I am a Native American Airman
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - The U.S. has often been called a melting pot due to the multitude of diverse cultures that have made the country their home. But long before it became the melting pot it is today the land was home to one group of people, the Native Americans.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Native Americans account for less than one percent of the country's population; although the numbers are small, many like Airman 1st Class Lauren Tsosie, a 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron supply technician, remain steadfast and proud of their heritage.
Tsosie is a member of the Navajo tribe and was born and raised on a Navajo Reservation in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico.
Being born and partly raised within the Navajo community, Tsosie is heavily influenced by her family roots and traditions.
"Like other cultures, our traditions and lifestyle is handed down to each generation; my grandparents taught my parents and my parents taught me," she said. "My faith and a good work ethic were instilled in me very early on. My grandparents also had a farm so I learned from a young age just how much work goes into keeping a farm going."
Tsosie was also taught how to speak and read the Navajo language and was exposed to cultural practices like weaving, clothes and jewelry-making, storytelling, and native medicinal customs.
At eight years old Tsosie and her immediate family relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, where she recalls experiencing culture shock.
"Needless to say it was different," she said. "Although the reservation is large, in terms of square-mileage, the communities are still very tight. When we moved we said goodbye to the only community we knew ... It was home for me; that's the only way I can describe it."
Moving away from the reservation and later joining the Air Force exposed Tsosie to a myriad of cultures and heritages, and has opened doors for Tsosie to share her culture and heritage.
"I've met many people, in and out of the military, who don't realize that [Native Americans] are still out there, and that used to be surprising to me," she said. "Now I just see it as an opportunity to share my story. I enjoy teaching and talking to others about it."
At home station and here at the 386th ELRS, it is clear to Tsosie's closest friends and co-workers that her Native American roots are very important to her.
"She displays more pride of her heritage than anyone else I've ever met," said Senior Airman Mia Trammel, a 386th ELRS supply technician and close friend. "She's very close and connected to her family history. She knows who and what she is and where she comes from. That's not common nowadays."
Today, Tsosie has been away from the reservation for 12 years but even so, regular visits back home ensures her heritage and culture remain part of her everyday life.
"I may not be immersed in [the culture and environment] anymore but the values and lessons I was taught are still very much with me," she said. "I am Native American and I am also an Airman. I'm very proud and thankful to be both."