Fort Huachuca celebrated Native American Heritage Month at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre on Nov. 14 with poetry readings, a cultural dance demonstration and a Native American Code Talker presentation.
The event started out with a traditional Native American invocation by Joe Joaquin, cultural resource specialist, Tohono O’Odham Nation. The first deliverance was spoken in the native O’Odham language and then repeated in English. Following the prayer, Eliath Chavez, Buena Vista High School Chorus, sang the national anthem.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, addressed the distinguished guests, giving recognition and thanks to those providing knowledge, entertainment and support of the Native American heritage. “I think that these Native American Heritage celebrations are very, very important because we learn about other cultures. The Army has not always done so well with understanding other cultures, and so the fact that we are here talking about Native American Heritage Month is very important because that is a culture that we didn’t understand. Quite frankly, we didn’t treat the first inhabitants of our country very well and there are others in our history that we have done the same to. I think the more that we can learn from each other, the better off we can be,” he said.
Mariela Picorelly and Spencer Kerr, students at Colonel Smith Middle School, then recited their poems that won the Native American Heritage poetry contest.
The Pascola group of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe performed a cultural demonstration, the deer dance. The Pascola Deer Dance is part of the traditional Lenten ceremonies, usually lasting through the night, signifying the relationship between the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the deer, an animal that they are both scared of and admire.
There was a dancer wearing a white cloth around his head and eyes, and a deer head with antlers attached on top. He wore rattles made of gourds around his wrists and had cocoon rattles tied around his ankles. He danced with a Pascola member, who portrayed an attempted capture of the deer.
There were two singers who sat on the floor playing a rasping stick, representing the deer’s breathing and another singer who used a water drum, representing the deer’s heartbeat. A violin and a harp were used to accompany a flute and drum that created the symbolic wilderness-like music. The Pascola group then presented a tribute dance, giving thanks to the veterans and their Families.
Following the demonstration, guest speaker, Dr. William Meadows, professor, Missouri State University, gave a brief about the Native American Code Talkers of both world wars. Dr. Meadows is the author of the book “Comanche Code Talkers of WWII” and has published numerous articles. His various testimonies and research influenced the 2008 Code Talkers Recognition Act that gave federal recognition to all Native American Code Talkers. A slide show was presented, giving detailed information about the code talkers, who they were, how they began, what their role was, and where they are today.
Concluding the presentation, Potter presented awards to those who participated in the Native American Heritage Month Observance, presenting them with certificates of achievement and tokens of appreciation.