Pentagon Ceremony Honors Native American Contributions
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 1998 After more than 223 years of fighting America's wars, native Americans finally got their due Nov. 10 during the Pentagon's first ceremony recognizing their military service contributions.
In his remarks on the service and sacrifice of American native veterans, Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre said "recognition of American Indians and Native Alaskan veterans is long overdue."
"American Indians have served in all of our nation's wars, and theirs is a path of honor," Hamre told the standing room only crowd in the Pentagon auditorium.
"Yours is a path of true warriors, of those who choose to fight for higher purposes and for the glory of a nation," Hamre told the Native Americans. "And yours is a path of communal respect for those who served under arms so long, so well, and so humbly."
The ceremony, in honor of Veterans's Day and Native American Indian Heritage Month, was hosted by David R. Oliver,Jr., principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquistion and technology. It featured featured ceremonial songs and dances by military veterans from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and a performance by the Cedartree Singers and Dancers from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee (North Carolina). A special tribute was given to the Navajo code talkers, who played a key role with the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theatre of operations during World War II.
The ceremony follows the Oct. 21 release of a new DoD policy statement provides guidance to DoD components on addressing tribal concerns related to protected resources, rights and Indian land. The policy establishes a foundation for developing and strengthening relationships with tribal nations in addition to enhancing an understanding and cooperation between tribal nations and the Department of Defense.
Other featured speakers during the ceremony also included Lynn Cutler, deputy assistant to the president for American Indian and Native Alaskan affairs; and Roger "Red Hawk" Bucholz, a decorated Vietnam veteran and member of the Mdewankanton Band of the Santee Tribe of the Dakota Nation.