Members of the Fort Huachuca community joined representatives of the Navajo, Seminole/Creek and Tohono O’ odham Nations, in celebration of a spiritual and cultural observance Friday. The U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and the Fort Huachuca Military Equal Opportunity Office hosted the Native American Heritage Month ceremony at Fitch Auditorium, in Alvarado Hall.
Before the opening remarks, the ceremony presented two invocations and the national anthem twice. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Glen McFarland, deputy garrison chaplain, gave the invocation in English, while Virnae Buck, a member of the Navajo Nation, offered a native observance prayer in Navajo. After, Aliath Chavez, Buena High School student, sang the national anthem in English, Noellani Buck, Miss Northern Teen Navajo 2013, sang the national anthem in the Navajo language.
Delsen Liston of the Tohono O’ odham Nation served as guest speaker. Liston is Tohono O’ odham Department of Health and Human Services Program manager and a former Marine who served from 2003 – 2007. His speech focused on the importance of upholding the Tohono O’ odham heritage and traditions to pass on to the next generation.
Liston shared the word “himdage” with the audience, explaining that while it is translated to mean “the way of life,” it encompasses the essence and values connected to heritage and tradition.
“This word is an open description of what it means to be an O’ odham. Himdage is all around us,” he said.
Liston then related the word to his military experience.
“We are all part of our himdage and in becoming a Marine, I depended on and held fast to my himdage by remembering traditional songs, going over them in my head, as I lay awake at night, thinking about what it meant to represent my people as a United States Marine — thinking about the many O’ odham who have served and represented through all branches of the armed forces and what it meant to carry on as a warrior in this modern era,” he stated.
The guest speaker ended with a Tohono O’ odham honor song adding that he comes from a long line of singers.
Following Liston, the Tohono O’odham Traditional Singers and Dancers Group performed traditional songs and a basket dance, in which five dancers each carried hand-woven baskets. It was explained that basket-weaving was a big part of their heritage.
National anthem-singer Noellani Buck also returned to the stage to perform a basket dance representing the Navajo nation. She described the symbolism contained in the design of her basket.
The light-colored, outer part of the basket symbolized an awakening at dawn, while the black weaving represented darkness, struggle and pain, she said. The red weaving symbolized bloodshed, and the inner white part of the basket represented the emergence of the Navajo people.
Also sharing his Native American heritage, Petur Redbird, pow wow Seminole/Creek performer, demonstrated a “stomp dance” and different drum beats using a drum made with stretched deer skin. He likened the drum beat to a human heartbeat as it can beat faster or slower and explained to the audience how music can unite everyone because of its deep connection with all people.
Sharon Walker, Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Program manager, found the performances very educational. She explained that understanding the history of the baskets was intriguing because of her own Native American heritage roots to the Chitimacha Tribe of southern Louisiana.
Following the ceremony, traditional Native American food was available to sample, along with artist-designed jewelry and other handmade crafts for purchase.