This Member of the Cherokee Nation is Proud of His Heritage

Justin Bauswell is proud of his Cherokee heritage and grateful for how Walmart has continually supported him and the Native American community. 

 

As a student at Haskell Indian Nations University, he was chosen to participate in mock job interviews with Walmart to build his professional interviewing skills. Later, after becoming a manager at Walmart, he paid it forward by interviewing students in the same program to help develop their skills.

 

Justin is also an American Indian College Fund scholar.  Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have been proud to support and partner with the American Indian College Fund for many years to support investment in American Indian education and the community. He earned his B.S. in Environmental Science and has ambitions to have a role in sustainability at Walmart one day. 

 

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time set aside to recognize the rich culture and important contributions of Native American people. Justin encourages his colleagues to seek out ways to personally experience Native American culture, not just read about it. “To truly learn about Native people and culture, go out and experience it!” Justin said. “Eat fry bread. Attend a local powwow (even digitally). Listen to Native music.”

 

Check out our Q&A with Justin:

Tell us about your Walmart journey

I have been with Walmart for a little over five years. I started off as an overnight frozen stocker at Store 484 in Lawrence, Kansas, as I was attending Haskell Indian Nations University working towards my environmental science degree. I then worked as a deli associate and within six months, I was promoted to be a department manager over homelines at Store 5219 in Lawrence, Kansas. Just before I reached my first anniversary, I became an assistant manager at Store 5441 in Topeka, Kansas. I stayed at Store 5441 for four years, and then, I transferred to my new store, Store 2320 in Cottage Grove, Oregon, where I have been promoted to general manager/stocking coach.

As a person of Native American heritage, how did it feel when Walmart publicly supported the change of the Washington Football Team’s name by stopping the sale of merchandise?

I appreciated and supported Walmart's decision to stop the selling of Washington Football Merchandise due to the offensive logo. This is one of many reasons I am thankful to work for Walmart.

What are other ways that Walmart has supported you as an associate and a Native American?

I have felt supported by and am a supporter of Walmart's programs for Native Americans. There are several programs that I have participated in and help with such as the Associates in Critical Need Trust, where associates are able to set up reoccurring donations to various charities, like the American Indian College Fund. As I attended Haskell Indian Nations University and Walmart as an overnight stocker, I was notified of a program that Walmart and Sam's Club was holding at the university called "Haskell Mock Interviews." This event allowed students to participate in a constructive interview that helped students build resumes and help them provide experience for future interviews. I was able to attend this as an interviewee and, a year later, as an interviewer. This was a great training opportunity for me as well as my fellow classmates which helped me with my interviews to become a manager and as a manager.

What is one thing you wish people knew or would want people to know about Native Americans and their culture?

Native American culture is unique for each tribe. It would be beneficial for everyone to know that there are Native American tribes all over the country and many opportunities and events to gain exposure to Native culture.

What’s a common misconception when it comes to Native Americans and their heritage?

Too often, Native Americans and their culture are discussed during Thanksgiving, through the lens of the Wild West or through other stereotypes. It's a common misconception that Native Americans are no longer around; Native Americans are still here and are making important progress in fields such environmental policy, science, math and cultural equity for all. It's important that Native Americans are represented in a contemporary context in our public schools and business decisions.

How do you and your family honor your Native American heritage?

The most meaningful honor my family has in regards to Native American Heritage is to continue to grow as an individual and help the Native American community. For my family, an example of this is that several of my family members graduated from Haskell Indian Nations University. While attending Haskell, we have grown in our intertribal and cultural awareness and I have become an ambassador to advocate for Native representation in higher education.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your Native American culture?

While I did not grow up traditionally, I am most proud of the opportunity I received to attend Haskell Indian Nations University and learn more about not only my tribe, the Cherokee Nation, but also other tribes. Haskell is truly a unique university in the sense that all federally recognized tribes are welcome to attend and I have learned so much about the Native American perspective in America's history. I am so proud of the fact that I got to participate in my fraternity, Phi Sigma Nu, and learn from so many passionate Native American students and advocates who inspired me to learn more about my Native heritage.

You’ve shared some ways that others can learn about Native American culture...what are some other ways they can honor and support Native people during Native American Heritage Month and beyond?

Too often, I hear of people speaking about Native Americans in terms of generalities, and I think it's important for the general public to understand that each tribe is very unique, because they are all sovereign nations with different cultures, and it is important to refer to Native Americans in terms of tribes as often as possible. I also think it's important that Native Americans are portrayed in contemporary terms as opposed to just in the past. Being mindful of our conversations about Native Americans is crucial to progress towards cultural equity in our communities.

To learn more about Native American Heritage Month, visit collegefund.org/native-american-heritage-month

 

To learn more about the American Indian College fund, visit collegefund.org


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