Jean Belmont was born on July 4th, 1960, in Fort Dix, New Jersey, the military base where her father was stationed. The very next day, she was registered with the Suquamish tribe, following in the shoes of her first cousin (“Uncle”) Richard Belmont Jr, who was a three-time tribe chairman. Soon after, Jean and her family relocated to Muncie, Pennsylvania, where she was raised on her mother’s homestead alongside her grandparents and numerous cousins.
Growing up in a disciplined Catholic household, Jean’s life took a turn at age eleven, when her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease, prompting her retirement as a nurse. At the age of thirteen, Jean became aware of her sexual orientation as a lesbian, coming out to her mother, who lovingly supported her.
In 1980, Jean followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the army, despite the ban on gays in military service. She spent a year stationed in Germany before returning to Pennsylvania, where she served as a heavy equipment operator for an impressive 22 years. During her military tenure, Jean came out as a lesbian, and was mostly met with acceptance by her company. However, her time in the army also led to PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
In 2002, Jean retired from the military due to various physical ailments, including a hearing disability resulting from exposure to loud noises. Following her military career, she found employment with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) as a heavy equipment operator, facing sexual discrimination from her male colleagues. She was forced into early retirement due to an injury, severely injuring her knees after slipping out of a truck, which led to her undergoing surgery for two knee replacements.
After retirement, Jean was offered invaluable assistance in successful disability claims for her mental, physical, and hearing disabilities, through the Suquamish Warriors’ Tribal Veterans Representative (TVR) program. The Suquamish Warriors, a multicultural non-profit veterans group within the Suquamish tribe, greatly inspired Jean, and in 2010, Jean made her way back to the Suquamish reservation on Fort Madison, inspired to help the group of Native American veterans who attend military funerals and other public events.
The following year, Jean and her niece successfully advocated for same-sex marriage within the Suquamish tribe, becoming early advocates ahead of Washington state’s recognition of same-sex marriage. The decision was hard-fought, with the gay community turning up in support at open forums and tribal councils.
In 2019, Jean married her partner Marieta (Marty). Marty, along with their cat and three Husky hybrid dogs, has been a significant source of support for Jean. Now vice president of the Suquamish Warriors and a healer, Jean draws strength from her family, wife, fellow warriors, and tribal elders.