November: Native American Heritage Month

Luke Air Force Base invited a group of Arizona Native Americans to celebrate Native American Heritage Month Nov. 19 outside the base theater.

“We took the time to recognize the Native American culture,” said Master Sgt. Jessica Jolan, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron assistant propulsion flight chief. “We invited Native American artists from different tribes to display and sell the goods they make as well as bring authentic Native American food.”

Sheilah Nalwood, Navajo Tribe silversmith, shows Lt. Col. Scott Hall, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander, a piece of silver jewelry. Nalwood cuts, stamps and designs the pieces by hand with tools that were passed down through generations.

Displays included a Navajo Tribe silversmith and Haulapai Tribe basket weaver. Other demonstrations included Navajo Tacos and fry bread, and Hopi Tribe dances.

“On a military base, it is a different kind of environment, so we didn’t really know what to expect,” said Shaliyah Ben, Heard Museum education and outreach program manager. “But, we applaud Luke AFB for wanting to educate their community about Native American culture.”

The event also included a performance by a Native American singer and drummer, and a dancer who shared traditional Native American dances.

Thunderbolts participate in the around-the-world dance at the celebration. The dance is meant to bring together all who attended the festival.

“The presentation we shared was meant to show some of our culture and to also pay respect to military and servicemen and women,” said Ryon Polequaptewa, Native American traditional Hopi Tribe kachina doll carver. “We, the people, are surrounded by spiritual beings such as plants, animals and insects, which lived here before any human contact. We pray to them and borrow from them. For our children’s sake, we must take care of everything that is around us.”

Navajo Tacos and fry bread are staples in the Navajo Tribe and other Native American communities. Because of its popularity outside the Native American community, fry bread has become a modern-day traditional food.


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