Story and photos by Spc. Nathan Thome
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
The Joint Task Force Carson community had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of American Indian culture at McMahon Auditorium, Monday.
The theme of this year’s National American Indian Heritage Month Observance, “Guiding Our Destiny with Heritage and Traditions,” was released by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is one of the oldest bureaus in the U.S. Department of Interior, established in 1824.
1st Sgt. Jarvis Begay, senior enlisted leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, was the guest speaker for the observance.
“Good afternoon; just to introduce myself, I’m Jarvis Begay, belonging to the Towering House Clan, belonging to the Red Body of Water People,” said Begay. “A lot of us introduce ourselves with our native culture, and we have to tell each other about our native culture.”
Begay recalled his culture’s history, and spoke of the first warriors of the Navajo tribe, called the Twins story, or the Monster Slayers story.
The story was of twin boys, born to rid the Earth of the monsters that were killing people. After the boys were grown, they set out on a quest to find out who their father was, who turned out to be the sun god. After completing a series of tests for the sun god, he outfitted his sons in the clothing of the Navajo tribe, and they protected the tribe from monsters from that day forward.
Demonstrations of traditional dances were presented following Begay’s speech.
Retired Staff Sgt. Darrell Seals of the Choctaw Blackfoot tribe, Fort Carson Warrior Lodge, demonstrated the Grass Dance.
“The Grass Dance is a very old style that dancers were once called upon to prepare the area for feasts and special events,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ganz, CH-47 Chinook flight engineer, Company B, 2nd GSAB, 4th Avn. Reg. “As they dance in time with the drum, their feet reflect the tall prairie grass in anticipation for the traditional ceremonies.”
The second dance was demonstrated by 1st Lt. Natani Pete, platoon leader, Company D, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div.
“The Prairie Chicken Dance, it is a very old dance which consists of a strong spiritual meaning,” Ganz said. “It is said that the first dance started through a dream and was shown as a ceremony dance to keep the tribe strong and heal the sick.”
Pete’s son, Shiyazh Pete, danced in an outfit that represented a
Navajo warrior, symbolizing his clan’s origin and family of warriors in the Navajo Nation.
“While the traditional dancers are dancing, they appear to be strong, whole warriors; they tell a complete story that can be seen in their dance steps,” said Ganz.
“Completing our cultural journey, the Hoop Dance is the next demonstration; it is about storytelling that utilizes a number of hoops depending on the individual,” said Ganz. “The hoop represents the sacred circle of life, with a beginning and end to all things. Each dancer has their own unique style, where they move the hoops around themselves to create various symbols.”
Special Agent Kevin Cheek, computer crime investigator, U.S. Air Force Academy, demonstrated the Hoop Dance, using five hoops.
A Soldier in attendance expressed how much she learned from the observance.
“I learned a lot about their history and a glimpse into their culture, like how they have to give an entire back brief of their history, explaining where their mother and father originated,” said Sgt. Nechesa Truitt, 247th Quartermaster Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade. “I came to this event because I wanted to learn more about American Indian Heritage Month.
“I knew that by coming to this event, I would get more information about their culture firsthand, rather than from television,” Truitt said. “From going to this event, I saw authentic dances that I would have probably never seen anywhere else.”