National Native American Heritage Day and Month Celebrates Respect, Culture, Education Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Article Display



AIR FORCE BASE WRIGHT-PATTERSON, Ohio (AFLCMC) — In 2009, then-President Barack Obama signed the “Native American Heritage Day Resolution” designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” The resolution received unanimous support in the US House of Representatives and Senate.

At the signing of HJ Res. 40 years old, President Obama stated, “I encourage every American to join me in celebrating Native American Heritage Day … It is also important for all of us to share the rich culture, tradition and.” To understand Native American history and their status today, and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made and continue to make to our nation.”

President George HW Bush had previously signed a joint resolution in 1990 declaring November National American Indian Heritage Month. Since that time, Presidents have issued annual proclamations celebrating Native American heritage and culture.

This year’s theme, Celebrating Respect, Culture, and Education, focuses on celebrating respect for our fellow human beings and nature, and embracing and educating cultures other than our own.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives have a unique relationship with the federal government due to historical conflicts and subsequent treaties. To date, there are 574 federally recognized tribes and 324 Native American reservations in the United States

Twenty-eight states and many cities, rivers, and lakes have names derived from Native American heritage. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are people who have their origins in one of the original peoples of North, South, and Central America and who maintain tribal or community affiliation. According to the 2010 US Census, 5.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives lived in the US; 7.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives residing in the US in 2020; and it is projected that by July 2060, 10.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives will live in the United States.

Historically, Native Americans have had the highest military service per capita compared to other ethnic groups. The reasons are deeply rooted in traditional cultural values ​​that drive them to serve their country.

This includes a proud warrior tradition best exemplified by the following traits said to be common to most if not all Native American societies: strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom. These qualities correlate closely with military tradition.

The warrior depicted on the attached graphic is US Army Technician 5th Grade Joseph Medicine Crow, the last Crow War Chief. Crow earned his Crow War Chief honors while serving as a US Army scout in the 103rd Infantry Division during World War II.

Crow was born in 1913 on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Raised by his elders in the tribe’s warrior tradition, he learned to master his fears, to ride bareback, to track game, and to withstand extreme cold. He also studied those who had previously distinguished themselves in battle. He became the first member of his tribe to earn a master’s degree, and he left his PhD program to volunteer for World War II service.

During this conflict, he fulfilled all four essential requirements to become a warchief: count coup (touching an enemy without killing him), taking an enemy’s weapon, leading a successful war party, and stealing an enemy’s horse.

During a combat operation, Crow collided with a young German soldier and threw him to the ground. The German soldier lost his weapon. Crow lowered his own weapon and they began fighting hand to hand. As Crow choked the German soldier, he heard the soldier call for his mother. Crow released him and let him go. Later in the conflict, Crow led a successful war party, stealing 50 horses from a German Nazi SS camp. As he rode away, he sang a traditional crow war song.

For his actions during World War II, Crow received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and several service awards and ribbons, including the Bronze Star Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

Some notable Native Americans are:

Mary Peltola (Rep – D)
Peltola, a representative of the Yup’ik tribe, was elected to office in 2022 and was Alaska’s first female Indigenous tribesman to serve in the US Congress.
Raised by a Nebraska father and a Yup’ik mother, Petola grew up on the Kustokwim River near Bethel. The Yup’ik have fished the area for centuries.
At the age of 6 she started fishing for salmon with her father. After working for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, she won a seat in the State House in Juneau in her mid-20s.

During 10 years in the State House, she focused on the Kuskokwim River area, helping manage a nearby gold mining project, and campaigning for endangered salmon runs that are the region’s economic arteries. In her inaugural address, she said, “It is my honor in my life to represent Alaska, a place my ancestors and elders have called home for thousands of years, where to this day many in my community continue our traditions of hunting and fishing.”

Carol Metcalf-Gardipe – Geologist

Ms. Gardipe’s many roles include director of the American Indian Engineering Program (the first of its kind) and one of seven founders of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). She is also a professor, administrator and award-winning geologist who has held positions with the US Geological Survey, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Lila Downs – Musician

The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter immigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico and has been singing since she was eight years old. While her Latin style appeals to a global audience, her music also has strong jazz influences.

Deb Haaland – Home Secretary

Minister Deb Haaland made history when she became the first Native American woman to serve as Cabinet Secretary. Before joining President Biden’s cabinet, Haaland was the Congressman for New Mexico’s 1st District.

Emory Sekaquapteva – Anthropologist

Hopi linguist, anthropologist, scholar, educator, artist, and Court of Appeals judge Emory Sekaquaptewa is best known for developing the first dictionary of the Hopi language.

Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble – Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor

In 2008, Keeble became the first full-blooded Sioux Indian to receive the Medal of Honor. During a battle in the Korean War, his actions saved the lives of other soldiers. He was born in Waubay, SD in 1917 but spent most of his life growing up near Wahpeton, ND. As the war in Europe intensified, Keeble enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard in 1942. His service spanned World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.


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