Nov. 19, 2009

Virginia Guard honors Native American heritage in November

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — “Friend, do it this way that is, whatever you do in life do the very best you can with both your heart and your mind. And if you do it that way, the power of the universe will come to your assistance if your heart and mind are in unity,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Stewart, reading from the Lakota Instructions for Life during the Virginia National Guard’s National American Indian Heritage Month program Nov. 10 at Fort Pickett.

  Native American celebration

Eagle Warrior plays an American Indian flute for guests of the Virginia National Guard Equal Opportunity Office's Native American Heritage Month program at Fort Pickett Nov. 10. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The Virginia Guard Equal Opportunity Office presented the program in honor of Native American Heritage Month to Soldiers and Airmen from across the commonwealth as well as students from Parkview Senior High School’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

The guests were treated to a musical performance and question and answer session with Eagle Warrior, a Lenape Indian of the Turtle Island Chautauqua tribe. Eagle Warrior played a selection of songs on his wide variety of flutes, which were all made specifically for him.

“I play this instrument to the best of my knowledge and experience as it was played in the villages hundreds, even thousands, of years ago,” said Eagle Warrior, who is a classically trained musician with a background in music theory, clarinet and conducting. “The Native American flute, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful and haunting of all instruments.”

“As the Native American drum is the heartbeat of the American Indian, the Native American flute is the soul, and it cries out what we have endured here for these hundreds of years since Columbus landed on us some 500 years ago.”

Following the presentation by Eagle Warrior and his wife, Spirit Tracker, guests were invited to partake in some authentic American Indian foods and drink provided by local caterer Yellow Ribbon Catering. The foods included turkey, succotash, Indian fry bread (hoe cakes) and mint tea.

  Native American celebration

The staff of the Virginia National Guard Equal Opportuntiy Office serve Native American cuisine at the Native American Heritage Month celebration at Fort Pickett. The food was prepared by local business Yellow Ribbon Catering. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Please see the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

Native Americans have been serving alongside and within the U.S. military for hundreds of years since the conception of the nation. They have served as code talkers during World War II and continue to provide service in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“American Indians have served with distinction in the military dating back to the War of 1812. During World War II these brave patriots used their native languages to create an unbreakable oral code,” according to Stewart. “The valor and dedication of American Indians is further visible in the decorations received in battle- 25 Medals of Honor, 71 Air Medals, 51 Silver Stars, 47 Bronze Stars, and 34 Distinguished Flying Crosses.”

“The celebration of American Indians is very important, as they were this nation's first people,” said Capt. Antoinette Allen, equal opportunity manager. “They once walked, hunted, and lived on or near what we now call Fort Pickett.”

“The American Indian has a proud heritage that should be celebrated and shared with future generations of Soldiers and Airmen,” she said. “This country has always acknowledged the warrior spirit that Native Americans have been historically known for.”

“While history is not always pleasant to reflect upon it is imperative that we learn from the past to ensure a brighter future.”

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