Fort Sill honors American Indians
November 26, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Hundreds of people packed Patriot Club Nov. 18 for Fort Sill's Native American Indian Heritage Month celebration. The observance included dancing, music, food and a presentation by a spiritual leader. This year's theme is "Life is Sacred - Celebrate Healthy Native Communities."
The annual commemoration was co-sponsored by the 428th Field Artillery Brigade and Fort Sill Equal Employment Opportunity Office and hosted by Maj. Gen. David Halverson, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.
After an acappella performance of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Jeanette Davis, FCoE protocol office, Chaplain (Maj.) Andy Choi gave the invocation.
"As we gather here today to celebrate ... we offer our thanks to you (heavenly father) that you have given us the spirit of harmony, the respect and the love of diversity, and the spirit of celebrating differences," said Choi, 428th FA Brigade chaplain.
Col. John Drago, 428th FA Brigade commander, said it was a day to recognize the original peoples of this land and to celebrate their cultures, contributions and heritage.
"Tribal America has brought ... the understanding that people from very different backgrounds, cultures, religions and traditions can come together to build a great country," he said "And, that diversity can be a source of strength."
The first American Indian Day to be celebrated in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York, according to Indian Health Service.com. In 1990, President George Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month to honor their achievements. Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994.
American Indian speaker Staff Sgt. Jerry Ice Jr., 428th FA, explained some of the history and culture of American Indians as well as some of their terminology.
"(Indian) Nations are where we live in the public, among everybody," said Ice, a 22-year Soldier. "Reservations are sections of land where Native Americans live."
Using an Army analogy, Ice said living on a reservation is equivalent to living on an Army post, and living in an American Indian nation is like living on the economy.
Numerous dancers from tribes and nations across Oklahoma, wore ceremonial costumes and invited attendees to dance with them in a processional as elders and Soldiers played a drum.
Keynote speaker Crosslin Smith, a member of the Keetoowah tribe, Korean War veteran and 30-year civil service retiree, gave a spiritual presentation.
Smith said each of us has a unique personality "that is cut and polished by God, nature and man." It is only seen through eye slits, but arises from the depth of the soul and shines brilliantly.
"That brilliant sparkle is your spirit," said Smith, 80, who lives in Sallisaw, Okla. Everyone was given a spirit by God at birth, he said.
Smith said that he was given a gift of keen perception.
"Perhaps it was because I was born a twin, I was born with a veil over my face, I was a seventh child," he said.
Smith explained that people need spiritual role models "that will give you pride and appreciation for yourself."
Smith emphasized some people need to silence their egos, attitudes and hang-ups about themselves.
"Once you have a complete silence of your existence, merge your material body with the spirit that lives in your body," he said.
There are three Gods that man must honor, Smith said.
"The male God, the female God and the child God," he said.
Smith also talked about the creation of man by God, who created people out of mud and used different colored powders to make the different races.
The mud was created from dirt moistened by God's tears and saliva, Smith said. Brown, light-colored, yellow, and black male and female dolls were created by his hands.
"Then he blew his breath on these clay models and they became people," Smith said. "If you can become one with your own spirit, my people say that your breath is the breath of God."
In closing, Smith gave a blessing.
At the end of the program, Halverson presented a plaque to Smith, and Drago presented framed certificates of appreciation to the entertainers.