Ramstein Air Base Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Olivia Sampson
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Every November, the Department of Defense joins the Nation in celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month. It’s an opportunity to recognize the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, stories and important contributions of Native American and Alaskan Native peoples.

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act, passed on Aug. 11, 1978, is aimed to restore fundamental civil liberties to American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians. It sought to enable them to exercise their inherent freedom to believe, express, and engage in traditional religious rites, spiritual activities, and cultural practices.

For Grace Elliott, military spouse, Sicangu Oyate or Burnt Thigh Nation member and Ramstein Officers Club employee, and her family, preserving their culture and heritage has been a multigenerational endeavor.

“My parents are older than the right to practice our culture without fear of prosecution,” Grace said. “However, we are always pushing for a way to show our heritage and pride for future generations.”

Staying in touch with her heritage and culture has been an important part of Grace’s life.

“I can track back 7 generations. I am the direct descendant of Chief Ironshell,” Grace said. “Knowing our relatives and our ancestors kept us grounded. I believe one of the most important parts of [National American Indian Heritage Month] is that it brings awareness to the injustice and perseverance of the people of my culture.”
Grace explains that learning to understand Native American customs and taking care to represent them appropriately are ways to celebrate her culture, highlighting the key differences between honoring Native American culture and cultural appropriation.

“To honor Native peoples is to listen to Native Voices and be an ally,” Grace said.

She also shared the significance of using the platform of this month as a way to spread awareness about Native American specific campaigns. This includes movements to highlight and acknowledge the higher likelihood of Native American women to experience certain types of discrimination and crime, according to Grace..
There are many reasons honoring National American Indian Heritage Month is critical to the continued growth in America, but understanding, compassion and honoring Native American culture is why celebrating this month is important to ensuring our diversity continues to make us a stronger nation.

During the month, Ramstein Air Base participated in celebrating the culture and heritage of Native American Indian Heritage Month, featuring events including the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society and the Zotigh Singers, which was live streamed at the Hercules Theater. They also had Library Storytime on indigenous culture at the Vogelweh and Ramstein libraries.

National American Indian Heritage Month provides an occasion to acknowledge the rich and varied cultures of Native American and Alaskan peoples, while also raising awareness of the injustices they have faced and their remarkable resilience, all the while celebrating their culture in a fitting manner.