COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The Defense Federal Community celebrated Native American Heritage Month Nov. 16 in the Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Operations Center auditorium, reflecting on the history and celebrating cultural traditions of native nations.
As associates entered the auditorium, the program experience was in full effect.
Attendees received event programs and information was available from the National Museum of the American Indian.
Associates listened to the sounds of Native American music and a presentation of Native American history while waiting for the event to begin.
After the culturally tailored native invocation, attendees were treated to a captivating display of traditional dance and music.
The performance by a Dine’ Nation dancer dressed in traditional ceremonial attire moving rhythmically to the beats from a Crow Creek Dakota Sioux Nations drummer and singer provided insight into the culture of the native people.
The program also recognized veterans.
“At every Native American gathering we always give honor to our military,” said Toye Thomas, the master of ceremonies for the day.
The recognition is right in line with this year’s theme, “Standing Together,” as American Indians represent the highest population per capita of any ethnic group serving in the military, according to the National Museum of the American Indian.
During opening remarks, Defense Finance and Accounting Services Columbus Deputy Director Michele Gaw said the theme represents people standing together for the betterment of all.
“Native Americans contributions are woven deeply into our Nation’s rich tapestry,” Gaw said. “They have influenced every stage of America’s development.”
The event’s keynote speaker, Guy W. Jones, Hunkpapa Lakota of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, shared his story with the workforce.
Jones is a direct descendent of Chief Gall, who led the frontal charge against the 7th Calvary at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Jones addressed the theme “Standing Together” throughout his presentation.
“Currently, there are 576 federally-recognized nations and more than 200 state-recognized nations,” Jones said. “Knowing our past and contributions is vital to the next generation.”
Jones talked about Native American imagery, symbols, music and dance. “They convey messages,” he said. “They are symbols of the culture. Using symbols helps hold the relationship with the Earth and communicates it with others.”
Jones addressed diversity saying, “We speak differently. We speak the same language but it just sounds different. Hunkpapa is my responsibility, Lakota is my language and Sioux is my tribe. When you begin to look at that and understand that, it gives you a deeper insight into the culture and the spiritual aspect of the people.”
Looking at culture and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, he said he’s often asked if he celebrates it. “Yes, not in the traditional ways you do, but yes. I celebrate it every day… Giving thanks is an important part of living,” Jones said.
At the conclusion of the program, the Native American Special Emphasis Program Committee participated in a long standing native tradition, the “give-away” ceremony. The ceremony doesn’t focus on the gift itself but the act of giving.
Caroline Watson, the NASEP chair, presented Jones with a give-away gift – a hand-woven bracelet – on behalf of the Defense Supply Center Columbus.
Following the ceremony, the NASEP program provided attendees samples of traditional food items and another opportunity to receive cultural information.
The invocation, The Native American Prayer by Yellow Hawk, Sioux Chief, was presented by Mark Baisden from DFAS and the national anthem was performed by the Federal Community Choir.
The Native American Prayer by Yellow Hawk, Sioux Chief
Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world – hear me- I come before you, one of your children. I am small and weak. I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respet the things you have made, my eyes sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise, so that I may know the things you have taught my People, the lesson you have hidden in every leaf and rock. I seek strength not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able to fight my greatest enemy, myself. Make me ever ready to come to you, with clean hands and straight eyes, so when life fades as a fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.