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NEWS | Nov. 1, 2012

Former astronaut to headline Native American Heritage Month

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

The first Native American to walk in space will visit Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in November, a highlight of the annual Native American Heritage Month.

Retired Navy Cmdr. John Herrington, a former NASA astronaut who served aboard the space shuttle Endeavour a decade ago, will speak during the Native American Heritage Month Luncheon Nov. 29 at the Kendrick Club, the culmination of a month-long schedule of events.

Edward Blauvelt, Randolph Native American Heritage Month Committee chairman, said Herrington, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, exemplifies the observance's theme this year: "Serving Our People, Serving Our Nation: Native Visions for Future Generations."

"We're looking at the different ways Native Americans have served, whether it's in their tribes, in the military and as doctors, teachers, lawyers - in all walks of life," he said. "One of our aims is to educate children about the accomplishments of Native Americans in the United States, so we're including the Randolph schools, the child development center and the youth center in our programs."

NAHM will include a poster contest at Randolph Elementary School that will focus on the ways Native Americans show their service, a middle school art contest and display and an essay contest for high school seniors that will feature a $1,000 scholarship.

Blauvelt, who is part Mohawk and Creek Indian, said middle school students' art efforts will be shown Nov. 17-26 at the Randolph Exchange and entered into a Bexar County 4-H Club competition. The essay contest for high school seniors whose parents or legal guardians work at Randolph will focus on the NAHM theme.

Throughout the month, Native American storytelling sessions and music and dance performances are planned at the Randolph library, CDC and youth center. Native American crafts will be exhibited Nov. 27 and 29 at the youth center.

Blauvelt said Grammy Award-winning musician Virgie Ravenhawk, a retired Army master sergeant, is scheduled to play her Native American flute music Nov. 13 at the youth center, while Bryan Jacobs and his family will perform native dancing Nov. 15, also at the youth center.

Other events include a powwow Nov. 17 at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and a turkey shoot that same day at the youth center. Participants at the turkey shoot will receive archery safety and target shooting instruction and compete for food prizes.

Blauvelt said the month's service theme aptly reflects Native American culture.

"Service is a requirement; everybody in a tribe has something to offer to the tribe," he said. "You have to be able to serve your fellow man."

Throughout American history, Native Americans have displayed their willingness to serve in the military, compiling the highest per-capita service record of all ethnic groups in America, Blauvelt said.

"Our goal is to educate people about who we are," he said. "We're part of this country; we're helping to shape the direction we're going."