Fort Meade celebrates Native American heritage at annual observance
November 23, 2011
FORT GEORGE G . MEADE, Md. -- A Native American legend tells the story of an Indian brave who while walking through the forest, finds a piece of wood struck by lightning and divided in half.
The two halves were hallowed out by a woodpecker that also pecked holes in the top of one piece of wood. The brave takes both pieces of wood to a medicine man and asks for advice. The sage tells him to reconnect the pieces of wood to make a musical instrument.
The result -- a Native American flute.
Stacie Thornton, also known as Heart of Mother Wolf and a member of the Cherokee nation, shared the folktale with more than 250 people at the installation's annual National Native American Heritage Month observance on Nov. 16.
The event, sponsored by the Equal Opportunity Office and hosted by Fort Meade's Warrior Transition Unit, was held at McGill Training Center.
In his welcome to the audience, Col. James P. Inman, commander of the Warrior Transition Brigade at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said that the nation's strength is born from its diversity.
"We have more in common than we have different," Inman said. "The difference[s] that we have when added together actually make us more strong, not less weak."
The presentation began with a reading of President Barack Obama's National Native American Heritage Month proclamation by Sgt. 1st Class Millasent Jacobs, operations sergeant at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, who served as hostess of ceremonies.
Sgt. Shannon Howe, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Laboratory Sciences Division at the Public Health Command Region-North, sang the National Anthem. Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Sid A. Taylor gave the invocation.
Thornton, secretary of the Eagle's Nest Educational Foundation based in Stafford, Va., said the nonprofit's mission is to "teach others about Native American history and culture." The foundation specializes in preserving authentic Native American artifacts and provides entertainment for government agencies and community groups.
Dolyn Smallwood, co-director of the foundation, began his presentation by dedicating a traditional, male Native American dance to service members in the audience.
"This is one small way of me saying, 'Thank you for what you do for us,' " said Smallwood, who wore traditional regalia made of elk and doe skin and buffalo bone and horn.
Smallwood also performed the "Sneak Up Dance" used by northern indigenous peoples to track prey while hunting. With the aid of a smoke machine and wearing a wolf hide over his head, Smallwood later performed the "Spirit of the Wolf Dance" that, he said, symbolizes the harmony between man and animals.
Many audience members volunteered to participate in the "Friendship" and "Round" dances also led by Smallwood, who asked volunteers to form a circle and hold hands while they stomped their feet before following him.
Retired Air Force Maj. Elaine Morris-Moxness, a member of the Two Bears nation and a staff member of the foundation, explained the significance of the Native American flute and then played several different types.
Patricia Mills of the Si Wo Ke nation and owner of The Eagles Nest, a Native American trading post in Stafford, Va., displayed a wide range of artifacts. The display included wooden models of traditional Native American homes, a corn grinder, animal hides -- buffalo, beaver, deer and cow -- and a pouch made of deer leather and a fox head.
Also on display was an authentic 18-foot-tall teepee made of brown canvas and lodge pine poles.
The event ended with a sampling of Native American foods including bison stew, wild rice and black bean soup, fry bread and pumpkin pudding, catered by Barrett's of Alexandria, Va.
Waiting in line for lunch was Sheila Chambers, environmental engineer and program manager for the Environmental Division, who joined in the dances.
"I loved it," she said. "It was something new and fun."
Chambers said she attends the event every year. "There's always something that I can learn," she said.
Sgt. 1st Class Antoine Ferral, of the 741st Military Intelligence Battalion, said the observance opened his eyes to the contributions Native Americans have made -- and continue to make -- to the country.
"They really have tried to hold on to their heritage and have stayed strong throughout history," he said. "That amazed me."