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Warrior tradition: MacDill celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Brian “Blue Jay” Littlejohn, of the Cherokee nation, plays a drum with his grandson Kyler during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.  Littlejohn performed traditional Cherokee dances during the celebration.

Brian “Blue Jay” Littlejohn, of the Cherokee nation, plays a drum with his grandson Kyler during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Littlejohn performed traditional Cherokee dances during the celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

U.S. Air Force Col. Steve Snelson, the 6th Air Refueling Wing commander, provides opening remarks during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.  The event featured traditional dance, songs and art provided by members of the Cherokee, Kiowa and Navajo Nations.

U.S. Air Force Col. Steve Snelson, the 6th Air Refueling Wing commander, provides opening remarks during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The event featured traditional dance, songs and art provided by members of the Cherokee, Kiowa and Navajo Nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

U.S. Air Force Airmen with Team MacDill stand in line to sample traditional Native American foods during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.  National Native American Heritage Month is held every November to recognize the contributions of American Indians to the development and growth of the U.S.

U.S. Air Force Airmen with Team MacDill stand in line to sample traditional Native American foods during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. National Native American Heritage Month is held every November to recognize the contributions of American Indians to the development and growth of the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

Brian “Blue Jay” Littlejohn and his grandson Kyler, of the Cherokee nation, perform a traditional Cherokee dance during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.  The event featured traditional dance, songs and art provided by members of the Cherokee, Kiowa and Navajo Nations.

Brian “Blue Jay” Littlejohn and his grandson Kyler, of the Cherokee nation, perform a traditional Cherokee dance during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The event featured traditional dance, songs and art provided by members of the Cherokee, Kiowa and Navajo Nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

U.S. Air Force Airmen with Team MacDill participate in a traditional Cherokee dance during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. National Native American Heritage Month is held every November to recognize the contributions of American Indians to the development and growth of the U.S.

U.S. Air Force Airmen with Team MacDill participate in a traditional Cherokee dance during a Native American Heritage Month Celebration, Nov. 21, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. National Native American Heritage Month is held every November to recognize the contributions of American Indians to the development and growth of the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla --

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Indians constitute less than two percent of the nation’s population. Despite their small number, the Department of Defense acknowledges that today’s military successes depend heavily on Native Americans with 31,000 serving on active duty and 140,000 living veterans.

To commemorate the military service of American Indians and celebrate their contribution to the U.S., MacDill Air Force Base hosted a Native American Heritage Month celebration, Nov. 21, 2019.

The event showcased Navajo art, traditional Cherokee dances and traditional Pow Wow Songs from the Kiowa and Cherokee Nations.

Members of Team MacDill filled the chapel annex, sampled traditional native foods participated in traditional dances.

“Just look around the room, and you can see how diverse our organization is,” said Col. Steve Snelson, the 6th Air Refueling Wing commander.  “Embracing diversity makes us better as a nation, and it makes us better as a military.”

According to Eric Vichich, the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron cultural resources program manager, even after everything American Indians have endured throughout history, they continue to serve in the armed forces at a higher rate than any other demographic in the U.S.

“They have a warrior tradition, this is their home, and they are going to continue to defend it,” said Vichich.

National Native American Heritage Month was designated in 1990, and is celebrated every November as a way to recognize the contributions of American Indians to the establishment and growth of the nation.