By Intern Seo, Bo-myungJanuary 9, 2017
The Native American Indian Heritage Month Observance was held on November 28 at the Camp Carroll Community Activity Center. Celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month were more than 100 Soldiers, Families, and Civilians, who attended the Observance to share Native American traditions, music, dance and concepts of life.
Col. (retired) Willian M. Alexander served as the guest speaker for the Observance. He served as the Director of the Second Infantry Division Museum and Division Historian.
"In the United States Army, we recognize and celebrate the diversity of America's Army," said Alexander. "The strength of our country, our Army, and Forces in Korea is in our diversity. We celebrate that diversity throughout the year with various ethnic celebrations and observances."
Today, more than 50 Native Americans and Alaskan Natives continue an outstanding legacy of military service in Eighth Army. This Observance commemorates their great achievements and supreme sacrifices for Army and Nation.
Sgt. Lana Wheeler joined the Army in July 2007 as a Transportation Management Coordinator. She is Native American from the Navajo Tribe who is part of the Tangle People Clan, born for the Bitter Water Clan.
"My maternal grandfather's clan is One-Walks-Around and the Towering House People are my paternal grandfather's clan," said Wheeler. "The Navajo nation is where I was born and raised until I joined the Army. The Navajo nation is the largest reservation in the United States, situated on over 27,000 square miles of land within the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, I have older sister, Staff Sgt. Latanya, Dineyazhe, who is a great motivation to me and is one of the reasons why I joined the military. My grandfather, Cpl. Williams, served 4 years in United Stated Army and he was also a good influence for me to be Solider."
She showed the traditional house called Navajo Hogan and Teepee, which are used for ceremonial environments. Wheeler also explained about traditional medicine men called Navajo Hatalii, who perform healing ceremonies. A healer acts as a facilitator that transfers power from the Holy people to the patient to restore balance and harmony.
Wheeler also spoke about the Navajo Code Talkers which began on May 4, 1942 when 29 recruits were placed aboard a bus and transported to San Diego, California for Marine Corps training. The program was originally established to create a code language that had no written alphabet or documentation. During the invasion of Iwo Jima, six Navajo Code Talkers were operating continuously, they sent more than 800 messages. All of the messages were transmitted without errors and were never cracked by enemy intelligence.
Master Sgt. Danielle L. Archer hails from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She enlisted in the United States Army in August 1997 as Military Police. She is a Meherrin Indian originating from North Carolina and is part of the Iroquois Nation. She is currently serving as the Senior Career Counselor with 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Daegu, Korea.
"Today, I want to share the story of my dear sister, Lori Piestewa," said Archer. "Lori Piestewa was a U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps solider killed during the Iraqi Army attack. She was the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving with the U.S. military and the first woman in the U.S. armed forces killed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I dedicate this dance to her."
After speaking, she and the other speaker, Lana Wheeler did traditional Native American dance for Lori Piestewa and all Native Americans.
The idea for American Indian Heritage Month started in the early 1900s. Some American Indian leaders worked to have a special day set aside each year to honor their peoples. To this effort, the first American Indian Day was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for instance, legislators enacted such a day in 1919.
On August 3, 1990 President of the United States George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month.
"What we can do every day is celebrate that diversity with those we work with and with our friends, Korean sisters and brothers," said Alexander. "Never forget it, diversity because that is our strength."
The purpose of American Indian Heritage Month is to recognize and commemorate the important role of American Indians played in U.S. history and to remember their sacrifices. In addition, it would be opportunity to learn their culture and diversity and overcome their challenges which they still face by understanding them.