AUSTIN, Texas — There were beads. There were feathers. There was dancing.
On Nov. 30, Army Futures Command (AFC) celebrated the culmination of National American Indian Heritage Month with a program that featured personal stories from command members of Native American descent, a performance of traditional Native American dances and a fry bread tasting.
National American Indian Heritage Month, which takes place annually in November, is a federally recognized observance that seeks to pay tribute to the rich history and traditions of Native Americans. The theme for this year’s observance was “Tribal Nations Soaring to New Heights,” a nod to the contributions of Native Americans who work in public service – including the more than 8,000 Soldiers of American Indian or Alaska Native descent who serve in today’s Army.
The AFC educational program took place at AFC headquarters in downtown Austin, with staff from across the command attending virtually and in person.
Michelle Clark, a Department of the Army Civilian with AFC headquarters, shared with the audience how multiple members of her extended family, who belong to the Osage and Chickasaw nations, have served in the U.S. military and positions of Native American leadership for decades.
“My father, who served in the Marine Corps for 23 years, and I follow in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, who served in the Navy in World War II, and my great uncle, who served a career in the U.S. Army in the Special Forces.”
“I have learned that serving is at the root of the Osage way,” she said.
Isaiah Delgado, an audiovisual specialist with AFC headquarters, highlighted how his grandparents were indigenous Mexicans, specifically members of the Maya and Chichimeca peoples, and how he experienced sporadic glimpses of their traditions growing up.
“As I’ve grown older, and I’ve gone to appreciate this culture and this part of my family that I was brought into, I’ve learned to accept it and grow with it and bring it into part of myself” he said.
“I decided that it’s something that I’m going to bring forward and pass on to my son and my family.”
Following the presentations, Nan Blassingame, a Cheyenne and Arapaho fashion designer and programs director for the Austin-based nonprofit Great Promise for American Indians, introduced several dancers who performed traditional dances from various tribes, including the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota.
The performance, which included drumming, provided insight into the sights and sounds of a modern-day powwow. Attendees were encouraged to join in with clapping, cheers and their own dancing skills.
“Those are all things you would see if you come to a powwow,” Blassingame said.
AFC Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Edmond “Miles” Brown, who served as host of the event, spoke about his wife’s Cherokee heritage and the legacy of Native American service in the United States military.
“It’s important for us to remember our heritage and where we came from,” he emphasized.
“I’m thrilled that we are able to celebrate this today.”