Fort Rucker kicks off Native American Heritage Month
Participants perform ceremonial dances as the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Fort Rucker Equal Opportunity Office kicked off Native American Heritage Month Nov. 4.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 10, 2011) -- Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Fort Rucker Equal Opportunity Office kicked off Native American Heritage Month Nov. 4 at the post exchange to help celebrate Native American history and culture.

Members of the Choctaw, Cherokee, MaChis, Lakota and other various local tribes were among those who came out to celebrate the festivities and showcase the Native American cultures and traditions passed on by their ancestors, said Susie Antonello, visual merchandise manager for AAFES.

"We wanted to create awareness and bring the community together. Native Americans are usually looked over and we just want to create awareness for those that have actually had a part in creating their history and background in this country," said Antonello.

The celebration kicked off with the various Native American tribes helping post the colors to honor the veterans and the military. The celebration was also an opportunity to educate people about the history of Native Americans and the role that they played in the development and the shaping of this country, said Antonello.

Those who attended the celebration were able to witness authentic Native American dress, try different types of Native American cuisine and observe the various dances performed by the different tribes.

The festivities also featured booths set up that showcased various forms of authentic Native American art and vendors that had items ranging from dream catchers to prayer fans for those attending the celebration to purchase.

"This is really amazing to see all of the dances and outfits that they put together to do all of this," said Samantha Marsh as she watched the Native American participants perform.

Among some of the dances performed was the grass dance, which requires specific regalia and was used when the Native Americans wished to move into a new area according to Donald Miller, who is of Cherokee descent and a participant in the dances.

"Of course, back then they didn't have lawnmowers, so they would do this dance to pack and stomp all the grass down," said Miller. "Many people think that the PowWows are just spiritual celebrations, which they are, but they also serve a purpose, and honor the great creator and fellow friendly tribes that live nearby."

Miller feels that the heritage month is important to dispel some of the common misconceptions and myths that people might have about Native American people.

Along with booths set up showcasing art and merchandise for sale, there were those that were set up to educate people on the history of the Native American people and their role in the nation's history.

"Many people don't know that many Native Americans were involved in many war efforts during the two World Wars and even the Civil War," said Richard Greybull, who is a member of the Dakota tribe and a local science teacher.

He said that this is part of the reason that he feels it is important to bring about awareness and educate people on the Native American involvement in shaping the country.

The celebration was also a great opportunity for people to sample the different cuisines that Native Americans have to offer, said Antonello.

Among some of the foods that people could enjoy were two types of fried bread, one made with flour and one made with corn meal, hominy with chicken, community soup and a strawberry drink made with a secret ingredient, which would not be divulged.

"The community soup tastes a lot like chili and it is absolutely delicious. It is my favorite on this table," said Jeff Davis, who had come out to enjoy the festivities.

The celebration was an excellent opportunity for Families to come out and educate themselves on Native American culture and enjoy the fun and food that their culture had to offer and see what the Native Americans have offered this country, said Antonello.

"Native Americans have served this country with great honor and never request anything in return. They have a lot of pride in their country and their culture," said Antonello.

Page last updated Thu November 10th, 2011 at 00:00