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Home : News : News
NEWS | Nov. 4, 2010

Storytelling, dancing exhibition highlight American Indian Heritage Month

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

The culture of America's original warriors is on display throughout November as Randolph observes National American Indian Heritage Month.

The Randolph Native American Committee has scheduled storytelling sessions at the base library, youth center and child development center and a dancing exhibition at Randolph Elementary School - activities that will particularly help young students learn about the American Indian culture.

"The purpose of the observance is to communicate information on American Indian culture and pass on their stories," said Mike Redfern, committee chairman. "Storytelling is important because that's how tradition is passed on. In American Indian culture, storytelling plays a central role."

The storytelling session at the library takes place Wednesday at 10 a.m. and the dancing exhibition featuring the Keetoowah Indian Dancers is set for Nov. 18 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. The first storytelling session at the youth center is scheduled Tuesday from 4-4:30 p.m.; subsequent sessions are planned Nov. 16 and Nov. 18. Also during the month, children at the youth center will make crafts such as shields and necklaces and cook native foods.

Mr. Redfern, who said his lineage includes Seneca and Choctaw Indians, said the Randolph Native American Committee's focus this month is Randolph's youth. Storytelling is a fitting activity because many of the American Indian legends have a moral lesson.

"They are folk legend and moral lesson rolled into one," he said. "Many of the stories center on the mysteries of creation - why there are stars in the sky, why there are mountains."

Mr. Redfern said committee volunteers will tell the stories.

The dancing exhibition at the elementary school will feature members of American Indian tribes, many of them retired military personnel, who will explain the significance of the dances, he said. In addition, artifacts will be on display.

Mr. Redfern said National American Indian Heritage Month occurs at a time when many students are learning about American Indians because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

"It brings the message home," he said. "Kids really get it. Anything we can tie in with the curriculum will help make them better students and better citizens."

The observance will include poster displays at the base exchange, dining halls and clubs and a poster contest open to Randolph Elementary School third-graders. Winners of the contest will be announced Nov. 18.

Mr. Redfern said National American Indian Heritage Month also celebrates Native Americans' patriotism and their contributions to the nation's military: They have the highest record of service per capita of all the ethnic groups in the U.S.

An estimated 12,000 American Indians served in World War I, 44,000 in World War II, 15,000 in the Korean War and 42,000 in Vietnam.

"Native Americans have been active in defending the United States," he said. "Defending your nation is a rite of passage for the American Indian. The warrior spirit of the American Indian and Airman are tied."