NUWC Keyport Celebrates National American Indian, Alaskan Native Heritage Month

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By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Blees, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

KEYPORT, Wash. – Sailors, family and friends attended a ceremony at the Jack Murdock Auditorium, Naval Undersea Warfare Museum (NUWC), Keyport, Wash. in honor of National American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month, Nov. 19.

The 2013 national theme for the event was “Guiding Our Destiny with Heritage and Traditions – Honoring Our Warriors.”

“Last week, our nation took time to recognize veterans who have honorably served our country,” said Capt. David Kohnke, NUWC Division Keyport commanding officer. “Although it may have been coincidental that National Native American Heritage Month is celebrated during the same month as Veterans Day, the more I learn about the impressive record of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in our military, the more I see that it is quite appropriate.”

In 1915 Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day to learn about the “First Americans”. Also, that same year the annual Congress of the American Indian Association approved a plan to encourage the entire country to observe an American Indian Day.

“We are here to celebrate the contributions made by tribal nations to our homeland,” said Sean Makela, special emphasis program manager, American Indian/Alaskan native committee. “In many native languages the word “warrior” means ‘the one who protects.’

“As employees of the Department of Defense, this has even more meaning for us as it serves to remind us of the brave men and women who serve and protect us.”

A 2012 census bureau survey estimated the total American Indian/Alaskan Native population at 5.2 million, about 2% of the total U.S. population. Among that 5.2 million, approximately 162,000 are veterans.

At the ceremony seven Medal of Honor recipients from the World War II era were nominated including: Army 1st Lt. Jack Montgomery and Army Sgt. Roy Harmon from the Cherokee tribe, Army Lt. Col. Ernest Childers from the Muscogee tribe, Army Col. Van Barfoot from the Choctaw tribe, Marine Corps Col. Gregory Boyington and Army Master Sgt. Woodrow Keeble from the Sioux tribe, and Army Pvt. John Reese, Jr. from the Creek tribe.

“It wasn’t until 1990 that President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as ‘National American Indian Heritage Month,’” said Jim VanAntwerp, NUWC Keyport technical director. “As a nation, we’ve made much progress from the 150 years ago when American Indian students were forced to attend special schools to help them integrate, sometimes hundreds of miles from their families for years.”

American Indians have Members of Tribal Nations have fought in every war that the United States have been involved in, starting with the American Revolution.

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