In our current pandemic reality, the ways in which we celebrate holidays in the workplace look quite a bit different than in years past. Many office traditions and celebrations have gone virtual, or, due to Zoom fatigue and hectic schedules, just not happened at all. Thanksgiving at Holler used to mean a potluck with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the works, but given that we were not going to be gathering together, we decided to reexamine how we might recognize the holiday this year. In doing this, we also wanted to look at how we could be more inclusive and use this as an opportunity to learn about other cultures and communities. For this reason, we decided to use the month of November not to focus on just Thanksgiving, but to celebrate and honor Native American Heritage Month.
November was declared Native American Indian Heritage Month in 1990 to pay tribute to the ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. At Holler, our goal in celebrating Native American Heritage month was to foster conversation and education around the communities indigineous to the US. We knew we wanted to share educational content, while at the same time provide the opportunity for our team members to connect socially.
The first half of the programming we executed involved using Gather, a People Ops workflow tool that integrates with Slack, to send a series of messages out with weekly content around Native American communities. This included information around how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Native American communities, as well as links to related articles and where to donate. We also touched on the Native American communities indigineous to New York City, and how Native Americans have shaped the city as we know it today. We wrapped up the series on Native American Heritage Day (always the Friday after Thanksgiving) with a list of links to Native American-owned businesses.
In addition to the Gather notifications, we knew we wanted to offer employees a virtual social event. We were introduced to Santa Fe School of Cooking and opted to offer a Native American cooking class featuring award-winning chef Lois Ellen Frank. Over Zoom, we learned about Native American cuisine and cooked No-Fry Bread and Lois’ ‘Three Sisters Bison Stew.’ Lois, who herself is of Native American descent, is a wealth of knowledge and walked us through the history of Native American cuisine and farming in an engaging and fun format.
Being forced to pivot in how we execute office-wide celebrations encouraged us to think outside the box and gave us an opportunity to double down on our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. This is a lesson we can take with us as we begin a new year that will hopefully allow for us to gather in person again.