In celebration of Native American Heritage Month – a time to celebrate the rich history, culture, traditions and contributions of Native Americans – we’d like you to meet Sean LeMaster, Senior Vice President, Crothall Healthcare. Sean, who has been a part of the Compass Group family for more than 20 years, says the most rewarding part of his job is mentoring his team and helping members develop their careers. The admitted ‘adrenaline junkie,’ who loves skydiving, jumping off buildings and off-roading, is inspired by the big hearts of the Compass associates he sees doing challenging work and making a difference. Read his story to learn how his Native American heritage is impacting this servant leader.
What does Native American Heritage Month mean to you?
This month is about pride. I am incredibly proud of my heritage, the work ethic of my ancestors, and their strong family ties. I think it is important to have a month that recognizes the culture and I am glad more people are finally recognizing the injustices Native Americans have suffered. It’s time Native Americans had their voices heard. I always found it odd growing up that in history class, when it came time to study Native American history, teachers would refer to the settlers going into battle as a war or victory, but when the Native Americans went to battle, it was called a massacre. I think it’s ironic that defending your family or your territory was described that way. For me, Native American Heritage Month is about educating people about our true history.
What is the benefit of celebrating Native American Heritage Month?
I think having a month like this is a positive step toward true diversity and inclusion. I think that society has become a little more awakened. People are more receptive now to hearing messages from other cultures. And the message is really the same. There is a richness in our differences that I think makes us better as a society. We have to be willing to stop and listen. Open our eyes and hearts and embrace it.
Describe your family’s background.
My great-grandmother on my mom’s side was half Choctaw. My mom’s father and uncle are both Cherokee. The Sioux Indian nation is on my dad’s side of the family, and my great grandfather has roots to a small tribe from South Dakota.
How were the traditions of your culture passed on to you?
It’s interesting because for a long time, my family didn’t really talk about our heritage. My father was the one who really tried to educate me about our culture. He would buy me books about the different tribes. He even got me a Lakota language dictionary once. That is the language of the Sioux Indian nation, and it was quite comical trying to read it because it’s a very complicated language. One time my dad took me on a trip into the black hills of South Dakota to experience the culture because I didn’t have a lot of exposure to it growing up in California. It was sad to see the poverty. It made me angry to see no running water. It was emotional and heart-wrenching at times, but it helped me to see and understand where my family came from.
How has your heritage influenced who you are?
Native Americans have a strong connection to nature and I have a deep appreciation for our natural resources. It makes me sad when I see those resources being abused. All the litter and waste you see is a little frustrating for me. My work is in the environmental arena. It is the nature of the job to use chemicals and a lot of water. I appreciate Compass’ effort to incorporate sustainable products whenever possible. We are trying with every account to educate people on different options. Technology helps, too. We can now turn water into a cleaning agent and then back into water. Limiting the chemical impact on our environment and recycling what we can is the right thing to do. I make sure my family does what we can do to honor the natural world. I told my son, I had one expectation for him – to be a good human being, and part of that is protecting the planet. That’s what we should all strive to be and do.