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Victoria Boyne, an Assistant Project Environmental Planner out of our Phoenix, Arizona office and co-lead of the Native & Indigenous People of SWCA Employee Resource Group (ERG).

Meet Victoria Boyne, an Assistant Project Environmental Planner out of our Phoenix, Arizona office and co-lead of the Indigenous People of SWCA Employee Resource Group (ERG) with Wainani Traub. Victoria discusses her values and shares her advice on turning knowledge and awareness into meaningful action and allyship.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your career.

A: My name is Victoria Boyne. I am Navajo (aka Diné). Navajo people introduce themselves by their clans. You are born to your mother’s clan and born for your father’s maternal clan. I am born to Hónágháahnii (One who walks around you Clan) and born for my father’s maternal family. My dad is not Navajo, which makes an already complicated clan system a little bit harder to sort out. The Navajo clan system is matrilineal, while beligana (American/white) culture is patrilineal. So, I am Hónágháahnii and English/Welsh. My other maternal clan is Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan) and my other paternal lineage is Irish/Scottish. I am married, with two stepdaughters and six grandchildren.

I started working at SWCA in the Tucson office and now I am in the Phoenix office. I am an Assistant Project Environmental Planner, but over the years here I specialized in managing admin and project records. Recently, I have been sharing my expertise and mentoring other people who are learning to manage records. I served on the Inclusion and Diversity Committee, participate in the Tribal Working Group, as well as the Women of Color in the Sciences and Mental Health Matters ERGs.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?

A: I am an avid reader. I also like to knit and crochet. I know how to loom weave (vs. basket weaving), but I am not very good at it — that being said, I enjoy other crafts that I am not very good at, like pottery and glass bead making. This year I have been trying to revive my memory of high school Spanish via Duolingo (a language app). My husband and I like to go bowling, play darts, and go camping.

Q: What are the accomplishments, priorities, and goals for the Indigenous People of SWCA ERG?

A: The goals of the ERG are as follows:

  • Increase visibility and recognition of Native and Indigenous people at SWCA
  • Influence the culture of SWCA to be more inclusive and supportive
  • Build networks and make connections to advance our careers
  • Nurture new friendships
  • Promote thoughtful discussion between members and allies
  • Raise awareness of the concerns, values, and issues that affect Native and Indigenous people
  • Encourage temp employees who identify as Native/Indigenous to participate in the ERG

Q: How and why did you become a lead for the ERG?

A: I was waiting for someone else to start an employee resource group for Native/Indigenous people. When that didn’t happen, I reached out to people I trust to see if they knew of other Native/Indigenous people who worked at SWCA (I thought I might be the only one), and when I was sure that I wasn’t the only one, I started the ERG. I am very lucky to have Wainani as co-lead. I have learned a lot from her.

Q: What are your values?

A: My values were shaped by my experiences with (primarily) my mother’s family and living on a reservation (both Navajo and Tohono O’odham reservations). I was taught to value family, including extended family and clan. I was taught to look after my sister and my cousins. I was taught to honor my mother, grandmothers, and aunties. This doesn’t mean we don’t also honor our fathers, uncles, and grandfathers, but that Navajo consider women as equals to men. I learned how to care for plants to grow food and take care of the animals that help feed us (sheep, chickens, goats, horses, working dogs). Navajo spirituality focuses on harmony and balance with all living things (people, plants, animals, the earth), and the interconnectedness of all life. Additionally, I was taught to value water; there is no life without water.

Q: What would you like people to know about Native and Indigenous people?

A: Here are some of the things that I would like everyone to know about Native and Indigenous people:

We are not a monolith. While there may be similarities between different Tribes and communities, each Tribe’s language, culture, sacred prayers, and songs are very different.

We don’t only exist in the past. Many people think colonization happened, it’s over, and the Native people disappeared. We are still here. We may not be very visible, but that is changing.

Sports or school mascots of Native people do not honor us. They are distortions and caricatures and are harmful to Native people. I love sports, especially baseball, but I no longer go to games with Native team names or mascots, or where there will likely be the tomahawk chop and chant because it is racist and hurtful.

I would like people to learn about the important issues that affect Indigenous people such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), the Land Back Movement, and language revitalization – and with that knowledge, advocate for change.

Q: How can individuals better support and be allies to Native and Indigenous people and their causes?

A: I would like people to recognize that decolonization is for everyone, not just Indigenous people. The legacy of colonialism affects us all. Some people benefited from it, some suffered from it; either way, we are all living with the effects of that history. Colonization is not your fault, but the continuing effects are everyone’s responsibility.

To really start to understand Native and Indigenous people and our causes, people can:

Be aware of cultural appropriation. Not everything is for you or your consumption.

Learn about micro- and macro-aggressions against Native/Indigenous people.

Decenter yourself in conversations that do not affect you. In situations or conversations that are not about you or your lived experience, don’t make the conversation about you; listen and learn instead.

Language matters! I hear “these people” very often, referring to Tribal communities or people of color. This language is “othering” and distances people. We are human just like you.