Story by Sgt 1st Class Jesse Hennage

DOHA, Qatar - Throughout November, the Department of Defense recognizes National Native American Heritage Month. This year our theme is "Serving our people, serving our nations: Native visions for the future." Although the theme might change every year the practice of honoring the contributions of the first Americans has been happening for over a century. In the early 1900s the Boy Scouts of America recognized one day a year to recognize the American Indians. In 1915, with the help of Reverend Sherman Coolidge, president of the American Indian Association, the second Saturday of May was known as American Indian Day. The following year the state of New York became the first state to observe American Indian Day. A few years later several other states followed by observing their own American Indian Day, with several states sharing it with Columbus Day. It wasn't until November 1990 when then President George H.W. Bush officially signed a resolution signifying November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Over the years there have been numerous variations to the title of the observance such as "National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month" but our appreciation remains the same.


In his 2012 Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama stated, "This month, we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our nation, and we renew our commitment to respecting each tribe's identity while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream."

Throughout American history, American Indians have volunteered for military service more per capita than any other ethnic group. While American Indians and Alaska Natives represent a small portion of our Armed Forces, their contributions throughout history have played a vital role in our military history. The unquestionable patriotism shown by the soldiers, airman, Marines, and sailors has been displayed in every American conflict since the Civil War. Whether it was the brave warrior tradition of those who sacrificed their lives in battle or the contributions of more than 40,000 American Indians who left their reservations to work in factories and ordinance depots, we honor those who continuously contribute to making our country what it is today. We also recognize the important contributions from historical figures like Sacajawea who helped discover the Western portion of the United States and the rich culture they have provided which has shaped our society.

Every day we go through life at brisk pace and never take time to learn about the different cultures and ethnic groups which have developed our country and continue to make significant contributions. I challenge you to take a few minutes of your time to educate yourself about the people to the left and right of you who might not look like you, eat something you aren't familiar with, or celebrate something just a little bit different than you. You might be surprised how little you know about them and yet how much you have in common.

Page last updated Tue December 18th, 2012 at 00:00