OPNAV Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Story Number: NNS111118-22Release Date: 11/18/2011 3:08:00 PM
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By Ensign Amber Lynn Daniel, Diversity and Inclusion Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in collaboration with the OPNAV Heritage Committee, celebrated National American Indian Heritage Month with music, dancing and food at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Community Center Nov. 9.

Celebrating this year's theme, "Service, Honor, Respect: Strengthening Our Cultures and Communities," the event included remarks by Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Carl Coffman, food sampling, and cultural dance performances.

Although visually engaging, the dancing was about more than just entertainment, explained Keith Colston, one of the performers from the Baltimore American Indian Center.

"It's being able to represent my own tribe, the Tuscarora and Lumbee, and give a better idea of why we are doing what we do, not just in reference to dancing and singing but the contributions and the opportunity to be equal to any other person in today's society," said Colston.

Colston believes performing traditional dances live at events like the heritage month celebration serves as a means of bringing people together and educating them on the diverse and rich culture of American Indians.

"The one thing that I think about that we all have that still keeps us and makes us unique are our cultural backgrounds. Dancing and singing are part of all cultures that I know of and it may be done in various ways, but that too brings us closer together," said Colston.

Currently, more than 17,000 active duty, reserve, and civilian members of the Navy Total Force declare themselves American Indian or Alaska Native. American Indians and Alaska Natives have made remarkable contributions to our nation's identity and the Navy proudly embraces their rich heritage.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month. The national American Indian and Native Alaskan Heritage month is recognized by the Navy each year to celebrate the cultures, histories and traditions of the indigenous peoples of North America, including parts of Alaska and the island state of Hawaii, and recognizes the significant contributions these first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States.

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 4.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives comprise 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population.

Find more information on the history of American Indians and Alaska Natives and their remarkable contributions to the Navy at http://www.history.navy.mil.

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.

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