Team MacDill celebrates Native American Heritage month

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The sound of chanting and a pounding drum filled the room as service members and family gathered in the base chapel. Native American artifacts and items filled a table while a guest speaker shared the history of a Native American tribe.

Native American Heritage month was celebrated at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 29, 2016 with a luncheon featuring Rey Becerra, the community outreach specialist with the Seminole Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum located on the Big Cypress Indian Reservation in Hendry County, Florida.

Team MacDill invited Becerra to share his knowledge of the Seminole tribe.

“The Seminole tribe was created by members of the Creek tribe from areas in Georgia and Alabama,” said Becerra. “These people fled to Florida to find peace from the Europeans and the name ‘Seminole’ comes from a name meaning, ‘live free in the woods.’”

While Becerra shared the rich history of the Seminole, guests enjoyed fry bread tacos, a common dish among many tribes.

“According to the Smithsonian, fry bread dates back 150 years, first recorded being made by the Navajo,” said Capt. John Blue Star, a clinical psychologist with the 6th Medical Operations Squadron and coordinator of the event. “While the recipe was created during a time of hardship, today, fry bread is a symbol of Native American pride and unity.”

With one Seminole reservation located in Tampa, Seminole culture influence surrounds MacDill.

“Events like the luncheon are a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community,” said Maj. Robert Old Crow, chief of current operations with the 6th Operations Support Squadron. “Everyone at MacDill are from all walks of life, and Native American heritage, including Seminole, is no question.”

During the conclusion of the day’s luncheon, Becerra invited everyone to a table laid out with Seminole artifacts including tools, toys and other items from the tribe.

One item that stood out among the rest was a handmade doll. Made out of wood, the doll stood around 12 inches tall and wore a colorful garment, much like what a Seminole man or woman would wear.

“Dolls like these were made by the Seminole so the children had something to play with,” explained Becerra. “The Seminole people had to make them by hand because during the 1800s, general stores refused to do business with them.”

The event was a time for members of Team MacDill to celebrate accomplishments made by Native Americans and remember diversity is an important part of the Air Force, Blue Star said.

“I am honored to have Choctaw and Cherokee ancestry,” said Blue Star. “And I know many others in attendance also have a connection or appreciation for Native American people, past and present.”