Arsenal honors American Indian heritage

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A colorful celebration of American Indian culture, while also recognizing those who have served our nation.  Local 4’s Emily Scarlett takes us Inside the Gates of the Rock Island Arsenal for their National American Indian Heritage Month celebration.

Ronald Preston was a performer at the event. He tells Local 4 News, “This dance originated amongst the plains people where the grass grew very tall and these young men would be chosen to go out into these fields of tall prairie grass and stomp the grass down using their feet so they could have a gathering like we’re having here today.”
 
“Back then we didn’t have John Deere lawn mowers.”
 
This military style pow-wow not only honored the culture, but the American Indians who have served, featuring ethnic foods and a tribal dance performance.
 
The yarn is said to represent grass blowing in the wind. It is just one part of his colorful regalia – not to be confused with a costume. 
 
“This is my native regalia or my outfit. We don’t call it a costume,” says Preston.
 
Another common misconception, the role of the American Indians in the military.
 
The event’s keynote speaker, JoAnn Schudler says, “We fought in every war from the time of the Revolutionary War and we have the highest number of people in the military of any ethnic group in the United States.”
 
This program was the Arsenal’s way of honoring National American Heritage Month.
 
“It’s really important to understand our United States, our Constitution, who we are as all different people,” says Schudler.
 
One little known fact, despite their early involvement in American wars, American Indians were not granted U.S. citizenship until 1924.
 
Schudler tells Local 4, “My parents were born [here] and they weren’t citizens of the United States.”
 
It was not until after World War I that this changed.
 
“I have two citizenships. I am a citizen of my tribe and I am a citizen of the United States, which did not happen until after World War I,” says Schudler.
 
Really, giving Native Americans two reasons to serve.
 
Preston says, “Native warriors were the first to give their-selves to defend their country, because this was their land.”
 
It is a tradition that continues today.

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