Drawing from her Kiowa tribal roots, Lead TSA officer Leah Park is proud to bring her special brand of resilience to checkpoint at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport (OKC).
“I have 21 years of service with TSA, 13 of them being a lead officer,” said Park. “I have to say throughout the years of constant changes, having to adapt can be overwhelming; however, my resilience has kept me thriving.”
Park says she derives strength from her Native American ancestors.
“I am a direct descendant of DK Lonewolf and his daughter Ester Lonewolf Toppah of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma,” said Park. “I can trace my lineage to the last principal chief of the Kiowa Tribe.”
According to his 1945 obituary published in The Carnegie Herald, Delos Knowles “DK” Lonewolf, was a tribal leader who was instrumental in expanding educational programs in the region, and despite starting his educational path at 14 years old, DK was among the first members of the tribe ever to graduate collage. DK then went on to represent the tribe in Washington, D.C.
Learning from others has been important to Park, too. At Riverside Indian School, an all-Native American boarding school in Oklahoma, Park’s cultural view was expanded by living with students from other tribes across the country, but she’s especially proud of her own ancestry.
“I am specifically proud of the respect and camaraderie with my TSA family that translates to my ancestral background,” said Park of her TSA colleagues.
Park views her OKC teammates as extended family.
“My Native American heritage means family to me,” said Park. “I live this meaning out with all the people I work with. I consider them my family as well. Just like all families we have up and downs. We are a diverse group working to make a difference. However, at the end of the day we accomplish our core goals together.”
Park and her colleagues represented TSA at the Red Earth Pow Wow’s job fair, an annual event where her heritage intersects with the agency’s mission. During the ceremonies, she reacted to the ancestral drum beat.
“I can remember listening to the beat of the drum, like the one central, loud heartbeat,” recalled Park. “Having the strength to keep up with the drumbeat as you dance to the sounds and songs of my Native American heritage compels me to remain resilient.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs