JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – “I think my tribe is unique, compared to the other tribes,” said Spc. Rosel Waseta, a signal support system specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Spc. Waseta comes from both the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Navajo Nation. She grew up on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, located in Arizona, and identifies more with the Apache side of her ancestry.

Being Native American and growing up on the reservation, she observed that many people there did not stray out of their comfort zone within the community. Most of her family members never left the area for work or a college education, and she was determined to be the change she wanted to see.

“I wanted to be a role model for my nieces and nephews and show them that there is more out there in the world, “ said Spc. Waseta. “I just wanted to be that positive role model for them”

Soldier speaks about how tribal traditions helped her build resiliency
Spc. Rosel Waseta, a signal system specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. on Nov. 3, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashunteia Smith, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Ashunteia Smith) VIEW ORIGINAL

Although she was determined to strike out on her own and start a new life, her love for her tribe's traditions didn’t wane. Her roots within the Apache tribe run deep, as some of the tribe's traditions were created by her great-great-grandfather, Renzie Gordon. She grew up near where he lived; the Upper Cedar Creek area of the reservation.

“He taught other men, who have passed it on, and now there are many ‘medicine men’ as we call them on our reservation who sing his songs and practice those same traditions he created,” said Waseta.

One prominent White Mountain Apache Tribe tradition is called the Sunrise Dance. It is a coming-of-age ceremony for a young girl who is being welcomed into womanhood. The ceremony lasts four days and consists of dancing, singing, and families gathering for the young woman going through the ceremony.

Soldier speaks about how tribal traditions helped her build resiliency
Spc. Rosel Waseta, a signal system specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, stands at her "Sunrise Dance" ceremony at Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Ariz. on Jul. 6, 2014. She is center in the yellow dress. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Growing up, what I remember most is being at ceremonies and doing different things with the ladies of the tribe,” said Waseta. “There was a time when the ladies went across a river, cut down trees, and pulled them back across the river. They used the wood to build the hut that we spent two weeks in.”

This incredible act and her own Sunrise Dance ceremony are just a few of the things from her tribe that have instilled a sense of resiliency in her. Being an active duty Soldier, Spc. Waseta often encounters and experiences different things that are also hard to do, physically and mentally. Having grown up on the reservation, participating in numerous ceremonies, and other challenging things has only helped her to be a better Soldier.

Soldier speaks about how tribal traditions helped her build resiliency
Spc. Rosel Waseta, a signal system specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, stands at her "Sunrise Dance" ceremony at Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Ariz. on Jul. 6, 2014. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I think going through the ceremony helped me be resilient,” said Spc. Waseta. “Those four days were hard. Physically and mentally.”

She recalls most of her days on the reservation as happy memories. Her days were spent at large family gatherings with her aunts, uncles, and relatives all cooking on a large fire. Waseta’s grandmother always made it a point to include her and her cousins.

“My favorite memory is a time when I was younger,” said Spc. Waseta. “My grandma was teaching me how to make the traditional loaves of bread and she made sure that I knew how to not only make them, but to make them the correct way.”

It is this baking, the Sunrise Ceremony, and other traditions that Spc. Waseta plans to continue, as well as passing it onto her daughter when she comes of age.

The month of November is Native American Heritage Month. Native Americans have served with honor, dedication and distinction, and have a long legacy of service in the Army. This observance provides us an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the service of current Native American Soldiers and over 150,000 veterans hailing from those communities.

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