To celebrate the achievements of American Indians, Fort Riley will host a National American Indian Heritage Month observance Nov. 20 at Riley's Conference Center.
The event will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature American Indian cuisine, as well as a presentation from guest speaker Polly Davis, former 1st Infantry Division Soldier who was stationed at Fort Riley and is now a student at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and her husband, Ryan Harjo, an American Indian storyteller and flute player.
The month of November is designated by Congress and the president as a time to reflect on the rich traditions and accomplishments, as well as the suffering and injustices, that mark the history of American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.
The theme for 2013, "Guiding Our Destiny with Heritage and Traditions," was chosen by the Society of American Indian Government Employees.
Davis was assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., while she was at Fort Riley. She is a senior in business administration with an emphasis in tribal management at Haskell. She is a member of several veterans clubs on campus and serves on the clubs' color guard.
The event is free and open to the public. Davis and Harjo will share traditional American Indian stories handed down from generation to generation and discuss American Indian heritage.
Recognizing the contributions of American Indians to the Army and the nation, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III tri-signed a "National American Indian Heritage Month" letter for the November observance.
"Throughout our Army's 238-year history, American Indians have served valiantly and with distinction in times of peace and war, while also fighting for the right to be an equal part of our nation," the Army leaders said.
American Indians served in the Army in every war in U.S. history, as well as in peacetime. Additionally, 25 American Indians have received the nation's highest award for valor – the Medal of Honor.
"This legacy continues today with the brave Soldiers who have served and continue to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. We are proud of their service and honored by their sacrifices," the letter read. "We encourage our Army family to commemorate (Native Americans') contributions that help make our Army what it is today – Army Strong."
IN ARMY'S RANKS
In 2012, 8,138 Native Americans served in the Army, according to Dr. Betty D. Maxfield, chief, Office of Army Demographics. Of these, 3,705 were active-duty enlisted, 92 were warrant officers and 405 were officers. The Army National Guard had 2,483 enlisted, 56 warrant officers and 159 officers. The Army Reserve had 1,055 enlisted, 22 warrant officers and 161 officers.
Ten years earlier in 2002, 8,598 Native Americans served in the Army, Maxfield said. Of these, 3,665 were active-duty enlisted, 80 were warrant officers and 376 were officers. The Army National Guard had 2,680 enlisted, 39 warrant officers and 139 officers. The Army Reserve had 1,344 enlisted, 14 warrant officers and 261 officers.
Throughout the month of November, installations Armywide will honor Native Americans with special events like tribal dances, art exhibits, food and historical displays.