BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Last month, the United States celebrated and recognized the contributions and culture of American Indians through National Native American Heritage Month.
In 1990, Congress authorized this annual observance through a presidential proclamation.
The observance is significant to Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Training Coordinator Patricia Komondy, who prefers to be identified as Indigenous, and has a deep relationship with her heritage.
Komondy, who follows ancient Indigenous culture and participates in many cultural events, grew up in the Detroit Metropolitan area in Michigan. Due to a job transfer, her and her husband moved to the Grand Rapids area, where they raised their family.
She is of Celtic and Indigenous heritage; her Indigenous heritage is from the Powatan, the Cree, and the Cherokee Nations.
“My Powatan heritage comes to me from my 12th great-grandmother, Pocahontas,” she said. “My husband was of the Mohawk Nation and a well-known family - his 4th great-grandfather was Chief Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea, of the Mohawks. These family cultures were very active in the Indigenous community.”
This year, Komondy sat down with DLA Disposition Services’ Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Program to speak about the importance of National American Heritage Month.
She wore traditional items during the interview. Those items included a shawl, a skirt and a necklace.
Viewers may notice the background image, that image is the shawl Komondy made for her family. She said shawls were made in the later years of Indigenous people representing blankets used by women.
“In the old days, when there was a battle, men would go to war,” she said during a post video interview. “The women would take blankets to find them and use the blanket to cover them up. Now, every woman has a shawl. Older women have a bigger shawl to represent their entire family. Shawls represent us and it tells a story, it is part of our traditional wear.”
Older women with families have bigger shawls to represent the shawl fitting around her entire family. Whereas a younger woman will have a smaller shawl to represent a time before she has children or a family.
Komondy also pointed out the significance of her handstitched skirt.
The red skirt is adorned with yellow, white, orange, and red ribbon. Silhouettes of Indigenous women are affixed on top of said ribbon.
“The women on the skirt are meant to represent the missing and killed Indigenous women that no one is looking for,” Komondy said. “The movement going on within Indigenous groups is to help raise awareness to our people, specifically Indigenous women. The color of the movement is red and that is why my skirt is red.”
During the final moments of her interview, Komondy highlights the bone necklace adorned around her neck. The necklace is a family heirloom from her late husband, Ron Komondy.
The sacred piece is made of deer and buffalo bones and has been in Komondy’s family for two generations.
“[The necklace] was passed onto him by his mother and honored to me - I wear it in honor of my husband,” she said. “He played a big part in assisting me when I was chair [for the Native American Committee at HDIFC].”
Komondy’s husband passed away three years ago, and she dedicated this year’s Native American Heritage Month interview to him and those who came to her call over the years who helped provide Native American programs at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center.