Serving Our Nations: National American Indian Heritage Month

(courtesy graphic)

(courtesy graphic)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- National American Indian Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments of the people who were the original inhabitants, explorers, and settlers of the United States.

Like each heritage month, there were many milestones that took time and dedication to distinguish the month of November as NAIHM. This year’s theme is “Serving Our Nations.”

In 1915, Sherman Coolinge, an Arapaho tribal member and reverend, asked the country to formally set aside one day of recognition. Sixty-nine years later, the Indian Citizenship Act was enacted by Congress, but there was still no action on the request for a National American Indian Day. It wasn’t until 1986 that Congress actually passed the request and Ronald Reagan, President of the United States at the time, signed a proclamation authorizing American Indian Week.

Initially, American Indian recognition was designated only for a week, but was extended to a month by 1990. November is a time to celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native Americans.

Hundreds of American Indians joined our Armed Forces during World War I and World War II. Their countless actions and dedication aided in these wars to include using their tribal language as a defense mechanism against America’s enemies. The technique they used aided our military by developing secret battle communications that later gave them the name Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers’ service to our nation is recognized and celebrated even to this is day. Currently, there are 567 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and more than 100 state-recognized tribes across the United States. According to the Department of Defense, over 26,000 Native Americans serve in today’s Armed Forces, making up 1.2 percent of the military population.

For those who live at Cannon, there is American Indian culture all around, with many unique histories, beliefs and governance structures.

New Mexico, with its rich history and blend of cultures, has been home to dozens of Native American pueblos, tribes and nations for over 2,500 years.

Take the opportunity to spend some time discovering the facts and history of New Mexico’s way of life. Find time to explore the many stories near the base, to include visiting monuments and national historical sites.

Many of the Native American stories are right in our backyard, such as the Petroglyph National Monument,Aztec Ruins, Bandelier National Monument, or even the Chaco Cultural Park.

So, reflect and appreciate the diverse culture you currently live in, and see how together we continue serving our nation.