By J.D. LeipoldNovember 29, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 29, 2012) -- Army leaders and Native Americans gathered at the Pentagon, Nov. 28, to commemorate the importance of a recently signed Army policy directive that recognizes the sovereignty of American Indian tribes.
Katherine Hammack, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, opened the event by telling the audience that the policy memorandum was a milestone for the Army and was the first such policy to institutionalize principles on how the service promised to interact with native sovereignty.
"The entire policy respects and takes into consideration the significance that is ascribed to protect tribal resources on Army-managed land," she said. "And, it also recognizes the importance of understanding and addressing the concerns of the tribes prior to reaching decisions on matters that may affect tribal life and tribal land or protected tribal resources."
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh signed the policy directive, Oct. 24.
Hammack next introduced Leslie LoBaugh who she called one of the most influential and important Native American lawyers in the country. She praised him for his work in creating the endangered species federal protection act that started with saving the bald eagle from extinction
LoBaugh, a member of the Navaho Nation, first thanked the Army for working so hard to make the protocol a reality. He also said he wanted to express how Native Americans view sovereignty and how Native Americans had contributed to not just the nation but the world.
"First, it's important to understand that tribes do not view sovereignty as a gift from the United States," he said. "They view it rather as something that is inherent to their very nature, something they've enjoyed for centuries before Europeans arrived on the shores of America.
"When the United States assumed the role of protector of the tribes, it neither denied nor destroyed that sovereignty and that's what we're recognizing here today as a protocol," he continued.
LoBaugh said one of the biggest contributions that Native Americans had made to the world was in terms of food, having developed hundreds of different varieties of corn and more than 5,000 varieties of potatoes. He noted that more than half the food crops grown throughout the world were in fact foods that were developed by American Indians in the United States.
"A further contribution Native Americans made is in the area of environmental stewardship and sustainability," LoBaugh said. "Shortly after the formation of our country, native leaders expressed their concern over the concept and cultural view of exploitation of natural resources with regard to sustainability. These examples illustrate that the tapestry of Americans today are certainly made of many different threads."
Emmy Award winning Iroquois vocalist Joanne Shenandoah opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem and later sang two original songs for the audience. She has performed at The White House, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and for three Presidential Inaugurations. Most recently she sang at the Vatican for the Pope.