By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 7, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 7, 2013) -- When people think of Native Americans, many images come to mind, like teepees, feather headdresses and war drums, but this year's celebration of Native American History Month aimed to give people a deeper insight into a culture rich with heritage.
The Fort Rucker Equal Opportunity Office and the Army Air Force Exchange Service teamed up to kick off Native American History Month at the post exchange Nov. 1 to educate people on Native American culture, celebrate the diversity of the nation and bring people closer together as Soldiers and civilians, according to Master Sgt. Thomas Reid, chief equal opportunity adviser.
"As with all of our heritage observations, it is important to celebrate the diversity of our nation and our Army," said Reid. "By observing the different ethnic groups that make up our society, we learn, not just how different we are, but how alike we are.
"It's very important for all of us to be exposed to the history," he continued. "Native Americans have contributed in every conflict in America's history and (they) have the highest record of service per capita when compared to the other ethnic groups."
The celebration featured food, singing, dancing and displays to help educate people on the culture and heritage of Native Americans, and also featured members of various local tribes, including Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and the Dakota.
Richard Greybull, who is a sixth grade teacher at Fort Rucker Elementary School, as well as a member of the Dakota Tribe, was among those of Native American decent to educate those in attendance.
"We do this every year to try and share a little bit of our culture, our traditions and our heritage," he said. "We want to inform and educate (people) that not all (Native Americans) are the same.
"When people usually think of Native Americans, they think of teepees and the warpath, but not everyone lived in teepees and not everyone hunted the same animals," Greybull continued. "We have different traditions and customs, our religions vary somewhat, and even our languages are different."
Greybull and members of various tribes kicked off the celebration by honoring the flag with a dance, followed by other traditional dances like the grass dance and the veterans dance.
"Whenever (veterans) would come home, we have honoring songs for our veterans and we have a dance that we'd perform to show that we appreciate them," said Greybull. "Without our veterans, we wouldn't be able to share our culture or have the freedom of speech to show that we are contributing members of society who are proud to be Americans."
Ron Braden, retired military, came out to enjoy the festivities, and said it's important for people to understand where this country comes from and the diversity that makes it up.
"I think it's great that people can come out and see what Native Americans have contributed to this country," he said. "It's important to understand that people that have defended this country throughout the years come from all walks of life.
"When Soldiers are on the battlefield, it doesn't matter where they came from because they are brothers in arms," said Braden. "That's the most important part."
Although the celebration was a great opportunity for people to take in the rich heritage that Native Americans offer, it was also a great opportunity for people to literally get a taste of the heritage through authentic Native American cuisine.
The event featured different types of foods ranging from friend breads to a community soup that resembles what most would consider as chili.
"I just think this whole celebration is wonderful," said Cecilia Schumacher, civilian. "You can't go wrong with free food and dancing, and I think it's a great way for people to learn about a culture that they aren't familiar with."
No matter what people came out for or what backgrounds they came from, the message that Reid said he hoped was conveyed was one of unity.
"The U.S. is made up of a multitude of ethnic backgrounds," he said. "Celebrating diversity through the education provided by these observances helps to create a team of individuals who will work as one. It makes us stronger."