Airmen learn about diversity during lunch and learn

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Ellis
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"When we speak about Native Americans, we're not referring to just one group of people. We're referring to the hundreds of displaced groups throughout the nation," said Col. Andre Briere, 6th Air Mobility Wing vice commander and descendent of the Huron-Wendat/Wendake, also stating this was the first time in 20 years that he spoke in a public forum about his heritage.

Members from across the wing gathered for a lunch and learn Nov. 13, 2013, as a way of "celebrating our destiny with heritage and tradition"--which is this year's slogan for National American Indian Heritage Month.

Briere, whose Grandfather was a clan chief in Canada, stated that his clan has descendants in Kansas, Oklahoma and Canada, with the largest population in Canada.

In Canada it's a common occurrence for the word "Bon" (means "good" in French) to be used in conjunction with the name of a clan, which exemplifies the positive sentiment expressed to Native Americans in that region, said Briere.

Briere also noted, "They're not called Native Americans in Canada; they're called 'first nations.'"

Another guest speaker Willie Johns, member of the Seminole Tribe and employee at Ah-Tah-Thi-ki Museum, spoke about his heritage and the current affairs of Native Americans in Florida.

"The term Seminole is not even in our language; it was the name given to us," said Johns. "In Spanish, Seminole translates to Cimarrón, which means untamed."

Johns explained how despite the numerous complaints about the Spaniards, the positives were: they brought horses, cattle, chickens and livestock. The displaced Seminoles picked up these trades along with a few others, and today the Seminoles are top three in Florida and top 12 in the nation in the cattle industry.

Where they have flourished the most is in the gaming industry. The Seminole casino in Tampa, Fla., earns three times the revenue than any casino in Las Vegas, said Johns.

With so much success "taking care of our people comes first," said Johns.

Johns stated that the Seminole Tribe has 40,000 employees in the state of Florida, have their own fire and police department, health system and insurance.

"We don't put our seniors in home and don't want them to be alone when they get older."

From childhood to college years, where all members have their college paid for at any institution from which they're accepted, to late adulthood the tribe cares for and provides benefits to their people.

Johns stated that those benefits and services total more than 9 billion dollars.

After the event Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Mazzone, 6th AMW command chief, shared some words with the enlisted members that attended and thanked them for their support.

"I encourage you to go out to your work centers and also encourage others to get involved and learn about diversity. This is our culture and really some of us are just implants. The speakers today, Johns and Briere, are truly from here," said Mazzone.