American Indian Heritage Month luncheon brings history, culture
November 20, 2008
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- On the surface, most attendees expected the typical feathers-clad American natives carrying animal skin-drums and eager to perform a rain dance to be the entertainment for the Native American Indian Heritage Month luncheons held Nov. 14 at The Commons at Fort McPherson and the Getaway club on Fort Gillem.
Not this time. "Edutainers" (educators/entertainers) from Rolling Thunder Enterprise came with a message of peace.
Chipa Wolfe, founder and director of Rolling Thunder, addressed the crowd at Fort McPherson, explaining that organizations look to his staff to teach them about the Indian culture. Wolfe said while they comply with the request, their best strategy is to make a lasting impression, and they do so through education tempered with entertainment.
Native Americans' participation in the United States military goes back to the early years of this country, with a few serving as scouts, messengers or guides, Wolfe explained. They have been participating in every conflict America has been in since World War I.
During the first World War, more than 12,000 Native Americans served seamlessly alongside the other cultures that make up the U.S. During World War II, that number increased to more than 44,000.
In both World Wars, code talkers were used to transmit secret messages. Their native languages, such as Cherokee, Choctaw and Navajo, were at the heart of the codes. During World War II, the Navajo code talkers, whose ranks exceed 400 in the Pacific Theater, have been credited with saving countless lives and hastening the end of the war.
Code talkers served in all six Marine divisions from 1942 to 1945, Wolfe conveyed with other facts through a smoke screen of humor. The code talkers didn't make a mistake in their transmissions and they created a code that the enemy could not break.
Ron Colombe, a member or Rolling Thunder, delivered the keynote speech during First Army's celebration at Fort Gillem. "As a people, we place a very high honor on our warriors, people who are willing to fight and die for our freedoms," said Colombe. "As Indians, we are all, men and women, conditioned to live by a code of a warrior society.
We conduct ourselves with honor. We learn to not show pain, endure cold and live with integrity. That's also what Soldiers do. We love this country."
Wolfe concluded his adress with the message to "give peace a chance."