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Native American Heritage Month: Janet Oliver

Janet Oliver (Skywrighter photo/Amy Rollins)

Janet Oliver (Skywrighter photo/Amy Rollins)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- November is Native American Heritage Month — a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of native people. This year’s theme is “Standing Together.” Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is observing the month with profiles of individuals who exemplify the core values of diversity and respect and help meet the Air Force mission.

Janet Oliver: Civilian, program manager, MQ-9 Block 30 Ground Control Station, Medium Altitude UAS Division, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center

Time working at Wright-Patterson AFB: 1.5 years as a civilian, five as active-duty

Career background: Prior enlisted for 10 years, working in Aerospace and Operational Physiology, 711th Human Performance Wing, Air Force Research Laboratory. She joined to serve her country and see the world, she said.

Ancestry/tribal background: Navajo, Swinomish and Skagit

Cultural information: Oliver was born and raised on the Navajo Nation Reservation. “It is customary in my tribe to introduce myself by telling others what my clans are. In English my first clan is Red House, my second clan is Swinomish, my third clan is the Bitter Water Clan and my fourth clan is the Tangled People Clan. Both my father and stepmother were in the military (Army). They inspired me to join the military several years after high school, to go out into the world to see what is out there and meet other people from different backgrounds.” She goes home to Shiprock, New Mexico, in the Navajo Reservation and visits whenever she has the opportunity to participate in tribal events, she said. Oliver wants people to know Native Americans live modern lives, on and off the reservation, but still respect and follow their traditions, culture, songs and language. “At the same time, we’re educating ourselves and pursuing regular jobs like most people,” she said.

Interesting fact: Oliver said she likes to share information about her culture and educate others about the tribes she is from. “As a parent I am focused on passing on as many traditions, language, songs and stories as I can to my daughter, especially because I live far from family and the reservation I grew up on.” She is teaching her daughter Megan, 9, how to cook such traditional Navajo dishes as blue corn mush and kneel down bread, both with modern equipment and traditional implements. She wants Megan to know what they are, where they come from and how they are made, both in modern and traditional settings. “One day, when she gets older, she can cook them on her own and pass that on as well,” Oliver said. “The good thing is we get to get away from technology and focus on spending time together.”