News: National Native American Heritage Month is celebrated at Fort McPherson.
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Florence
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem Garrison Equal Opportunity commemorated National Native American Heritage month by hosting Mrs. Erin Beavers Cochran an educator and public speaker from the Atlanta History Center.
Before the luncheon, the Garrison Chaplain Lt. Col Robert E. Philips read an invocation and an American Indian prayer. Coincidentally the prayer read by the Chaplain was the same one Cochran’s father would say with her as a child.
Introducing the guest speaker was Garrison Commander Col. Deborah B. Grays.
Cochran shared her experiences and gave a short history on Native American Indians in Georgia and how techniques they used in agriculture, irrigation canals and sewer systems used about 1000 years ago are still being used today.
During her presentation, Grays also said “around 1600 the cities of the American Indian were just as advanced as European cities of the same time period.”
Lt. Col. Glenn Gildon from the U.S. Army Forces Command, Command Group came out to the luncheon to celebrate the event in memory of his Grandfather who was 25 percent Native American. Cochran also remarked, “it’s important to recognize diverse cultures and learn from their past and present.”
Cochran also spoke of present day issues in the Native American communities. She said “due to the injustices’ of the past and undesirable conditions during the time of boarding schools many American Indians have had distrust for the American government."
The time American Indians have spent on reservations has also had negative consequences including cultural theft, poverty, alcoholism, poor health care, loss of native language and tribal extinction.
“In or around the last twenty years Native American communities have formed a strong network to combat reservation flight, they don’t want their tribes to go extinct or the kid’s to leave the reservation, schools are teaching the native language, because keeping the language alive is one of the best ways to keep a culture alive” Cochran said.
In the last two years the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped to rebuild and improve Native American Schools so they can get a proper education and compete in today’s world. This act has encouraged a return to the reservations, language preservation and has helped curb cultural theft.
Events such as the luncheon help to educate and teach us about the past as well as highlight the future needs and issues of Native American people.
Cochran also stated “advisors are always at the White House working as partners with Native Americans to keep an open dialogue and sustainable healthy native communities moving in a positive direction."
Cochran is passionate about educating the public about Native American history and culture, particularly regarding the Trail of Tears and Indian Boarding Schools.