Observance shares Native American heritage
November 17, 2011
A Native American Heritage Month 2011 observance educated servicemembers, civilians and children with living history demonstrations and displays Nov. 9, at Wood Theatre.
The 90 minute event was sponsored by Fort Belvoir's Equal Opportunity Office, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command and Operational Support Airlift Agency.
The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from Sgt. 1st Class Felicia Alston, Belvoir Senior Equal Opportunity Advisor, followed by the singing of the National Anthem from Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia, The Old Guard, Fort Myer, Va. Fort Belvoir Historian Gus Person spoke about the history of American Indians on Fort Belvoir. The ceremony concluded with a Native American dance display by Eagles Nest Educational Foundation Director, Dolyn Smallwood.
The Eagles Nest Educational Foundation is a non-profit educational foundation located in Stafford, Va., that presents Native American living history through demonstrations, displays, and other media events to educate children and others in the public arena such as military, government and health care professionals.
Events like the observance are important because they remind people and teach people about Native American culture, according to Stacie Thornton, Secretary for the Eagles Nest Education Foundation.
"Very often our dress is referred to as a costume, but our ancestors wore these as clothing," said Thornton. "It's important to teach people where we are coming from that we're not weird, we're not different. This is what we believe in and we like to live this way because it keeps us pure and peaceful inside."
Pearson discussed how Dogue Creek Village is named after the Doeg Indian tribe of Northern Virginia.
The tribe was part of the coastal Algonquian language family. They were based in King George County, but split into three sections with groups going to Caroline County and Prince William County, and one remaining in King George about 50 years before the Jamestown settlement.
Thornton mentioned in her remarks that words like tomato, potato, hickory, pecans, mahogany, squash, avocado and papaya were adopted by English settlers from Indian words for plants and trees because the settlers had never seen them before and didn't know what to call them.
Among the dances that Smallwood performed were the friendship dance, snake dance and spirit of the wolf dance.
Smallwood asked members of the audience to participate in the friendship dance as everyone held hands while standing in a circle. They moved left to right and left to right again before slowly coiling together like a snake.
For the spirit of the wolf dance, smoke was released on the stage while Smallwood crawled out from behind a tepee wearing a wolf skin. He said the dance is his interpretation of how society should be able to live as one.
He referenced the Cherokee Indians as an example of how we can all live as one.
"They had one specific building set aside in the village," Smallwood said of the Cherokee. "If you had something extra; skin, food, tools, whatever, you would take it and you would put it in this building. If someone was having a hard time and they needed that, they would go to the building and get some supplies. Eventually, they might have some extra stuff and put it in the building. It's taking care of each other. What's so hard about that?"
Smallwood said he feels it's important to get the word out about Native American culture so today's generation of young children doesn't forget that Native American's still exist.
"You won't believe how many schools I've been to and children look at me and go, 'You're a real Indian?' " Smallwood said. "I say yes and they go, 'I thought they were all dead.' Seventh- and eighth-grade children even don't know that we exist."
He also said having observations at military bases is very important to him since it is a way to say thank you to past, present and future servicemembers.
"These guys do so much for so little and they really don't get thanked a lot," said Smallwood. "I had cousins in Vietnam, my dad was in Korea. I had an uncle that was in Korea and WWII. It's a thankless job for these guys and anything I can do to give back to them I'm there. I don't care if they pay me or not."