PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- The 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, Delta Company hosted an observance in recognition of National Native American Heritage Month at Khalil Hall, Nov. 14. The observance highlighted the history and language of the local Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation who have called the Monterey Bay area home for thousands of years.
Garrison Commander Col. Gregory Ford introduced guest speaker Louise Miranda Ramirez, Chairwoman of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation, saying, "She is a linguist who has single-handedly rebuilt the language of her people. She has shared that knowledge with educators, her fellow tribal members and others equally, to ensure the rich history of the language and her people are never lost."
Ramirez addressed a room overflowing with hundreds of Defense Language Institute students and Presidio of Monterey professionals. She conveyed the Esselen creation story which depicts the birth of their tribe atop Pico Blanco, a peak in the mountainous terrain of Big Sur, which is known in their native language as 'Watiyi'.
"We come from the rock," said Ramirez, referencing a phrase used by the tribe to depict their emergence from the mountains and their legacy as inhabitants of the region.
Before Spanish explorers first arrived in Monterey Bay in 1602, or began colonizing in 1769, the tribe lived on the land where the Presidio of Monterey currently resides. On display during the observance were several native artifacts discovered on the lower Presidio. The items included tools and jewelry made from intricately altered shells as well as crafted arrowheads and a mortar and pestle carved from stone. In addition to these artifacts, the ground beneath the Presidio houses the bodies of countless Esselen who lived and died here.
"[The Presidio of Monterey] has a lot of dealings with Native Americans because they have a rich history here," said Staff Sgt. Angela Jackson, Equal Opportunity Leader for the 229th.
SSgt. Jackson, who organized the observance, also wanted to make clear that it is important for soldiers to be aware of and respect cultural differences because the Army is a diverse organization made up of people from all walks of life.
Ramirez echoed these sentiments, saying, "We get people writing books all the time about our people, and they believe these words are so real. They don't take the time to know us… go introduce yourself, because we want to know you."
DLI Commandant Col. Gary M. Hausman then delivered a brief closing statement thanking tribal members for attending, before formally introducing himself to them.
Ramirez ended the event by making a request to the assembled Presidio students and staff, "Walk lightly as you walk on the bones of my ancestors."
In celebrating National Native American Indian Heritage Month, Army leadership encourages the entire Army family to recognize and express appreciation for the past and present contributions of Native American Soldiers, veterans, civilians and family members.