- By Darren Thompson
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon hosted a historic celebration today in recognition of Native American Heritage Month.
The celebration was the first of its kind and included a presentation of an eagle staff and military colors by the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society from Oklahoma, dance performances, and presentations by speakers from various branches of the U.S. military.
“Native people have been serving in the military since before we were citizens,” U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Maureen Trujillo, also an enrolled citizen of the Cochiti Pueblo, said during the celebration. “As of 2020, there are just over 20,000 of the active duty force is American Indian or Alaskan Native and approximately 140,000 American Indians call themselves veterans today.”
The event was organized to pay tribute to the service of American Indian veterans throughout American history.
Hundreds of people gathered in the courtyard of the Pentagon for the celebration rich with traditional American Indian culture, including an opening prayer by Pechanga Band of Indians Tribal Chairman Mark Morocco, traditional drum groups, including the Uptown Singers and a group of singers from the Cochiti Pueblo.
Speakers at the event included American Indian veterans and Native and non-Native the Department of Defense officials
“We were able to break the Japanese and German codes, but no one has ever been able to break ours,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Environment and Energy Resilience Richard Kidd said to Thursday’s crowd. “As a result, this administration is investing millions of dollars into Indigenous language preservation.”
After the presentations concluded, a round dance was announced by Meskwaki and Navajo Nation traditional dancer Larry Yazzie. Then, local drum group The Uptown Singerz sang a series of songs while people visited, smiled and took photos of the historic celebration at the Pentagon.
Former Pentagon Force Protection Agency Senior Advisor and Blackfeet Nation citizen Dr. Walter Lamar commented on the occasion’s significance.
“It was a dream to one day hear the sounds of American Indian drums and singing in the hallways of the largest military building in the world,” Lamar said during Thursday’s event.
On Friday, the National Museum of the American Indian is hosting the dedication for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. Hundreds of American Indian veterans are anticipated to participate in the dedication, which includes presentations and performances by many American Indian tribes, artists, and veterans.
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