Native American Soldiers celebrate, share culture
November 21, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION ADDER, Iraq - Service members at Contingency Operating Location Adder, Iraq, attended a National Native American Heritage Month observance Nov. 14 at Memorial Hall to honor the tradition and culture of Native Americans.
Task Force Volunteer, with the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which includes the 1115th and 720th Transportation Companies from New Mexico, two units with strong Native American contingencies, hosted the event. The observance included traditional Native American speaking, dancing, singing and drumming.
Sgt. Ervin Garcia, with the 1115th Transportation Company and a member of the Dine tribe in the southwest United States, also known as the Navajo nation, spoke his traditional Navajo language and translated it to English as the narrator of the event.
Garcia said Native Americans have served in and alongside the United States military since the Revolutionary War and represent the highest per capita enlistment of any ethnic group in the United States.
Sgt. Mary Ann Bullhead-Chavez, a military police officer with the 720th Convoy Support Battalion, out of Albuquerque, N.M., read the month's proclamation from President Barack Obama and performed a women's northern traditional dance, which originated from the Native American Plains tribes.
Bullhead-Chavez, a Red Lake, Ariz., native, said she believed dancing for her Soldiers would help them understand her culture and learn more about her as a person.
"I have been dancing ever since I was a little girl, but it was different dancing here in Iraq," she said. "I think they saw a part of me that they have never seen before, as far as my culture and what I do away from the (Army combat uniform)."
Bullhead-Chavez said the dance is one of the oldest, used to show grace and elegance to symbolize the earth and the beauty of the Native American woman.
Spc. William P. Estevan, a truck driver with the 1115th Transportation Company out of Toas, N.M., shared a part of his culture by singing a traditional song, the Flag Song, and a song he helped write which was dedicated to the Soldiers of Operation Iraqi Freedom, called the "OIF Intertribal Song."
"This was my second time singing this song over here in Iraq," said Estevan, an Acoma Pueblo, N.M., native. "The song was pretty much put together from all the things that Soldiers go through - from support from their family, to doing their job out here, to being a part of a tradition that they can be proud of."
Estevan said he shares his culture with his fellow Soldiers because it helps them become more aware and understanding of Native Americans' backgrounds. He said Native Americans are brought up in a hard-working culture, which makes them good Soldiers.
Garcia said the proud history of Native Americans in the U.S. military includes the famous Navajo code-talkers of World War II.
"The Navajo code-talkers, as they would become known in military history, created the most ingenious and successful code," he said. "Their unbreakable code was pivotal to hastening the end of WWII and saving countless American lives."