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Knox celebrates Native American heritage

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The sights and sounds of Native American culture were abundant Friday at the Fort Knox Sadowski Center.

Members of the Kentucky American Indian Resource and Community Center performed traditional dances to the beat of drums and vocals, demonstrating one aspect of Native American culture. At one point, the group also drew in members of the crowd to participate, drawing many laughs and smiles from those in attendance.

Keynote speaker of the event Mike Tolbert of the Sault Saint Marie Chippewa Tribe, who also participated as one of the drummers during the performance, said dances have always been significant in the lives of Native Americans both for amusement and duty. Many dances played a vital role in religious rituals and other ceremonies, while others were performed to guarantee the success of hunts and harvests, giving thanks and other celebrations.

“This was a good way for us to come together and express ourselves and culture,” he said to those in attendance. “I hope you not only learn something but enjoy it, as well.”

The performance was part of the Fort Knox 2017 National American Indian Heritage Month Observance. November is observed each year as Native American Heritage Month, which is sometimes referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

“The month is a time to honor the contributions, achievements,
sacrifices and cultural historical legacies of native people,” said 1st Sgt. Bridgett Burns-McDowell. “It is also the time to educate the general public and raise awareness about the unique challenges native people have faced historically and in the present.”

Major Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, host of the Friday’s ceremonies, agreed. He said it’s a time to pay tribute to the contributions of native peoples.

In her essay presentation, Scott Middle School seventh grade student Betsy Sheppard said the contributions of Native Americans to society are almost “limitless.”

“We can’t even begin to wrap our minds around all of the things we do in our daily lives that were first done by Native Americans,” she said. “Our food, the way we farm, games we play. We have the Native Americans to thank for all of these things that we enjoy doing. Native Americans are the predominate reason our society is the way it is.”

Essay presentations were also given by
Scott Middle School sixth graders Iona Prendergast and Marcus Glanville. Prendergast said Native Americans are an important part to the country’s history.

“If it weren’t for the Native American roots, the United States would look a lot different today,” she said.

Glanville echoed the same sentiments.

“Native Americans have been a huge influence on this prosperous nation: things like aiding in the exploration of new lands, to being brave Soldiers in time of war,” he said. “Native Americans’ contributions to the United States are important.”

Glanville named
several memorable Native American figures in history, such as Sacagawea, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Black Hawk and Pocahontas.

Prendergast had also mentioned Susan La Flesche, and urged
those in attendance to not forget that Native Americans “gave us the gift of having people to admire.” n