Native American Indians share warrior culture with Engineers

| November 23, 2011 | 0 Comments
A performer demonstrates the ring dance during the 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC’s Native American Equal Opportunity event, Nov. 16. The dance is highly technical, consisting of making complicated animal shapes with rings, all while maintaining rhythm with a bass drum.

A performer demonstrates the ring dance during the 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC’s Native American Equal Opportunity event, Nov. 16. The dance is highly technical, consisting of making complicated animal shapes with rings, all while maintaining rhythm with a bass drum.

Story and Photo by
1st Lt. Scott Rupnow
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 130th Engineer Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS – The 130th Engineer Brigade and other spectators were honored to host Jefferson Keel, as well as local Native American Indians who displayed traditional music, dances and garb, here, Nov. 16.

Keel is lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and president of the National Congress of American Indians. Keel, a Vietnam veteran, spoke to Soldiers of the 130th Eng. Bde., 8th Theater Sustainment Command, on the warrior traditions of Native Americans and the strength that diversity can bring to the nation’s armed forces.

The presentation started off with traditional Native American music consisting of a flute solo and a powwow drum performance. Native American dances were also performed.

After the dancing, Keel took the stage and shared his experiences with the crowd of engineer Soldiers.

“I always felt a sense of service to the U.S. and to my people,” Keel said. “I have always felt a sense of my warrior heritage.”

This sense of service led him to enlist at the age of 16 in the Oklahoma National Guard, but only after promising his mother that he would graduate high school first. He fulfilled his promise and joined the Army during the Vietnam conflict. Keel retired from the Army after 20 years of service and continued his life of service by being elected to his current position.

“It is a little known fact, but Native Americans actual serve in the military at a higher rate per capita than any other ethnic group in America,” Keel said.

With the diverse nature of the current conflicts in the world, Keel said forming a diverse fighting force that draws from a wide breadth of life experiences is the best course of action. According to Keel, each groups’ traditions and unique cultural experiences provide a different platform to problem solve and to combat current hostilities that our Soldiers face on the modern battlefield.

Col. Jeffrey Milhorn, commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Ward, senior enlisted leader, concluded the ceremony by presenting Keel with a gift.

Also, the musicians and dancers who had just performed presented Keel with an eagle feather. The giving of an eagle feather is of great significance in the Native American culture. They’re the only ethnic group that has been given legal permission to possess eagle feathers.

National American Indian Heritage Month

National American Indian Heritage Month began Nov. 1 to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of this country’s original inhabitants, explorers and settlers. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month.

The bill read in part that the president has authorized and requested to call upon federal, state and local governments; groups and organizations; and the people of the U.S. to observe such month with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.

The Army is honored to recognize the outstanding contributions American Indians have made to our nation and our Army. Thousands have served in the armed forces from the early days of the Revolutionary War through today. The multitude of cultures has helped shape our nation. The Army recognizes American Indians’ rich heritage and honors their spirit and true devotion to our country.

Since the birth of this nation, American Indians have been recognized for their adept skills and knowledge of this land. Through the years, they courageously worked with the early U.S. cavalry as scouts, in World War II as code talkers, and in every conflict, they have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

To this day, 24 Native American Indians have earned the Medal of Honor for their courage and devotion to our nation. They Army is proud of the lasting contributions American Indians continue to make as Soldiers, civilians, veterans and family members that will benefit our nation and Army for many years to come.

The Army knows there is strength in diversity. In celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month, it not only emphasizes American Indians significant contributions, but also the value the Army places on diversity. As a tribute to all American Indians, units, agencies and Army activities will be executing appropriate commemorative activities throughout the Army to celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month.

(Editor’s Note: Information was complied from Army news releases.)

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Category: News, Observances

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