People First

Highlighting the Tapestry of Native American Heritage: Dwight Irving's Story

Kathryn Foxby Kathryn FoxNov. 6, 2023

This article is part of our Southland Stories series, which highlights our employees and their diverse experiences and backgrounds. By recognizing and supporting our employees in connection to different awareness months and initiatives, we put our people first, directly sharing employee experiences, raising awareness, and fostering connection and inclusion across our company.  

At Southland, we continuously look for ways to put our people first, celebrating our diverse backgrounds and sharing our experiences. 

Every one of our people has a story, and throughout the year, we look for ways to share and elevate their voices. During Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate the traditions, languages, contributions, and stories of Native people. November is also a time to bring awareness to some of the unique challenges that Native people have faced both in the past and present.

Sharing his story, Dwight Irving, Senior BIM Support Specialist, reflects on his Navajo heritage and offers insight into his culture and family and how these experiences have influenced his career. 

Yá'át'ééh, shí éí Dwight Irving yinishyé, Tódik'ǫzhi nishłį́, Táchii'nii bashishchiin Ta'neeszahnii shícheii Honágháahnii shínálí. 

From a small town in the four-corner area named Round Rock, Arizona, Dwight was a union carpenter for Local 1977 in Las Vegas, previously working as a concrete hand and form setter. Looking for a change, he remembered how he liked working with AutoCAD in high school and enrolled in ITT Tech. With Southland looking for new talent, Dwight joined the company in 2015 and is currently a Senior BIM Support Specialist, focusing on project and file setup, maintenance, and management.

Dwight Working in the Office

Native American Heritage Month can mean many different things to Native Americans, and is celebrated and recognized in diverse ways. 

To me, Native American Heritage Month means speaking my Native language. Native people have their own languages and that is our way of connecting to Mother Earth. Without our language, we would lose our identity. 

Oftentimes, heritages and backgrounds can influence career paths and be a driving factor in shaping our career experiences. 

My maternal grandmother was a significant influence regarding my career path. She created a blueprint on how to work for what you want in life. Today, I want to show my kids what I was taught growing up and pass down those Native teachings to them. 

Additionally, there are some Native traditions or customs that I incorporate into my daily and professional life. Natives like to say, "water is life" — which is very true. No matter the job, water knows what to do in every situation — from nourishing plants, serving as a drink to humans, or putting out a fire. I want to be like water in my position and understand what to do in every situation. 

Dwight's Great Grandfather & Great Grandmother with Friends

In recent years, diversity and inclusion has become a big area of focus for many companies across industries, including construction companies. 

Although this has become a recent focus, it would be nice to see more exposure to construction jobs and career paths to students at high schools on reservations. There are 22 tribes in Arizona, which means there is plenty of recruiting opportunities within the Native communities. 


Although we recognize many events and holidays throughout the year, awareness and celebration should be continuous to spotlight and understand the experiences of those we work with. 

Actively contributing and supporting my community is something that I am interested in. I would like to share more about the BIM process and the exciting kinds of careers students can have with the Navajo community and other Native communities in the surrounding Tempe area. I have family graduating high school next year and I'm excited to let them know about Southland's power and the greater industry. 

For more information about Navajo history and further learning, the Navajo Nation Museum is a good resource. I myself can be an ally and my family still practices Navajo traditional ceremonies. If there's a question I can't answer, I have family that can. 

Our employees are encouraged to listen, understand, and celebrate the important contributions and history of Native communities throughout our history and industry. For more information, click here.

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Navajo Rug Made by Darlene Johnson, Dwight's Grandmother

Haiven Friday, Dwight's Niece

Hailey M. Johnson, Dwight's Niece

Navajo Rug Made by Darlene Johnson, Dwight's Grandmother

Robin Begay, Dwight's Niece