Soldiers, staff and visitors with William Beaumont Army Medical Center observed National American Indian Heritage Month during an equal opportunity observance at WBAMC, Nov. 30.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush designated the month of November as Native American Indian Heritage Month, to share Native American culture, arts and traditions with the communities they live in to strengthen relationships.

The observance welcomed Ricardo Quezada, tribal member of the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo located in El Paso, Texas, also the director of cultural preservation. Quezada introduced himself to everyone in his native language, Tiwa, translated to, "Welcome everyone, how is everyone this morning?"

Quezada gave a brief history lesson on the origins of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, also known as Tigua Indians, from revolting against Spanish maltreatment in the 17th century to federal recognition of the tribe late in the 20th century.

"My people also served throughout the military even at Fort Bliss. They were scouts for the military," said Quezada. "(Tigua Indians) were expert trackers. They could track a person riding a horse and tell if the horse was tired, sick or carrying a load."

In addition to joint efforts between Tigua Indians and units at Fort Bliss during the 19th century, Native Americans also contributed to other conflicts including World War I, during which 8,000 Native Americans' patriotism and bravery on the battlefield moved Congress to pass the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, granting U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans. In addition, 27 Native Americans, including 20 Soldiers, have earned the Medal of Honor.

"There are a lot of Native Americans who've served in our military, they were here long before we were," said Col. Erik Rude, commander, WBAMC. "A lot has been taken away from them yet they've been resilient and serve in the military."

Rude mentioned Native American code talkers, Native American service members recruited specifically for unit communications during World War I and II whose contributions aided American operations.

"I want you to always remember the importance of history, don't dwell on the mistakes we've made in the past but learn from them so in the future we can make things better," said Rude.

Native Americans have served in every major U.S. military encounter since the Revolutionary War. Today, more than 9,000 Native Americans continue to serve in the U.S. Army.