Native American Heritage event educates, entertains
November 1, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 1, 2012) -- The diversity of the Army will take center stage Nov. 2-3 when Fort Rucker celebrates Native American Heritage Month at the Main Exchange.
The celebration is a partnership between the main exchange and the Fort Rucker Equal Opportunity Office, according to Susie Antonello, Fort Rucker's Army and Air Force Exchange Service's visual merchandiser manager.
"We are proud to present a Native American exhibit to our shoppers. Tribal dances, music, historical displays, vendors and much more will be right here for our customers to come out and experience," she said.
The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days, though on Friday authentic Native American food will be served at the exchange.
"On Friday we will have food samplings from various Native American tribes. Several local tribe members have volunteered to cook the samplings," said Antonello.
Both days will have drum group and tribal dance performances, exhibits, displays and vendors, but Saturday will have special events catered to children.
"The event will be filled with music and dancing showcasing Native American culture. Saturday there will be several craft stations and activities just for children. The drum group and dancers will also do the 'Candy Dance', which is a Native American social dance just for them. It is a fun learning environment for the young ones," she said.
Though the event is geared towards spreading cultural awareness and acceptance, it will also honor the contributions of Native Americans to the U.S. military and the country as a whole, said Sgt. 1st Class Mackie J. Slate, tenant units equal opportunity adviser.
"We want to provide a different way for people to learn about the different cultures in our Army, but we can't forget what the Native Americans have done for us. The Native Americans throughout history fought for our country," he said. "They taught the first settlers how to survive and war tactics, they were involved in the war of 1812, the Civil War and every war since. They have continued to serve this country with courage and honor, and even fought in both World Wars, though they were not granted citizenship until 1924."
Being an Aviation training base, most people in the community realize that Army helicopters are named after Native American tribes, a topic Slate said should be close to every pilot's heart.
"The U.S. Army Aviation began in Fort Sill, Okla. prior to moving to Fort Rucker, and Fort Sill is located near many Native American reservations. So, in honor of the location, [officials] decided to name helicopters after the various Indian tribes," he said, adding that Fort Huachuca, Ariz., is also named after a tribe.
In World War II Native Americans again demonstrated their military strength with the Navajo Code Talkers.
"One of the greatest contributions of the Native American culture is their use of the Navajo language to use as code. It was so unbreakable that even a Navajo on a different team could not crake the code because each team used different words to represent different English words because it has no alphabet or symbols," said Slate, adding that Choctaw was used less extensively in WWI.
"So, by celebrating diversity and being aware of the diversity that makes up the military, people will have a better understanding of everyone and give them the information to help them recognize the importance of each other's contributions," he said.
Slate said it is important to not get caught up in just watching the dances, but to take in the educational information that will be provided, and Antonello agreed.
"It is important to celebrate the heritage, history, art and traditions of those who shaped the history of our country," she said.
Tribes from the local community, including Choctaw, Cherokee and Lakota will be spreading cultural awareness by participating in the event.
"We are collaborating with local tribe members of the MaChis Lower Creek, Dakota, Cherokee and members of other local tribes in providing an authentic learning experience. This is a spiritually uplifting event; the culture is very intriguing and moving. The impressive drummers and dancers last year moved everyone emotionally and spiritually and we plan to capture the same learning experience with this year's event," said Antonello.
"If you have a bunch of crayons that are all the same color you can still draw a picture, but if you have several colors you can create a masterpiece," said Slate, explaining that diversity is a major factor in the military's problem solving success.