Honoring Native American Heritage Month: James Gregory

November 01, 2023

November is Native American Heritage Month. Join Compass Group in celebrating the culture and heritage of Indigenous Peoples who greatly enrich the character and quality of our nation. Throughout this month, we’ll introduce you to several of our associates. First up is James Gregory, Senior Director of Environmental Services for TouchPoint at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital. James is an Oklahoma native and the son of a Comanche mother and Scottish-American father. He and his wife, Deretha – also a Native American – currently reside in Halstead, Kansas.

Native American foods are a tradition that is enjoyed and honored by James. Among his favorite Indigenous dishes are frybread (a flat dough bread fried in oil or lard, eaten alone or with a sweet or savory topping), pashofa (hominy and pork, covered in water and boiled for several hours), and fried corn (prepared in a skillet with onion and garlic). Corn is an important symbol of sustenance for many tribes.

James’ American Indian name is Kohana, meaning swift from the Sioux Tribe. “Growing up in Oklahoma in the 1960s and 1970s presented challenges based on historical prejudices,” James shared. As a result, he did not often use his traditional name due to perceptions from those outside of the Native American community.

Not to be discouraged, tradition is important to James, and he incorporates teachings of the Comanche and his own experiences into his interactions with associates and hospital patients. Under Comanche teaching, similar to the Bible, the creator spirit created everyone in one likeness on the same earth, under the same sun and moon so that each would be loved and respected as one.

Growing up during a time and in a place where being Indigenous meant being exposed to more ridicule than respect has taught James the true meaning of the creator spirit’s design – that we are all in one likeness on one earth under the same sun and moon. It’s another tradition that James honors in his day-to-day life. In so doing, he’s an inspiration to others!