MILFORD, Mass. – At the turn of the century, an effort was made to gain a day of recognition for significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. The result of that effort was that November be declared National American Indian Heritage Month.
As part of the Massachusetts National Guard’s Special Emphasis Program, an informational breakfast was held for more than 60 attendees at Joint Force Headquarters highlighting the many accomplishments, sacrifices and contributions by Native Americans as warriors and neighbors.
The breakfast was narrated by Maj. Matthew Mutti, executive officer, 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, who is of Native American Heritage. Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, the adjutant general, Massachusetts National Guard, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Sellars, commander, Massachusetts Army National Guard and Col. John A. Hammond, chief of staff, Massachusetts National Guard were among the attendees present.
The morning opened with the reading of President Obama’s Native American Indian Heritage Proclamation, and was followed by recollections of Pfc. Sheldon Hawk Eagle, 101st Airborne Division, the first Native American to be killed in Iraq.
Addressing the crowd with a traditional Nipmuc greeting, the Native American keynote speaker, Attorney Pamela Ellis, solo practitioner specializing in American Indian and Tribal law, explained why she accepted this speaking engagement when normally she would not. “The month of November and Thanksgiving seems the only time people think about Native Americans so I normally don’t speak during November, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to come and let you know that Native Americans celebrate many Thanksgivings all year long; we celebrate green corn, strawberry season in June, and the planting on the new moon.” she said.
Ellis portrayed the mere 1800 – 2000 Nipmuc people that remain today. “Due to struggles in our past, Native Americans have learned to assimilate to a dominant society – we learned how to live in plain sight. While some historians refer to us as a footnote in history, we do continue to struggle and fight, regarding to preserving and celebrating the Native American culture, upbringing and traditions.”
Ellis pointed out that the Native culture values what the National Guard and the military does in their communities and abroad. “There are only three sovereignties in this country, Federal, State and Tribal. Consultation within the three sovereignties reaches out, not to the individual American Indian, but to the tribe – this allows us to honor you, for you have shown honor by respecting our tribal leaders.” she said.
Ellis mentioned other ways to honor the Native American Tradition, such as allowing honor guards to post the colors during pow-wows and participating in the traditional veterans dance for all warriors, past, present and future.