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Inclusive Diversity & Equity

Celebrating culture, creating community: Native American Peoples at Allstate

It started as one Allstate employee's bold idea and is now part of Allstate's robust Employee Impact Group community. Meet Native American Peoples at Allstate – a place to celebrate and bring awareness to Native American cultures.

Native American person in ceremonial dress in the desert.

An Allstate employee took the lead and helped create an inclusive community for Native people, friends and allies.

May 12, 2023

Not long into his time at Allstate, Tom Burton realized something was missing.

On the weekends, he's part of a group that learns and speaks Sm'algyax. It's the language of his native Tsimshian people from British Columbia, Canada, and southeast Alaska. While he appreciates the community the group brings, he was missing that same feeling when he joined Allstate Enterprise Solutions' Experimentation team in 2019.

"When I looked at the list of Allstate's Employee Impact Groups, there wasn't one that truly spoke to who I am as a person," he said. "I decided, 'If this EIG doesn't exist, why don't I be that voice of change? Why don't I make it real, make it happen, make it become a thing?'"

And so he did.

Burton teamed up with Inclusive Diversity & Equity to form a new Employee Impact Group called Native American Peoples at Allstate. NATIVE launched this year — Allstate's first new EIG since 2016. Its leaders introduced the group to Allstate employees in April, and since then it's gained over 140 members.

What's ahead for NATIVE: A Q&A with Tom Burton and Kelly Davids

Headshots of Tom Burton and Kelly Davids.

Why was it important for you to take the lead in getting NATIVE started?

Burton: I'm one-quarter Tsimshian. Growing up, I knew that I was Native, and I knew a little bit about my culture. In sixth grade, I ended up moving from the lands of my people and neighboring tribes to the lands of the Alutiiq people, completely different language, tradition, culture. And I lost a lot of the opportunities I would have had growing up to connect with my heritage.

I've been meeting with a language-learning group every week over Zoom. There are less than 100 fluent speakers left, and we're doing what we can to keep the language going. I'm proud to be part of that group, and it gave me a sense of community. Working for Allstate, I didn't have that same sense of community and belonging.

Davids: I am half German on my mom's side, and I'm half Native American from my dad's side. That is split between two tribes from Wisconsin: the Stockbridge Munsee, which is a band of Mohican tribe, and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. I have relatives who live up on the Oneida reservation, and we'd always go visit them. We'd go to events there, like a powwow, but not very often. It was really in college where I got to deepen that connection.

I've been at Allstate for a long time, and I had some affiliations with some of the Employee Impact Groups. I never had one for this cultural aspect of me and wasn't able to bring that to the workforce. Last year, I saw a post from Tom talking about this group, that anyone who was interested should come to this meeting. From there, I stuck around. I was so interested in this and wanted to see it be a success.

How does the organization plan to support Allstate's Native community?

Burton: We want to enable Allstate to become a premier employer for Native American people. That starts with recruitment. That starts with internships. That starts with getting the bodies in the door. I want to work with procurement to learn about our consulting and contracting work with Native Americans and tribal organizations.

We're doing a real talk on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls because it is such a prevalent issue facing our people and our world today. We're talking about doing events for two-spirit (those who have both male and female spirits within them) and for Native American Heritage Month, and we want to partner with AVETS for Veterans Day. It's not just my group. It's not just Kelly's group. It's for all of us, by all of us. It's for us and our allies. It's for everyone.

Davids: We'd love to do a book club at least once this year. We want to serve our community members with educational sessions about our culture. But also to help them grow in their careers: how to network, career development. Agile training is hot and in demand — that may be something we can offer to our community members that they may not have had exposure to.

What does allyship look like to you?

Burton: It's mostly about respect. I at least want people to be aware that Native peoples are still here. We haven't gone anywhere. We've been here for millennia, and we're going to continue to be here. And to think about what they're saying. There are some phrases where I'll say something and be like, "Wait a second. I never thought about that phrase in that way before." I'll realize what I said has a racial connotation that's negative, and I'll stop saying that phrase.

Davids: Not everyone I connect with is Native American. Not everyone I connect with knows that I am Native American until I bring that part of myself to work. What we're here to do with NATIVE is bring that awareness, bring that education, bring the community together. Allyship is someone understanding that maybe they live in an area that has a high indigenous population and knowing what's appropriate or not for interacting with them.

We can talk about things like mascots or Halloween costumes that are very inappropriate because they take pieces of our cultural regalia and use it in a way that's not meant to be. See something, say something. How can they help stop those things when they see that? Or teach their children or their friends to act differently, more appropriately in those situations?

What do you hope to see across Allstate now that NATIVE exists?

Burton: I hope to see increased partnerships with Native and tribal organizations. I want to see increased recruitment, increased retention and people moving up in leadership spaces. It's not just a matter of bringing people in the door; it's a matter of retaining employees, mentorship and training. It's about seeing people rise through the ranks, seeing representation at all levels. Showing that we're here, we work just as hard as everyone else, and we can be a force for good, internally and externally. We can help raise up Allstate, raise up Indian country and raise us up all together.

Find your community, make an impact

Native American Peoples at Allstate is the newest addition to the Allstate EIG community, but each one has a common goal: to strengthen communities through common connection, inclusive support and career development.

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