All eyes on Laura Forde
A noteworthy member of The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians tribe, Laura Forde epitomizes the blending of cultural heritage and contemporary pursuits. Her upbringing was deeply rooted in the rich tapestry of her tribe’s language, traditions and cultural morality, forming an integral part of her life's narrative. This immersion into tribal life fostered a profound connection with her heritage and community under the guidance of esteemed tribal elders.
The elders, revered for their experience and leadership within the community, impart wisdom with a demeanor characterized by grace and discipline, shaping the tribe’s future through their words and deeds.
“Our elders emphasized the importance of understanding our traditions, a realization that has grown increasingly significant to me,” Forde said. “The preservation and dissemination of our cultural practices are vital in ensuring their survival.”
The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, a federally recognized tribe situated in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Tuolumne County, California, benefits from Forde’s active participation. She dedicates her weekends to nurturing the tribe’s language, dance, songs and traditions among the younger generation. Moreover, Forde is pioneering the integration of her community with disciplines such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), sharing her insights into her role as a mechanical technologist at the Lab.
Forde brought her family members to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Open House 2023 event, and they were in awe of the Lab’s work. “I am so grateful to share my job with loved ones. It shows them that they can dream big,” she said.
Forde's journey reflects a unique confluence of traditional and modern worlds. She said: “I am among the few from my tribe who have ventured beyond our community to explore broader horizons. There was a lack of awareness about STEM and the diverse career opportunities it offers in my generation. I am seeking to bridge this gap.”
Her involvement with LLNL began in 2018 following a presentation by Randy Pico, senior superintendent of LLNL’s Engineering Directorate, at Ohlone College in Fremont, California. Subsequent interactions withy Pico and Sue Swift, LLNL’s Materials Engineering Division superintendent, led to her internship at LLNL in 2019. This resulted in a full-time role in the Engineering Directorate after two successful summer internships.
In addition to her professional endeavors, Forde serves as a board director for the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians Health Center and a committee member for business and finance branches on behalf of the tribal government. She is passionately committed to not only preserving and promoting the Me-Wuk language and traditions within her community but also to educating those outside her community who express a desire to understand the Me-Wuk culture.
“Inquiry is the key to cultural understanding,” Forde said. “I encourage curiosity and open dialogue for those seeking knowledge about our heritage.”