REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – As part of National American Indian Heritage Month, guests from Sacred Way Sanctuary and the Native American Women Warriors took front and center Nov. 13 at Redstone Arsenal’s Bob Jones Auditorium.
Dr. Yvette Running Horse Collin, co-founder of Sacred Way Sanctuary, served as keynote speaker during the observance, which was organized by Huntsville Center’s Equal Employment Opportunity office in coordination with Team Redstone and U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
Sacred Way Sanctuary is an education and research facility in Florence, Alabama, dedicated to preserving the Native American horse and other animals sacred to indigenous peoples of the Americas.
A substantial part of Collin’s research is indigenous archaeology, but she frames her work as part of a living, breathing endeavor that holds relevance to the “contemporary experience of native peoples around the world” to promote action and change by “incorporating our traditional knowledge – our native ways of knowing – into the western world today.”
Collin characterizes indigenous peoples as “keepers of knowledge” accumulated over tens of thousands of years. This includes not only indigenous peoples of the Americas, but throughout the world.
“A lot of times we think of them as people from a long time ago, and what I want to talk about today is how we’re very much here, and I really think we’re going to be a very big part of the future,” Collin said.
Also a big part of the event were the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female group of Native American veterans who fulfilled the role of color guard and who performed a tribal dance.
Still, the group’s appearance at the Redstone event showed only part of what NAWW does.
NAWW’s president and founder is Mitchelene BigMan, a retired Army sergeant first class who founded the nonprofit association to advocate for Native American women veterans in areas such as health care, education and employment. The group, which is based in Pueblo, Colorado, makes appearances at events around the country serving not only as color guards and cultural performers, but also as keynote and motivational speakers.
Lt. Col. H. W. Hugh Darville, deputy commander of Huntsville Center, emphasized the importance of staying connected to the knowledge and culture of Native Americans, as well as recognizing their lasting contributions to the U.S. Army and the nation.
“In any organization, any country, diversity gives you more strength,” Darville said. “If we lose diversity in our culture, we also lose some different perspectives, different knowledge – so it’s really not just remembering that; it’s making sure that we’re inclusive of all cultures and all perspectives that make up who we are – because that makes us all stronger.”