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TECOM Training & Education Command

United States Marine Corps

DoD honors culture, contributions of Native Americans

By Cpl. Jennifer Brofer | | November 14, 2003

For more than 200 years, Native Americans have contributed their fighting spirit and warrior ethos to help the American military forces conquer their enemies, from the War of 1812 to present day.

During World War II, Native Americans were instrumental to the success of U.S. battles by serving as code talkers, or "Windtalkers," and by sending and receiving messages using a code that was nearly impossible for enemies to decipher.

In light of these and countless other contributions made by Native Americans to the U.S. military, and in the tradition of recognizing diversity throughout the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense has designated November as American Indian/Alaskan Native Heritage Month.

To celebrate, the Tri-Command Committee has scheduled a luncheon at the Four Winds Club, from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Nov. 19, which will feature singing and dancing performed by traditional and fancy dancers. The buffet-style luncheon will include Native American-style food. All are invited to attend the event.

Although only .1 percent of the Marine Corps is comprised of Native Americans, it is recognized historically that Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups, according to the DoD.

With such small numbers, it is easy for people to have misconceptions about the culture, and even make jokes about people they know nothing about, said Sgt. Joseph Jordan, Starlite Range coach and a member of the Seminole tribe.

"A lot of people don't understand Native Americans, their culture or religious ways, so people might joke about it," said Jordan, who is also a descendent of the Lumbee, Cherokee, Creek and Catabwa tribes. "Sometimes I kind of feel lost because there are not many Native Americans in the Marine Corps."

Jordan said it is important to recognize this diverse group of people, whose significant contributions made an impact on most every war Americans have participated in.

"In every war the U.S. has had a part in, there have been Native Americans fighting alongside, whether fighting each other or the enemy," said Jordan, who explained that during the War of 1812, Indians fought for both sides as auxiliary troops in the Civil War.

In earlier years, many Native Americans lied about their heritage in order to get a job because many businesses would not hire Native Americans, said Jordan.

"In a lot of places, Native Americans would claim to be Spanish or Irish because of all the racism," he said.

However, his heritage never stopped Jordan from being proud of where he came from.

"When I was young, my mom always told me to be proud of my heritage," he said. "So, I began finding out about my culture, and that's what made me proud."

Native Americans have come a long way and have since become an integral part of the military and society as a whole.

"They are a lot more educated and have better jobs," he said. "A lot of Native Americans also play a part in NASA. The first Native American to go into space was from the Chikasaw tribe."

Historical milestones like this as well as an overview of some of the customs of Native Americans will be covered during the presentation.

Jordan encourages everyone to attend the observance, which will give attendees knowledge of who Native Americans really are.

"Everyone should come out and learn about the culture and its rich heritage," he said. "It will be a learning experience - they'll have a better mindset about who Native Americans are."

For tickets, contact 228-2647.