LOS ANGELES -- The team of people who make up the U.S. Army come from all walks of life and this year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District celebrated the 24th annual Native American Indian Heritage Month on Nov. 6.
“The theme for this year is ‘Native Pride and Spirit: Yesterday, Today and Forever,’” said Steven A. Weiss, program manager for American Indian and Alaskan Native Special Emphasis Program. “This year we were privileged to have a dynamic individual as our guest speaker; the director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, Dr. Joely Proudfit.”
The District keynote speaker, Proudfit, who is also the director of Native American academic strategic planning, and an associate professor of sociology and native studies from California State University in San Marcos said, “We have 110 federally recognized tribes here in California and we have over 50 (tribes) that are not.”
Proudfit is a descendant of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians and the founder and owner of Naqmayam Communications and the author of the forthcoming book, “American Indian Political Power in the New Millennium.”
“I come from the belief that being Indian is about our land, about our culture, and then it’s about our political and legal status,” said Proudfit. She said you need to know about your family and where you come from first.
The District has a long history of working with the tribes of the Southwest.
“These programs are important to me,” said the Corps' Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kim Colloton. “This is a way for us to honor the contributions of the American Indians and Alaska Natives. We (USACE) have been committed for many years to developing positive working relationships with tribes. We work with more than 170 tribes in our District.”
In addition to the District’s celebration held in the downtownLos Angeles building, it was broadcasted on video teleconference to USACE offices at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Edwards Air Force Base, Fort Irwin, Palmdale Area Office, Arizona and Nevada Area Office in Phoenix and the Las Vegas Area Office.
The declaration of this being National Native American Heritage Month was a Presidential proclamation signed by President Barack Obama, which stated, “Every year, our Nation pauses to reflect on the profound ways the First Americans have shaped our country's character and culture. The first stewards of our environment, early voices for the values that define our Nation, and models of government to our Founding Fathers -- American Indians and Alaska Natives helped build the very fabric of America. Today, their spirit and many contributions continue to enrich our communities and strengthen our country. During National Native American Heritage Month, we honor their legacy, and we recommit to strengthening our nation-to-nation partnerships.”
The guest speaker here is passionate about her heritage and ensuring America’s first people are treated fairly.
The final words of wisdom Proudfit offered the packed District conference room in working with Native Americans, “Do your research and find information about contemporary Native Americans to balance historical information. Try and find out what Indians are doing today. We are mini countries; we are nations within a nation; be tribally and regionally specific, if you are doing a project with Indians.”