Joint base observes American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

GSCS (SW) Travis Wolf displays items from his native Alaska.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

November is American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. To commemorate, an event was held Nov. 20 at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel.

The main speaker was Senior Chief Gas Turbine System Technician (GSCS) (SW) Travis C. Wolf of Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific. Wolf is originally from Alaska and is half Yup’ik, an Alaskan Native group.

Wolf started his presentation with a brief overview of American Indian and Alaska Native history from 1500 to the present. He addressed tragedies – such as the Trail of Tears in the early 1830s – and triumphs, including the 2004 opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

On a more personal note, Wolf talked about growing up in a small Alaskan town where more than half the residents were Alaska Natives.

Wolf also spoke about the contributions that Native Americans and Alaska Natives have made to the United States military.

“There are about 190,000 Native American veterans in the U.S. today,” he said. “One out of every four Native Americans is a veteran. They have the highest per capita rate of military service of any ethnic group,” he said.

Around 12,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives serve in the military. Wolf believes native cultural values are part of the reason for these high rates of service.

“There is a warrior tradition that emphasizes virtues such as strength, honor, devotion and wisdom,” he said. “These values are a perfect fit with the military tradition.”

The event concluded with a sampling of Alaska Native foods, including venison and moose jerky, smoked salmon, fried bread and akutaq, which is also known as “Eskimo ice cream.” On display were several items from Alaska, including animal pelts, native clothes and tribal art.

National American Indian Heritage Month originated in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution. Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994.

The 2012 national theme, “Serving Our People, Serving Our Nations: Native Visions for Future Generations,” encourages the nation to reflect and celebrate the cultures, histories and traditions of the indigenous peoples of North America, including parts of Alaska and Hawaii.

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Category: News