SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, SC - U.S. Army Central celebrated National American Indian Heritage Month, at Patton Hall on Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, SC, Nov. 28, 2023.
During the ceremony, local members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina performed cultural demonstrations in full regalia and educated Soldiers and civilians in attendance about their history and traditions.
Michael Clauss, ARCENT’s command historian, spoke on the importance of the role that Native Americans played during the Second World War and their overall legacy in American military history. Clauss also highlighted the life and accomplishments of a Native American Medal of honor recipient during the Second World War, Tech. Sgt. Van Barfoot.
“Exhausted, Barfoot returned to his own lines and began evacuating the wounded and received a battlefield commission,” said Clauss. “A few months later, he learned he would receive the Medal of Honor. The actions of Technical Sergeant Van Barfoot are in keeping with the highest traditions of service and are characteristic of the pride and selfless service of Native Americans, and all Soldiers, who serve in our Army.”
During the Second World War, approximately 45,000 Native Americans served throughout the U.S. Army in every theater of the war.
“29 is the number of congressional medal honor winners with native American heritage, specifically Army recipients,” said John Oxendine, Lumbee tribe member. “Historically, American Indians have the highest record of military service per capita compared to other ethnic groups.”
During the ceremony, the Lumbee tribe danced the men's traditional warrior dance, known as the “Eastern Woodland Dance,” followed by the “Round Dance”. The Lumbee tribe invited Soldiers, civilians and tribal members in the audience to join, the circle while dancing to the beat of the drums.
The ceremony concluded with Lt. Gen. Frank giving signed appreciation certificates to the tribal members who participated in the event. The observance was followed by Native American cuisine and a display of historical artifacts.
“Today, more than 8,000 Native Americans serve in the Army,” said Col. David Vandevander, ARCENT G8 who's directorate organized the event. “This observance was an opportunity to honor the cultures and contributions of the tribal nations and show our gratitude to the more than 150,000 veterans of native descent. Native American identity and culture makes the Army stronger.”
ARCENT honors the cultures and contributions of Native Americans in an annual observance while recognizing the veterans of American Indian and Alaskan Native descent throughout the year.
United States Army Central is the U.S. Army Service Component Command for United States Central Command and is responsible to the Secretary of the Army for the support and administration of more than 12,000 Soldiers, including those assigned to joint task forces and embassies, across the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility.