FORT MEADE, Md.,
November is National American Indian Heritage Month. It is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of the 567 Native American tribes and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. The observance is used to educate the public about tribes and the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.
MSgt Frances Dupris has championed the advancement of Native Americans since she joined the U.S. Air Force 19 years ago.
To recognize her dedication, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) recently honored MSgt Dupris, a former NSA employee, with the 2020 Blazing Flame Award. The accolade is bestowed on individuals who forge a path for Indigenous people in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of the 2020 AISES Blazing Flame Award,” MSgt Dupris said. “I’d like to thank the AISES family, NSA leaders, Indigenous professionals and military members who support American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) initiatives and NSA’s AIAN Employee Resource Group (ERG) — such a wonderful group and I am grateful to have been part of such a great team.”
Among her accomplishments, MSgt Dupris was lauded for representing the Agency’s K–12 Academic Outreach Program. Some of her work included talking about life as an Indigenous service member to students at Elizabeth High School and at the Colorado Military Academy (CMA) in Colorado Springs. She and her husband, Chris, also are mentoring a Lakota student to aid his development as a STEM professional.
MSgt Dupris believes it is important for STEM to be introduced at a young age because “children are a lot smarter than people realize,” she said. “They retain information and apply it early, continuing throughout the rest of their school years through college and beyond.”
As an intelligence analyst, she was part of a binational joint military and civilian team that provides specialized intelligence support to the commands. For more than four years (two interim and two active), she also served as Co-Chair of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service AIAN ERG for hundreds of joint military and civilian personnel.
She feels at times she has been treated unfairly but always tried to share her culture so others could have a better understanding of it. She has been heartened to see NSA/CSS and the Air Force take steps to change policies and procedures to tackle these issues
“My goal is to have the world understand other people are going to be different, but that is a good thing,” MSgt Dupris said. “Combating racism to inspire diversity and inclusion is a hard job, and it will not change overnight.”
Early in her Air Force career, MSgt Dupris advanced to leadership and role model positions and has served as an unwavering advocate for Indigenous people, from colleagues in uniform to the civilian communities around her — including classrooms shaping the next generation.
She also was recognized recently by the Air Force’s 93rd Intelligence Squadron as the 2020 Lance P. Sijan USAF Leadership Award winner; and selected from the 543rd ISR Group as the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Award winner — both nominated to higher headquarters for broader competition across the Air Force.
In 2019, she coordinated the publishing of a half dozen biopic pieces on Native Americans who had risen to the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force. She also published a 10-page newsletter to thousands of military and Federal employees on activities and opportunities in the AIAN ERG.
MSgt Dupris has earned more than three dozen military awards and decorations, including a Meritorious Service Medal for professional leadership citing, among other accomplishments, the advancement of the AIAN ERG and leadership of multiple cultural appreciation events.
She holds a Master of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Argosy University. Hailing from the Black Hills of South Dakota, she is the daughter of parents whose lineage boasts Lakota and Arapaho ancestry, and is an enrolled tribal member of the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming.
MSgt Dupris’ husband is an enrolled tribal member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. The couple are AISES Sequoyah Fellows.
The AISES awards are part of the AISES Professional Awards program, which celebrates the contributions of Indigenous innovators and professionals in six award categories: Executive Excellence, Technical Excellence, Most Promising Engineer or Scientist, Blazing Flame, Indigenous Excellence, and the Professional of the Year.
“AISES is delighted to announce the Professional Award winners who are experienced leaders from across multiple sectors and industries," said Sarah EchoHawk, AISES Chief Executive Officer. “They are true business professionals who lead by example, drive positive change, and advocate for a more inclusive world.”