NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- More than 50 Sailors and Department of Defense (DoD) personnel honored National American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month during a celebration at Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic (CNRMA) headquarters on Naval Station (NAVSTA) Norfolk Nov. 15.
CNRMA's Heritage Committee hosted the event and herald the 2012 theme of "Serving Our People, Serving Our Nations: Native Visions for Future Generations" with live performances of historical Native American characters.
Sailors showcased their Native American costumes and played characters, such as Chief Pontiac, an Ottawa Indian Chief who organized a rebellion against the British near the Great Lakes region, and Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian who assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
In addition to the performances, the program recognized Native Americans as warriors and their contributions in the military. The warrior tradition continues today with more than 14,000 Sailors and 1,200 DoD personnel of Native American Indian and Alaskan Native heritage serving in the Navy.
Rear Adm. Tim Alexander, commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic echoed the historical contributions of Native Americans to America.
"Native Americans are and have always been very important to our culture - look at the Navajo code talkers in World War II and the number of Native Americans who are Medal of Honor winners," he said. "This event gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on who we are and where we came from."
Noted in a Presidential Proclamation, released Nov. 1, "As the first people to live on the land we all cherish, American Indians and Alaskan natives have profoundly shaped our country's character and our cultural heritage. Today, Native Americans are leaders in every aspect of our society - from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the battlefield," the president said. "This month, we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our nation and we renew our commitment to respecting each tribe's identity, while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream."
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs, the first time an American Indian Day was formally designated in the U.S was by the governor of New York in May of 1916. It wasn't until November of 1990 that then-President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Similar proclamations, under variants on the name have been issued each year since 1994.
The event concluded with a Thanksgiving themed luncheon and traditional cake-cutting ceremony.
For more information about American Indians and Alaska Natives in the Navy, visit http://1.usa.gov/vCm0jE.
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