Organization (ERO) status this past August.
As a Native American, I am proud to be part of NAN’s core leadership team. I am also very proud to work at a company that acknowledges the diverse cultures, traditions, histories, and contributions of Native people and those in other EROs. Our EROs and our people help make up the rich and diverse tapestry that is Cisco.
I’d like to share another Keetoowah saying, which roughly translates: “A complete, comprehensive respect for life and creation has no end.”
These are powerful words to contemplate from a marginalized people. Because Cisco embraces everyone for who they are and the talents they bring – while encouraging EROs like NAN – I’m fortunate to be able to share other life experiences and perspectives with my peers and those curious about Native American experiences.
To me, this shows how dedicated Cisco is in empowering us all to learn and grow from each other. We are seen as humans, with lives outside of our “9-5” and they truly want us to achieve success in whatever we do.
ᎠᏥᎸᎤᎣᏗᏳ (respectfully), Ken Twist.
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