News: 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. Soldiers celebrate American Indian Heritage Month
By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq - Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers got a taste of American Indian culture Nov. 3 at the dining facility here when dancers from the Native Star dance team visited to help celebrate American Indian Heritage Month.
The Native Star dance team, a group that performs the powwow circuit in the United States, visited several camps in Iraq in full regalia to bring a little culture to the Soldiers stationed overseas.
The visit to Camp Striker was put together by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Equal Opportunity office.
The Soldiers were not the only ones who took pleasure in the visit.
"I really enjoy it – seeing all the Soldiers come up after the show, telling us it pumps them up," said Brent Brokeshoulder, a Navajo-Hopi-Shoshone from Gallup, N.M.
Initially, the team was scheduled to perform at Camp Striker, unfortunately, circumstances did not allow for it. So instead, the team took advantage of an opportunity to dine with the Soldiers at the Striker dining facility and then cut a celebratory cake.
"It's been an honor coming out here," said Sky Medicine Bear, a Lakota from Loveland, Colo. "We've been treated really well. The gratitude we've received has been unreal. You can see it in (the Soldiers') faces that they appreciate it. It makes us feel good."
The dancers said they had some initial fears about coming to a combat zone, but those fears were quickly put to rest when they arrived and saw the security provided by the Soldiers working on the forward operating bases.
"I didn't think I could say 'no' to this," said Summer Dawn Fuson, a dancer. "It's too big an opportunity. I'm enjoying myself; I love it here."
It was especially good to see Soldiers attending who were of American Indian heritage, said Kelly Etsitty, a dancer from Chinlee, Ariz.
"We're bringing something back to them," said Etsitty.
The team performs traditional dances like the Jingle Dress, Apache Shawl, Prairie Chicken and Grass Dances, as well as the Round Dance – a traditional way of welcoming friends.
"My best memory was when Soldiers came out and joined the Round Dance at Camp Taji," Fuson said.
Although he regretted not being able to see the dancers perform, he enjoyed the visit, said Cpl. Antonio Foy of Montgomery, Ala., a paralegal non-commissioned officer with the brigade legal office, who came to see the troupe at the dining facility.
"I thought it was great that they came here to do a performance. It's disappointing that they didn't get to perform, but it's still neat that they are here."
The dining facility made a special menu of Native American themed foods, including corn pudding, red chile stew and spiced pork, plus the decorated cake with native emblems.
Some of the ingredients had to be specially ordered from the United States., said dining facility manager Sgt. 1st Class Lucretia Gordon, of Atlanta, Ga.
"We normally don't get zucchini and blue-corn tortillas," he said.
The menu was a hit with the Soldiers.
"We're constantly replenishing the bar of (native-style) food," she said. "They really liked it. I think it's interesting for the Soldiers because in Iraq, they wouldn't normally get this kind of activity. So they get to enjoy a meal with cultural entertainment."
One Soldier in particular said he has a special affinity for American Indian Heritage Month.
"History tells us that they were the first ones in America," said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Drayton of Queens, N.Y., brigade equal opportunity. "Today, they are not represented as much as some other groups. Through the media, we get misconceptions about (American Indians) and their contributions.
"When I heard that Native Star was going to perform at corps headquarters, it was the right place and time to kick off our observance. There are quite a few Soldiers here who have Native American roots."
National Native American heritage observances date back to 1912, when the Boy Scouts of America observed an "Indian Day" to honor the cultures they learned many scouting skills from. The heritage observance was recommended by Dr. Arthur Parker, director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y.
In 1915, the Congress of the American Indian Association declared the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day and made an appeal for recognition of American Indians as citizens.
The year prior, Red Fox James, a Blackfeet, rode horseback from state to state, getting endorsements from the state governments for a day to honor American Indians. In December 1915, he presented his proposal at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a day being proclaimed at that time.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution proclaiming November 1990 to be National American Indian Heritage Month, and similar proclamations have been issued each year since to recognize tribal cultures and educate the public about the many contributions of native cultures to American society.