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Native American Heritage Month
Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.- Dancers from the Denver Indian Center, representing both Northern and Southern Lakota Sioux tribe and Eastern Shawnee tribe performed the Southern Straight Dance. ( U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Marcy Glass )
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Buckley Warriors Pow Wow With Lakota, Yaqui and Shawnee Warriors

Posted 11/22/2010   Updated 12/1/2010 Email story   Print story


by Janet Watkins
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

11/22/2010 - 11/22/2010 -- Mother, Father, Great Creator,
Thank you for giving us life
Please continue to smooth our path
As we make our journey through life
So that we the people may continue to live, love, and learn

Opening Prayer for the 2010 Native American Heritage Month Observance - Delivered by TSgt Deann Gallegos, ARPC

There are interesting parallels between the warrior cultures of America's past and the warrior culture that protects our country today. "Integrity First; Service Before Self; Excellence in All We Do" are the USAF core values, gleaned in no small part from the Native American sentiment that character counts. Buckley, in the form of 2nd Lt. Jared Rutkovitz, 460th Contracting Squadron, welcomed Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Bob Vasquez, Course Director for the U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Character Development's VECTOR! (Vital Effective Character Through Observation and Reflection) to the Buckley Air Force Base Native American Heritage Month Observance Nov. 19, and got a first-hand lesson on being an American warrior.

Chief Vasquez grew up in a southern New Mexico tribe of Yaqui Indians, went on to serve his country for 31 years in the Air Force and is now responsible for mentoring the freshman class of our own Air Force Academy. He began by explaining the "sacred". The number four is considered sacred, as are circle and pyramid shapes to Native Americans. Expanding on the idea that the number four is sacred, Chief outlined the four essential qualities of a "warrior."

RESPECT - Everything and Everyone - The Great Creator made everything, so everything and everyone is entitled to respect. With the coarsening of our society, simple etiquette is often ignored. Ever notice how many people do not hesitate to interrupt someone speaking? Native American culture provided a simple remedy in the form of a "talking stick." CMSgt Vasquez had brought a beautiful example of a talking stick with him which he described as a cherished article that had been blessed. Very simply, the person holding the talking stick was the only person who should be talking.

HUMILITY - One has to do no more than go outside, take in Colorado's "purple mountains' majesty" and be humbled. (Chief Vasquez related that the Rockies at 7 a.m. in the morning, in the vicinity of Monument, really are purple.)

VISION - At this point the Chief engaged members of the Denver Indian Center's dance Troupe, asking if their Lakota Sioux and Eastern Shawnee Nation tribes participated in vision quests - they did. A vision quest seeks to provide young warriors with their life and spiritual direction. Chief Vasquez advised that the vision quest for Buckley's warriors involves how they see themselves; how they see others; and how others see them. "See yourself as good!" proclaimed the Chief. As far as how others see us, Chief reminded that "We are always on parade!"....in uniform and out of uniform.

GRATITUDE - Chief Vasquez says, "I start my day at 4 a.m. because four is sacred, and then I give thanks for all I have and all I'm blessed with." The Chief related a time from his active duty days when his office gave him full view of the flight line. "When a C-5 or a C-17 came in making a certain turn, I knew to head to the flight line." The Chief was there to render respect for the fallen lying beneath the flags draped over them. "Chiefs don't cry, but sometimes their eyeballs sweat." Chief Vasquez said the occasions left him overwhelmed with two emotions - sadness and gratitude. "They gave their lives for me," he shared. The Chief then warned - "Take care of your families! One thing we take for granted as warriors is family."

Chief Vasquez is an interesting speaker, compelling attention, and bridging the worlds between our modern warrior culture and the still observed practices of our Native American culture. Equally powerful were the drummers and dancers from the Denver Indian Center. The group that visited Buckley represented both Northern and Southern dancers from the Lakota Sioux (Northern) tribe and the Eastern Shawnee (Southern) tribe. They first explained that the drum, which had been kept carefully covered and attended until the performance, was the "heartbeat of our tribe." They performed the Southern Straight Dance - Indian warriors would stake themselves to the ground, fighting until they were relieved or dead, protecting their escaping village. A young woman named Lara, described as a Pow Wow Princess, performed the Jingle Dance, described as a "healing dance", in a dress covered with small tin cones. The drummers next struck up the "Sneak Up Song', which depicted the tribe working together in tactical ways to sneak up on their enemies. The "Crow Hop' was an intertribal dance where everyone joined in. The regalia on the dancers included head pieces (called a "roach") made from deer and porcupine hair and eagle feathers, and circles of eagle feathers upon their backs called "bustles." So intent was the audience upon the dancers and drummers that nothing could be heard throughout the Leadership Development Center but the drums and the singers issuing primal wails and cries, and the footsteps of the dancers. The performance left one with the hint of another time, and brought up a surge of pride - this is the very essence of the heritage of our country. That "character counts" in our warrior culture, and has always counted in Native American culture is what makes us unique in all the world.

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