FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 24, 2008) - U.S. Army South celebrated National Native American Indian Heritage Month during a ceremony in front of their headquarters building here Nov 14. Army South Command Sgt. Maj. Armando Ramirez opened the ceremony by introducing the guest speaker, retired Army Col. Eugene "Nashoba" Thompson.
"Chokma!" Thompson cheerfully greeted the crowd. "This is our way in the Chickasaw nation of saying welcome."
Nashoba came to Army South to talk to the Soldiers about the Native American Warrior Spirit and to explain what it means to be Native American.
"Quite often they are referred to as the Hollywood version, which is the Roman-nosed, dark-skinned wearing a war bonnet," said Nashoba. "Native Americans are very diverse in what they look like today. When you stop and think about the word 'Native American,' what does it really mean' It means everybody that is indigenous to areas all the way from the tip of Alaska to South America."
According to Thompson, within the continental United States today there are 565 recognized tribes. Just as Soldiers live by the Army Values, Thompson said Native Americans hold the characteristics of the Warrior Spirit - physical, mental and spiritual strength.
"These characteristics are what form the Warrior Spirit," he said. "Native Americans were not offensive in nature; they were defensive most of the time. They were trying to protect all that was valuable to the community and it's the same thing today as Warriors, like yourself [speaking to crowd of mainly Soldiers], who go off to areas like Afghanistan and Iraq - you are there to defend our way of life."
As a Native American and a former Soldier, Thompson explained the pride he felt while standing with the Soldiers in front of the Army South headquarters.
"I could not be prouder than I am today as an ex-military person," said Thompson. To the troops and all the sacrifices you've made "I salute each of you standing here today."
Thompson currently presides as the Chairman of the Chickasaw Community Council of Central Texas, an organization dedicated to preserving the Chickasaw culture and history as well as other Native American boards and organizations.
The U.S. Army South and 470th Military Intelligence Brigade Equal Opportunity offices were responsible for putting together this remarkable celebration.
Featured guests included the Great Promise for American Indians, a Kiowa Tribe out of Austin, Texas who performed Native American dances in their traditional regalia and the Eagle Point Drum, who provided live Native American music.