SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC) hosted a National American Indian Heritage Month celebration which included a short film and guest speakers, Nov. 16, at the Naval Base San Diego theater.
The event provided an opportunity for SWRMC employees to celebrate diversity and gain a greater understanding of Native American Indian history and culture.
"This is the eighth celebration we've had this year celebrating [equal employment opportunity] and diversity events", said Tom Coumes, SWRMC executive director. "We couldn't execute the mission here at SWRMC without the diversity of every single individual that comes to the command, and I think it's important that we celebrate diversity."
Guest speaker Larry Banegas greeted the crowd with a Native American welcoming song. He then spoke of his Kumeyaay history and community involvement as president and founder of Kumeyaay.com and having served as a member of the Tribal Council for the Barona Band of the Kumeyaay.
He was raised on the Barona reservation and teaches Kumeyaay culture and tradition to the community. He taught California Indian history and traditional knowledge at D.Q. University at Sycuan and presently sits on the American Indian Recruitment Programs Board.
Banegas shared his personal struggle dealing with the anger he felt as a young man toward the historically disturbing treatment of Native American people and culture, as well as acclimating to mainstream culture when attending California State Long Beach. As Banegas grew older he began to embrace all of the San Diego community, stating we must all work together and do what we can to improve the situation.
"I am American and so are you. And we are all brothers and sisters," said Banegas. "When you are in the service, you work together to get the job done. It doesn't matter if you are white, brown, red, or black, you are one. And that is what this country needs to be."
Following Banegas, guest speaker Ruben "Chato" Hinojosa discussed his history and experiencea as an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Nation Tribe of Texas and a 10 year Navy veteran, and his work as an actor, artist, writer, traditional American Indian flute performer, sculptor, and creator of warrior bone knives.
"Apache always go to where the best fight is," Hinojosa joked when sharing his passion for his naval career.
Hinojosa closed his presentation with a performance of the sunrise song on his flute, which he refers to as his medicine.
Following Hinojosa's performance, SWRMC's Executive Officer Capt. Paul W. Bieraugel shared his experience visiting the former site of Celilo falls, which prior to 1957 was an Indian trading site for salmon.
"If you would have lived between 12,000BCE and 1957, you would have heard of Celilo Falls," said Bieraugel. "This is where all the salmon of the world came from. Native people from Alaska to the Mississippi River came here to trade salmon for thousands of years. The city grew to over 10,000 people. But, in 1957, a dam was built downstream from the falls. As the waters came up and up, the falls disappeared, and the city of 10,000 people disappeared, until all that was left were its echoes. They were overcome by the new group of Americans that sought to take over the land."
"It wasn't until recently that those echoes gained voices again, by hearing stories like we did today," said Bieraugel. "We honor them today by being here and remembering them. It's not just a history of famous Native people or battles; it's a history of people who were at harmony with our Earth. And I like to think about giving those echoes a voice again, because those falls are still there under water - and someday, if that dam ever comes down, those falls will be visible and heard again. The way I am going to honor this Native American Indian Heritage Month is to step back out into the wild. Even if it's right in a canyon between suburban sprawl, you can feel that oneness with nature. Join me. Log out of Facebook and go for a hike in the woods or walk along the shoreline, and feel that spirit we were talking about today."
The event was coordinated by SWRMC's multicultural committee, whose mission is to facilitate and educate, while promoting understanding, awareness, and tolerance of the diverse cultures and ethnic groups within the command.
SWRMC's mission is, "Our uniquely qualified team provides superior ship maintenance, modernization, technical support, and training for the Pacific Fleet."
For more information on SWRMC please visit http://www.swrmc.navy.mil/.
For more news from Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/swrmc/.