Pride in Indian Culture, Heritage Resurging, Says Old Elk
November 20, 2003 EDGEWATER, MD -- "Powwows are important to native culture, because at one time we were not allowed to be Indians," said Clayton Old
Elk, a member of the Crow Indian Tribe of Montana.
"We weren't even allowed to practice our religion, our language,
to sing our songs or dance our dances. They said it was sacrilegious," said Old Elk, master of ceremonies at the American
Indian Intertribal Cultural Organization Second Annual Veterans Powwow celebration, held at Central Middle School here Nov.
AIITCO, a non-profit association established in 1983, offers its members the experience of cross-cultural sharing
of tribal histories, customs and traditions, which helps preserve American Indian heritage.
As the sounds of thundering
drumbeats and "vocables" echoed through the school's gym, the grand entry ceremony was led by Doug Hall, who was carrying
the eagle staff, the traditional American Indian flag. Hall, a member of the Odawa tribe of Minnesota, was decked out in a
multicolored ribbon outfit and was followed by the three-man color guard of the Washington metro chapter of the Vietnam Era
Veterans Intertribal Association.
Next came headman Walter Reed of the Lenni-Lenape tribe of New Jersey, part of the
Algonquin nation. The headlady was his wife, Justine Reed, a mixture of the Seneca, Ojibwe and Lakota tribes. In leading the
group of dancers into the ceremonial area, both performed their respective roles as headman and headlady.
Old Elk told
the audience that the Europeans tried to take away their "Indianess," but they couldn't take away their spirit. "We're here.
We have been here," said Old Elk, a health systems specialist with the Indian Health Service in Rockville, Md. "Our songs,
dances and our languages went underground, but recently, they've made a comeback.
"It's at times like this (powwows)
that we remember our ancestors and our warriors," said Old Elk, adding that active duty military personnel were invited to
the powwow free of charge. "We come from warrior societies that remind us of who we are. You have to know who you are and
where you come from before you know where you going."
He said powwows are a good time to express that to young people.
"Most of our languages are lost, but fortunately, I can speak my own language - the Crow," Old Elk noted.
also a good time to point out the good and bad things affecting American Indians. People should be aware of the fact that
"there was a time when we were made ashamed to be who we are," Old Elk said. "I remember growing up in Montana when there
were signs saying, 'No dogs or Indians allowed,' in restaurants. The racism still prevails there in rural areas."
at times like this that we can educate the mainstream society about such things and the contributions we've made to this country,"
said Old Elk, who attended the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., before transferring to Montana State University
on a football scholarship. He later moved to Eastern Montana University where he earned his bachelor's degree.
given much more to this country than most people realize," he continued. "When you call yourself an American, you're in fact
calling yourself a Native American, because you speak our language. The food that we have, whether it's pumpkin, corn or turkey,
or if you drink coffee, go to a movie and eat popcorn - that's Indian food.
"We've shared everything with this country,
because sharing is part of our way of life," Old Elk said.
The North Carolina Commission on Indian Affairs points out
that many of the "gifts" Native Americans introduced to the white settlers are still being enjoyed today. Among the foods
Indians showed the settlers were chili, pumpkin, succotash, cornbread, popcorn, potatoes, corn, beans, peas and sunflower
seeds. Indians also gave Americans the sapodilla tree that produces chicle, which is used to make chewing gum. Indians also
taught the settlers the drying process used to preserve foods and make raisins, prunes and jerky.
Indians also introduced
the settlers to clothing, such as moccasins and ponchos. Chaps that rodeo riders wear today are a form of Indian leggings.
Indians also introduced settlers to cotton, which is used to make clothing today.
The commission also notes that Indians
taught Americans about their way of life, which is to live in harmony with nature. Many of today's organizations, such as
the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and YMCA Indian Guides, get their influence from the arts, crafts and culture of Native Americans.
the beginning of this powwow I said the U.S. Constitution is patterned after the Iroquois Indian Confederacy," Old Elk said.
"The Iroquois form of government is used by the U.S. government today. So we share our style of government, but most people
don't know that."
He said the contributions of Native Americans to the defense of the nation and society as a whole
should be recognized throughout the year rather than just during American Indian Heritage Month.
"We have many things
we've shared with this country, including our language," he said. "Even right here in this area, the Chesapeake and Potomac
are Indian words. Even cities and states across the country use Indian names -- Manhattan, Chicago, Miami, Alabama, Mississippi,
Tennessee, Maine. The geographical words, too - Appalachia, Ozark."
Old Elk noted that Indian sciences are still being
investigated in Central America. For example, no one has yet figured out how the Inca built huge pyramids without mortar or
wheels that have withstood centuries of adverse weather conditions and earthquakes. They're also trying to determine how "The
Sun Pyramid in Teotihuacán ("City of the Gods"), Mexico, was built around A.D. 100-200, and the Pyramids of Cochasqui in the
Northern Andes of Ecuador were built between A.D. 950 and 1550.
Noting that researchers still can't figure out how
the dimensions of the Inca pyramids were derived, Old Elk said even the Inca calendar is the most accurate in the world.
should be made aware of these things," he said. "We should let our people know that there is another culture. We're rich,
not in material value, but our languages, sciences and our way of living with nature. We have a wealth of information that
we can share with everybody."
By Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service at DefenseLink
Painting Honors Indian Women; 'Warrior' Model Serves in Guard
WASHINGTON, November 25, 2003 -- A laugh was the first thing out of the mouth of visual artist Enoch Kelly Haney when he was asked to do a painting of an American Indian woman warrior.
can't make any money selling a woman warrior!" the Oklahoma state senator exclaimed to Oklahoma Air National Guard Brig.
Gen. LaRita Aragon [http://www.ngb.army.mil/ngbgomo/library/bio/aragon_la.htm], a descendant of the Cherokee and Choctaw nations.
She is the
assistant adjutant general of the Oklahoma Air National Guard and the Air National Guard assistant to the assistant
secretary of the Air Force for financial management.
While researching the idea, Haney discovered that American Indian
women had a "homeland defense role," Agaron said. "When the men went off on hunts or to war, it was the women who picked up
weapons to defend their families, children and elders, and their homes and possessions," she noted.
Haney, a member
of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, did decide to do the painting and told Agaron he needed a model. "Since I don't fit the
image of a Native American, I asked a young Seneca who worked with me if she would like to help with the project," said Aragon,
who also has Irish, Russian, German and British ancestry.
The Seneca Indian is Army Maj. Vickie Morgan Jones, the first
woman in Oklahoma and first American Indian woman in the nation to become a helicopter pilot. She said she was also the first
woman to complete air assault school.
Jones, then a captain, agreed to pose for the painting wearing her mother's Seneca
dress. She also posed with her flight suit and helmet. Haney's painting depicts her as a Seneca woman righteously defending
her camp with a club in hand. In the upper right of the painting is a shadow of Jones in her flight suit as a 20th century
Native American protecting her homeland.
To the senator's surprise, "Heritage of Valor" became a financial success.
He sold the original for $10,000 and then went on to sell more than 500 signed prints. Haney donated a signed print to the
Women in Military Service For America Memorial in Arlington, Va.
"Although I posed for this painting, I prefer to be
a quiet person about it," Jones. "I'm without a doubt humbled about the experience, and wish not to outshine the purpose of
why 'Heritage of Valor' was done.
"I'm a proud Native American female who in her life has accomplished some things,"
continued Jones, 49, an operations and training officer for the Oklahoma Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command.
"None (of my accomplishments) were done for glorification or bragging rights. There are many other women in military service
who have accomplished more, regardless of what race she was."
After completing the painting, Haney said he hoped it
showed how important women have been as defenders. "As a lioness would defend her young, so do the women of this great nation
bravely volunteer to defend their families, their country, their heritage," he said. "Although it's not widely recognized,
women have fought for our freedom throughout our history.
"It's high time we honor the sacrifices made by these brave
women over the past 200 years, and the contributions they are making today, serving in the U.S. military throughout the world,"
the senator continued. "With the painting, I wanted to pay tribute to the women who have given so much to our great nation."
Haney "a great artist," Jones said that when she graduated from flight school, she'd planned to ask him to paint her wearing
the Seneca dress her mother, Cordelia Conner, had made. She wanted to be sitting on a painted horse with helicopters in the
"It wasn't meant to be at that time," she said.
When she was 19, the Army major said, she considered
following her father's footsteps into the Air Force, but decided she "wasn't mature enough to make a commitment like that."
Then, a few years later during a time of "self-discovery," she joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard's 279th Infantry Regiment
on March 24, 1978, and as her self-discovery evolved, she became heavily involved in American Indian religious ceremonies.
felt that I wanted to protect the land of my people," said Jones. "I was raised on an Air Force base in England and remember
the Bay of Pigs (the U.S.- backed invasion of Cuba on April 17, 1961).
"I wanted to know what to do in the event we
went to war and the missiles started flying, thinking I would have the knowledge given me from military training to help the
civilian population," she said.
Jones graduated from flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., in September 1981. "I had
no idea I was the first Native American female in the country (to graduate from the school)," she recalled, "but I did know
I would be the first female (pilot) in the Oklahoma Army National Guard."
Her first job as a pilot was as a medical
platoon leader. She flew missions in support of Guard units throughout Oklahoma until joining the active Guard in March 1989.
said everyone's service is important, not just that of American Indian women. "Freedom is what we as Americans can give to
our generations to come, so the importance of gender isn't an issue," she said. "I respect all races and believe each person
serving is important in making their contribution to preserving freedom."
American Indian military history is a subject
that should be discussed on military installations and ships at sea during American Indian Heritage Month, Jones said.
did talks last year to schools in my area, educating them about Ira Hayes (a Pima Indian Marine who helped raise the American
flag on Iwo Jima during World War II), Navajo code talkers and our Medal of Honor recipients," she noted. "Also, many individuals
have never been to a powwow. We have beautiful dances that have meanings."
Her father, Carl Glass Sr., was a full-blooded
Cherokee. He retired as an Air Force senior master sergeant in 1968. Her mother, Cordellia Bernice Conner, the
of the Seneca-Cayuga and Quapaw tribes, was a licensed practical nurse. "Both of my parents have left this world for one better,"
Her husband, Lt. Col. Paul Jones, 57, also is active duty Guard. A native of Muskogee, Okla., he is director
of military support with the responsibility of handling disasters that occur in the state. -- By Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service.