Celebrating Native American Heritage Month: Dawn Jackson on Inclusion, Alliance, and Native Traditions

During Indigenous Heritage Month, we honor the cultures and contributions of Native and American communities and tribes. To start this month’s celebration, we sat down with Dawn Jackson, a Native American cultural advisor to Disney, a member of the Stories Matter team with Disney’s corporate brand management and a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan. Dawn reflected on her 28 years at Disney and the first anniversary of Disney’s Native American BERG (Enterprise Employee Resource Group), officially known as NAATV (Natives Americans & Allies Together with Vision).

Dawn began her trip to Disney in 1993 with The Disney Store base team and has made many stops along the way, including Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Dawn has acted as a cultural advisor for company-wide projects, such as the new Tenaya Stone Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland Resort. As she has grown her career at Disney and actively advocated for more inclusive stories, products, and experiences, Dawn recognized the need for a BERG for Native American and Native cast members and their allies, where everyone can learn. about tribal teachings, exploring their own identities. , and meet to process the headlines of the day.

At Disney, each BERG is made up of cast members from across the company who have a passion for creating and supporting a place where we all belong, regardless of our background, experiences or identities. At the core of each BERG is a specific dimension of diversity and these groups are open to everyone, whether you identify as part of this community, are an ally or want to learn more and grow in your journey through diversity. Dawn believes that belonging to a BERG can be a “source of empowerment and a place to belong” and wanted to create a space that could offer that opportunity to Native American cast members.

Although the creation of BERG took place over the years, NAATV was officially recognized as BERG in 2020 and is now celebrating its first anniversary. While reflecting on the first year of NAATV, Dawn is very proud of how the group has incorporated tribal teachings and shared these practices with the company-wide cast in the monthly Talking Circles. Talking circles are a traditional practice in many indigenous tribes and for members of the Disney cast they are a place to listen, learn and share.

“The circle represents a way in which all sides are equal,” said Dawn, who is reflected in honest and important conversations about the identity and belonging that these events have sparked. “There have even been tears during these talking circles as we connect more deeply with these elements,” Dawn shared, as many cast members connect with their own native heritage.

Each talking circle begins with a deep breath and an acknowledgment of the earth, and discusses topics that are relevant to the experience of Native Americans and their allies. This year, the Talking Circles have focused on the Native American perspective on balance and helped to identify the four quadrants of well-being recognized by many tribes: physical, emotional, spiritual, and social.

Dawn stressed that everyone is welcome to NAATV and celebrated that the alliance has been an important part of the founding and growth of BERG. “Before NAATV, many cast members didn’t have a place of their own. Allies have been key to making it possible for the native community, and our name (Native Americans & Allies Together with Vision) reflects that.” , shared Dawn. He credited all-company allies for adding their voices in support of their native colleagues and helping to create spaces for conversations about the experience of Native American and Native cast members.

For Dawn, inclusion means cultivating a place where everyone is welcome, and she has been proud to help create it on NAATV.

Stay tuned to the Disney Parks blog as we celebrate Native American Heritage Month and be sure to follow them on Disney Parks social media as we continue to tell you stories from our cast members.

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