Native American Heritage Month Spotlight
November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States, the time each year when we honor the contributions of Native Americans and reflect on their history. Additionally, Friday, November 25, is Native American Heritage Day. This celebration started as a day introduced in 1900 by Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Native American and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences. This month elevates awareness and provides an opportunity to express community, culture, and traditions for the over five million people that identify as Native American, American Indian, and Alaska Native. Take a look at our spotlight below:
Domino was born in Palm Springs, CA where he spent the first couple years of his life before moving to Banning-Beaumont to be closer to his tribe. He descends from two bands of Cahuilla Tribes from his mother’s side, the Agua Caliente and Cahuilla (Ivtam) Band of Indians.
Domino grew up a proud Native, deeply connected to his roots. However, navigating the American and Native culture was difficult.
“I can say my upbringing was like every Native kid. It was very different [from the ‘norm’]. Especially in high school, I had to always explain myself and certain things. Fortunately, I had tutoring twice a week with Native teachers and students which became my safe space,” he said.
Although Domino was surrounded by Native kids, his greatest connection to his heritage came from his grandma who showed him the Cahuilla culture and traditions. From speaking their language, Cahuilla (ívillu), to Bird Singing, songs that describe the story of Cahuilla’s migration, she taught him everything he knows today.
“My grandma taught me so much, including Bird Singing, which has to be my favorite tradition. Singing of the Birds is where 11 Bands of Cahuilla come together to Bird Sing during Powwow season. Bird Singing is only taught so not everyone from the Indian Country (Native Americans in Mexico, Canada and America) can pick it up, which is cool.”
Currently, Domino is a student at the California Indian Nations College studying political science to become a Tribal Lawyer. This college was created to empower Native students pursuing higher education, but to also educate non-natives on their culture and history. Luckily, Domino has a fully online schedule that allows him to work the night shift at Taco Bell.
But how’d he end up at Taco Bell? Funny enough, he stumbled upon The Bell while hungry.
“I was really hungry one day, so I decided to eat some Taco Bell, specifically the steak quesadilla with extra steak. As I approached the restaurant, I saw a hiring sign, so I decided to apply. Quickly after, I got hired!”
Since joining Taco Bell, Domino has been able to immerse himself in a newfound community of people that go the extra mile for him.
“There’s a lot of people at Taco Bell who help each other out. I’ve never had a job where I’ve felt more included or been around a group of people that care. What’s even crazier is that some of my co-workers are even learning Cahuilla to talk to me.”
In addition, Domino appreciates how he’s able to express himself during work.
“No matter what culture you come from, you’re allowed to express yourself. For example, I’m encouraged to braid my hair and put it in a bun because braiding hair is something we do in my culture. It symbolizes my spirit, and at Taco Bell, I don’t have to change who I am.”
In the future, Domino hopes to educate others about his culture to play a role in bringing back the Native voice. Native American Heritage Month can be honored even more by supporting Native-owned businesses, donating to Native-led nonprofits, listening to podcasts, watching related movies, attending locally hosted events and more! If you’re looking for resources to learn more about the Native heritage, Domino suggests starting with Hulu show Rez Dogs!