SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) learned about Native American culture during an American Indian and Native Alaskan Heritage celebration organized by the diversity committee at the base theater on board Naval Base San Diego, Nov. 30.
November is American Indian and Native Alaskan Heritage Month, dedicated to recognize and acknowledge the traditions and rich ancestry of Native Americans.
Mallory Genauer, Barona Cultural Center and Museum's education coordinator, taught Sailors the rich historical significance and impact that Native Americans have had throughout the nation, as she led the event as the guest speaker.
"It's important to know the history of this country, both bad and good," said Genauer. "If we can understand the bad, then we can change for the better."
Genauer also said it's imperative that the Navy recognizes Native Americans because they have the highest ethnicity of enlistment per capita and have been serving the nation's land long before the Navy.
More than 9,000 Sailors and 2,000 civilians of American Indian and Native Alaskan heritage are currently serving in the Navy. Native Americans have honorably served in the U.S. Navy for more than 200 years.
"We all bring something different to the table," said Chief Information Systems Technician Michele Veverka, head of Makin Island's diversity committee. "We are all different in how we are brought up and the values that we have. Bringing it all together and using our strengths for each other is what truly makes us a team."
Veverka, who is of White Mountain Apache and Cherokee descent, also said she encourages Sailors to learn from each other's cultures and backgrounds because that is what truly unites the Navy.
The 2017 national theme for American Indian and Native Alaskan Heritage Month is "Standing Together," which encourages the nation to embrace and celebrate the cultural differences shared with the indigenous peoples of North America.
Makin Island Commanding Officer Capt. Dave Oden delivered his remarks during the ceremony.
"When I look into the stands here today, all I see is blue and gold," said Oden. "I don't see race or ethnicity. I see a bunch of Sailors who bring something to the table. The only reason we are as good as we are is because of every single one of you."
According to the Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs, a diverse workforce positions the Navy to operate successfully around the globe by bringing together Sailors and civilians with different ideas, experiences, perspectives, capabilities and skill sets. Integrating diverse backgrounds into the force allows the Navy to recruit and retain the nation's top talent from a vast pool of skilled personnel.
Makin Island is in dry dock at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) for a depot-level maintenance availability.
For more information about the history of American Indians and Native Alaskans and their numerous contributions to the Navy, visit www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/american-indians.html.
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For more news from USS Makin Island, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.