07 December 2015

Ron Lessard, chief of staff for the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education for the U.S. Department of Education, served as the guest speaker for the National American Indian Heritage Month Observance hosted by the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity Nov. 20 at the Fort Detrick Community Activities Center.
Photo by Carey Phillips, USAMMDA Public Affairs
USAMMDA Hosts Native American Heritage Observance
Erin Bolling USAMMDA Public Affairs Support
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity hosted this year's Native American Indian Observance at the Community Activities Center at Fort Detrick Nov. 20.

The theme for this year’s observance was “Growing Native Leaders: Enhancing Our Seven Generations.” This idea of seven generation sustainability originated with the Iroquois, and is based on the idea of living all aspects of your life to benefit the next seven generations (about 150 years). This philosophy teaches every generation to think about how their actions will affect the future. By practicing this philosophy, every child would be taught to make decisions on not what is best for themselves, but their grandchildren’s futures.

Opening remarks were made by Col. William Geesey, commander of the USAMMDA. During his brief opening, Geesey shared his personal experience stating he has “great appreciation” for Native American culture and values. He shared that his adoptive parents were descendants of the Sioux line. Geesey wore a bracelet that he wove as a child; taught to “stich in errors.” This meant that while we think of the errors as imperfections, such as is in life, the imperfections are what make things great. Geesey noted that his bracelet had many errors.

The event was led with some informative facts about Native American history. Among these facts was the correlation to how long Native Americans have been a part of our history, until when we have given the time to acknowledge their participation in our history. It wasn’t until 1915 we recognized an “American Indian Day,” 1986 Congress passed an observance week, and not until 1990 that Native Americans and Alaskan Natives were given the month of November as observation month.

Guest speaker Ron Lessard (Mohawk), chief of staff for the white house initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, U.S. Department of Education, addressed the audience. As the theme was about growing native leaders and enhancing seven generations, he spoke mainly about the future of Native American descendants today. He believes that the native children of today “need meaningful support in the education system.” Lessard continued stating that our Native American children and grandchildren need to reach their full potential as these are the future native leaders, and this will only happen by improving the line of native youth.

“How do we help grow young Native American leaders?” asked Lessard; by embracing their culture. He told a story about a young native boy in kindergarten. The young boy was sent home from school and asked to cut his long braided hair. The parents did not understand, to not allow a child in kindergarten to be proud of his heritage and force him to change because it was different. This boy was shown discrimination, when currently the President of the United States hand appointed a Native American with long braided hair. Lessard explained that we must set an example to our children. As we think about embracing the generations, we must begin with our own, but it must continue to the far future.

The event was concluded by a traditional Hoop Dance by Pete Giove-FourWinds (Mohawk). Giove has been a hoop dancer since 1993 for a wide range of audiences across the country and around the world. The dance is performed with a number of ‘hula’ size hoops, along with the beat of a single drum and melodic chant. With each careful movement Giove made, the hoops came to life. At the end of the dance, Giove asked the audience what they saw the hoops become. Members of the audience saw a turtle, a horse, a beaver, a bear and an eagle. Giove confirmed that everything that was seen was correct; the hoop dance is all about personal interpretation, and everyone will see and interpret differently.

This event was an excellent tribute to Native Americans and was a chance to share and teach some of the Fort Detrick community.
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