Story and photos by Rick Emert
An equal opportunity event Nov. 22 at the Elkhorn Conference Center touched on Native American culture, art and health issues.
The National Native American Heritage Month observance included Native American dancing, food sampling and a presentation by guest speaker Mitchelene BigMan on this year’s theme: “Life is Sacred – Celebrate Healthy Native Communities.”
BigMan, a retired sergeant first class and now Department of the Army civilian employee at the
U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, spoke about how Native Americans are getting back to healthier lifestyles they were known for, for centuries.
“Native Americans’ present health has reached
a pinnacle point to where it has brought about the change back to a much healthier lifestyle, due to the high rate of death caused by cancer, heart disease, chronic liver disease” and many other ailments, she said. “Native Americans were known for modeling the original healthy lifestyle, such as respecting mother earth, and living their lives so the land, water and air will be intact for their children and their children’s children.”
BigMan spoke of organizations – such as St. Joseph’s Indian School, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Native American Community Development Institute – that help Native Americans in a variety of areas including health care, education and financial assistance.
The United States has “bridged the gap” and “made great strides in implementing a more healthy native community,” she said. “I applaud those who are helping in educating the Native Americans to reach the goal of a healthier life.”
Entertainment at the event was provided by the Sweetwater Dancers, who performed a variety of dances including a slow water dance, jingle dress dance and a hoop dance. The event concluded with Native American food sampling.
“We hold events like this to promote education, training and awareness on different cultures and promote dignity and respect for Soldiers and their cultures and beliefs,” he said.