Peace Corps Celebrates National Native American Heritage Month

November 5, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 5, 2009 Throughout the month of November, Peace Corps is celebrating National Native American Heritage Month and honoring the contributions of Native American Peace Corps Volunteers serving worldwide.

During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate the rich traditions and diverse history of North Americas first Americans, said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. Since the earliest days of our republic, Native Americans have played a vital role in our country's freedom and security. From the Revolutionary War scouts to the code talkers of World War II, Native Americans have served in all branches of America's armed forces. At Peace Corps, that proud tradition of service continues with Native Americans representing their country as Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the world.

The following current and returned Peace Corps volunteers of Native American descent have shared their stories:

Alana Peterson of Sitka, Alaska is affiliated with the Tlingit tribe and currently serves as a Business Development Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. She provides support to a local agricultural association that grows organic avocados, teaches English classes and is starting a youth entrepreneurship club. I first considered joining the Peace Corps when I was a freshman in college, said Peterson. I knew that I wanted to travel, work, and help out people in an underdeveloped country. Peace Corps just seemed like a perfect fit for me. Growing up in an Alaskan Native community, I always felt the importance of preserving ones culture while keeping in tune with the developing world. Eventually I hope to return back to Alaska to work in development with the Alaskan Native community, but first I know that I need some work experience in the field. I feel that Peace Corps is the experience I need.

Tobhiyah Holmes is from Sonoma, Calif. and currently teaches English as a Peace Corps volunteer in China. As a child of racially mixed heritage, I was raised by my mother and spent my youngest years living close to the poverty line, said Holmes. I was always surrounded by the love and support of my entire family and I was brought up to believe in people and their potential. My childhood experiences gave me a special empathy for disadvantaged or underprivileged persons. Working with Peace Corps to help other people reach their full potential is one way I am able to fulfill my sense of obligation and destiny and work on my personal goals of creating a more equitable and peaceful world.

Jill Cadreau of Highland, Mich. is of Chippewa heritage and currently a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Liberia. She said, I think that Peace Corps is good for diverse Americans because the whole experience can open your eyes to a different type of diversity. Being exposed to different ethnic groups in America is good, but being exposed to different groups from all over the world can teach you things that you can never learn in America. Living abroad makes you realize that even though there is diversity in America, we are all Americans. We may have different religious or cultural backgrounds, but we are all Americans.

Mike Dockry is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Bolivia from 1997-2000. He is from Shawano, Wis., a member of the Potawatomi Nation, and said, I felt like I could make a peaceful and lasting contribution to the U.S. by joining Peace Corps. In addition to learning another language and how to plant trees, my service put me on my current career path. I took advantage of the one year noncompetitive federal hiring status and have been working with the USDA Forest Service ever since.

Patricia King is a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Las Cruces, N.M., who served in Belize when she was in her 60s from 1997-99. She said, I joined Peace Corps to share my knowledge, skills, and experience and to learn new things. One is never too old to do so. By working with the indigenous Maya of Belize, I learned much more about my American Indian culture. Our issues are similar. In viewing, from their perspective, their own economic disadvantages and social isolation, I view our own issues and circumstances in different ways and with a greater understanding. The experience was wonderful and I would do it again!

Ethnic minorities make up 18 percent of the over 7,600 Americans serving in Peace Corps. Peace Corps actively recruits people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences to ensure that the Volunteers reflect the extraordinary diversity of the American people.

As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with over 7,600 volunteers serving in 75 host countries. Historically, nearly 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website: www.peacecorps.gov.

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