USAMMDA Hosts Native American Heritage Observance
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity hosted a Native American Indian Observance at Fort Detrick's Community Activities Center Nov. 20.
The theme for the observance was Growing Native Leaders: Enhancing Our Seven Generations. The concept of seven generation sustainability originated with the Iroquois. It is based on the idea of living all aspects of your life to benefit the next seven generations, which is about 150 years. This philosophy teaches every generation to think about how their actions will affect the future. By practicing this philosophy, every child would be taught to make decisions on not what is best for themselves, but their grandchildren's futures.
Opening remarks were made by USAMDDA Commander Col. William Geesey. During his opening, Geesey shared his personal experience stating he has "great appreciation" for Native American culture and values. He shared that his adoptive parents were descendants of the Sioux line. Geesey wore a bracelet that he wove as a child, and was taught to "stitch in errors." This meant that while we think of the errors as imperfections, such as is in life, the imperfections are what make things great. Geesey noted that his bracelet had many errors.
The event began with some facts about Native American history. Among these was the correlation to how long Native Americans have been a part of our history, until when we have given the time to acknowledge their participation in our history. It wasn't until 1915 we recognized an American Indian Day, 1986 Congress passed an observance week, and not until 1990 that Native Americans and Alaskan Natives were given the month of November as observation month.
The guest speaker White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education Chief of Staff
Ron Lessard, an American Indian from the Mohawk and Abenaki Tribes, addressed the audience. Lessard spoke about the future Native American descendants of today. It is belief that the native children of today "need meaningful support in the education system." Lessard continued stating that our Native American children and grandchildren need to reach their full potential as these are the future native leaders, and this will only happen by improving the line of native youth.
"How do we help grow young Native American leaders?" asked Lessard. "By helping them embrace their culture."
He told a story about a young Native American boy in kindergarten. The boy was sent home from school and asked to cut his long braided hair. The parents did not understand how the school would not allow a child to be proud of his heritage and that they wanted to force him to change because he was different. This boy was discriminated against at a time when the current U.S. president had hand-appointed a Native American with long braided hair. Lessard explained that we must set an example to our children. As we think about embracing the generations, we must begin with our own, but it must continue to the far future.
The event was concluded by a traditional Hoop Dance by Pete Giove of the Mohawk Tribe. Giove has been a hoop dancer since 1993 for a wide range of audiences across the country and around the world.
The dance was performed with a number of 'hula' size hoops, along with the beat of a single drum and melodic chant. With each careful movement Giove made, the hoops came to life. At the end of the dance, Giove asked the audience what they saw the hoops become. Members of the audience saw a turtle, a horse, a beaver, a bear and an eagle. Giove confirmed that everything that was seen was correct; the hoop dance is all about personal interpretation, and everyone will see and interpret differently.