By Scott Prater
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Native American culture and the accomplishments of Native American Soldiers were highlighted during the American Indian Heritage Month observance at the Elkhorn Conference Center Nov. 5, 2018.
The 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) hosted the event, which focused on the theme — “Sovereignty, Trust and Resilience.”
While recognizing Native American Soldiers, the observance also showcased Native American culture, highlighted by the Seven Falls Indian Dancers, which performed Native American social and exhibition dances, and a presentation from keynote speaker Carrie Howell, president, Native American Women’s Association of Colorado Springs.
The dance team, including drummer and singer, Robert Williams, performed several dances that ranged in significance. The team then asked Soldiers to join in a performance-capping “round dance.”
While Master Sgt. Jessica Hom detailed the heroic actions of a few Native American Soldiers throughout U.S. military history, Howell went on to relay some of the history of a group of Native American Soldiers known as the Alamo Scouts, a highly decorated and effective fighting force during the second world war.
The Alamo Scouts were established in 1943 by Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, commander of the Sixth U.S. Army, to conduct raid and reconnaissance operations in the Southwest Pacific during World War II. Working in six- or seven-man teams, they carried out operations behind enemy lines, mainly in New Guinea and the Philippines. Their missions included liberating two prisoner-of-war camps, gathering information on the strength, location and movement of enemy troops and organizing, arming and training Filipino guerilla units.
Between 1943 and 1945, the Alamo Scouts evolved from a simple reconnaissance squad into a sophisticated intelligence-gathering group and liberated 911 allied prisoners while capturing 54 Japanese Soldiers, Howell explained.
Historically, Native Americans serve in the military in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group.
“We think a lot of that stems from Native Americans’ traditional values,” said Howell, a Pawnee/Flandreau-Santee Sioux, who is also the program manager of the Nurturing Parenting Program at the Denver Indian Family Resource Center and chairman of the Garden of the Gods Rock Ledge Powwow. “In our culture, warriors are honored by their families and tribes. Native Americans hold much respect for the military and its members. When we hold powwows, our first act is to honor warriors and veterans.”
Currently, there are 567 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and more than 100 state-recognized tribes, each with distinctive history, beliefs, governance structure and culture. There are also more than 140,000 American Indian veterans living in the U.S., according to Department of Defense statistics.
“American Indians and Alaska natives have courageously defended and shaped our country’s character and continued to build legacies of freedom and diversity,” said Col. David Green, 71st EOD commander. “The Department of Defense, along with the rest of our nation, expresses our gratitude and appreciation for the accomplishments and undeniable contributions of the first Americans. Thank you so much.”
National American Indian Heritage Month has been officially observed each November since 1990, when communities gather to celebrate the heritage, history, art, traditions and customs of American Indians and Native Alaskans.