YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s (CFAY) Multicultural Committee (MCC) hosted a Native American Heritage Month celebration Nov. 14 in CFAY’s Chapel of Hope.
The event celebrated Native Americans for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States. Organizers of the event said events like these are important because they allow the CFAY community to learn about each other’s culture.
“There is so much culture in the world in which we can experience but due to limitations in our life, it’s not always possible,” said Electrician's Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Renee Yeatesbrisbon, degaussing range electrician assigned to CFAY’s Port Operations Department and MCC president. “Having events such as these allows the experience to come to us and expand our appreciation of not only our differences but similarities.”
Speakers during the event highlighted the history of Native Americans and what lead to many of them serving in the United States military.
“The history of the United States and the nations of Native Americans is a rough and rocky road to navigate,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Petty Officer 1st Class David Smith, assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and a member of the Navajo Nation. “Despite everything American Indians had endured in the past, the warrior tradition - the tradition of protecting their people - called many of them to serve in the United States military.”
During his speech, Smith gave a brief history on the Navajo code talkers that helped win the war in the Pacific. The Navajo Code Talkers participated in all assaults the U.S. Marines led in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. The code talkers conveyed messages by telephone and radio in their native language, a code that was never broken by the Japanese.
Smith also told the story of Carl Gorman, a Navajo Code Talker who was asked how he was able to develop such a complex code and memorize it so fast.
“For us, everything is memory, it is part of our heritage,” said Smith. “We have no written language. Our songs, our prayers, our stories, they’re all handed down from grandfather to father to children, and we listen, we hear, we learn to remember everything; it’s part of our training.”
After the speeches, members of the Ho-Chunk (formerly called the Winnebago) and Navajo Nations participated in a dance. Attendees of the ceremony said they were able to learn from the experience.
“Before this ceremony, I thought Native Americans were part of one big community,” said Religious Program Specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class Christian Suliguin, CFAY MCC’s event coordinator. “I learned that each tribe has its own completely unique culture and history.”
Presenters said getting to share their culture with others was a rewarding experience.
“It’s important that we learn about and share each other’s culture and I wanted to participate in this event to spread awareness of Native American culture,” said Boatswain’s Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Trenton Littlegeorge, assigned to CFAY’s brig and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. “Seeing everyone’s reaction to things they haven’t seen before was very rewarding to me.”
CFAY provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of U.S. 7th Fleet's forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands, 27,000 military and civilian personnel and their families.
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.