Bolling's Powwow Educates People About American Indians
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C., Nov. 26, 2001 "American Indians are very patriotic people," Southern Cheyenne Indian Mel Whitebird told attendees at the second annual Veteran's Powwow, here.
"When you come to Powwows and are around American Indian people, you'll realize that the highest honor that can be obtained within our society is that of a warrior," said Whitebird, who served as master of ceremonies for the two- day event. "Our modern day warriors are our veterans and we take time to honor them."
The five-man Vietnam Era Veteran’s Intertribal Association color guard of the Washington Metro Chapter leads the grand entry ceremony at the Bolling Air Force Base Powwow. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marching and dancing to thundering drumbeats and "vocables", the grand entry ceremony was led by a five-man Vietnam Era Veteran's Intertribal Association color guard of the Washington Metro Chapter.
The Powwow started with a veteran's dance, Whitebird said. Veterans entered the circle to be honored. In addition, family members of active-duty military people or veterans were also invited to join the dance.
The powwow was part of Bolling's celebration of American Indian Heritage Month. "Setting aside a month to observe our heritage and culture is important in helping the average American remember their history -- the true part of their history," said Lucinda Lazaro of the Long Hair Cherokee clan from Goodwater, Ala. "History has been distorted over the years. Events like this allow the public to come out and become aware of us and truly learn what we're all about and what we're like."
Representatives from several tribes from across the country participated in the powwow. Decked out in colorful feathered regalia they shared their songs and dances to the rhythm of thundering drumbeats. Powwows are Native American people's way of meeting together to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships and making new ones.
Lazaro played a major role is getting the Bolling commander to approve holding a Powwow on the base last year. The special emphasis program manager for American Indian and Alaska Native Committee for the National Capital Region, she pointed out that the powwow at Bolling was also about awareness because, for example, most people are not aware that there was an indigenous Indian tribe, the Nacotchtanks tribe, living along the Anacostia River.
Lazaro said it's important for people know about such things and respect American Indians. "A lot of people make comments about American Indians and stereotype us like those portrayed in the movies and on television," she said. "That's not what we're about at all."
A computer search by the Defense Manpower Data Center shows that there are 6,561 American Indians, Aleuts and Alaska Natives in the DoD civilian work force nationwide.
There are 11,926 American Indians on active military duty as of August 2001: Army, 2,825; Navy, 6,440; Marine Corps, 1,137; Air Force, 1,524.
In the reserve components, the total was 5,881 -- 1,632 in the Army National Guard, 1,208 in the Army Reserve, 1,522 in the Air National Guard, 462 in the Air Force Reserve, 151 in the Marine Corps Reserve and 906 in the Navy Reserve.
"We would like for people to realize that we're not people to be afraid of; we're just everyday people who want to be respected," Lazaro said.