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NEWS | Nov. 24, 2014

JBER Service Members Host National Native American Heritage Month Celebration

By Sgt. Brian Ragin 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs

The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Equal Opportunity Office hosted an event to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month honoring Alaska Natives in song and dance at JBER’s Frontier Theater Nov. 13, 2014.

Alaskan Natives set up several displays depicting the Alaskan Native culture to include clothing, toys, jewelry and instruments. The Alaskan Native Heritage Center and Naaludisk Gwaiiyatki Dance groups performed songs and danced with Service Members from the Air Force and Army.

American Indian artwork was exhibited in the rear of the theater by a Native American artist, and there was cake and Indian Flat bread served after the event.

The guest speaker was Cindy Pennington, an Anchorage native who is from the Sugpiaq Heritage.

“We are hoping, the Sugpiaq people are hoping, that some day that we won’t have people look at us with a blank look,” Pennington said. “That you will know exactly who the Sugpiaq people are of Alaska.”

Pennington was the first Alaska Native woman to be accepted into the Anchorage Police Department Academy. She worked for the Alaska Native profit and nonprofit organizations for over 30 years with Alaska Native profit and nonprofit organizations such as the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

An active community member, Pennington has also helped to create the Alaska Native Women’s Sexual Assault Committee to deal with the issue of violence committed against Alaska’s local women.

Signifying the importance of National Native American Heritage Month, President Barack Obama recently stated that this month we must not ignore the painful history Native Americans endured over a history of violence, marginalization, broken promises, and upended justice.

“When I was growing up I really didn’t know about my culture,” said Pennington. ”That was because of the era when I was growing up [1970s]. You weren’t supposed to be native. You were supposed to try to be American. A lot of people say I came from a culture that had an identity crisis.”

“As we observe National American Indian Heritage Month, we must build on this work,” said Obama. “Let us shape a future worthy of a bright new generation. And together, let us ensure this country’s promise is fully realized for every Native American.”

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