Category Archives: Native American Heritage Month

Sovereignty, Trust and Resilience: National Native American Heritage Month

From Brig. Gen. Paul Owen

November is National Native American Heritage Month, honoring Native Americans and Alaska Natives, with a theme of “Sovereignty, Trust and Resilience.”  What a great theme that highlights Native Americans and their many contributions that have helped make our Army and our country great.

Within the U.S. military, Native Americans have honorably fought and served, with more than 20 in the U.S. Army alone earning the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military decoration.  Most have served quietly, with little or no recognition.  Some have served famously, and have become the stuff of legend, movies and books, such as the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II and Marine Corporal Ira Hayes, who raised one of the six flags immortalized in the flag raising at Iwo Jima.

Their military contributions continued far beyond World War II, into the Korean War, in the 1980s, 1990’s and this century, as they saw combat in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Altogether,   American Indians have earned 71 Air Medals, 51 Silver Stars, 47 Bronze Stars, 34 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 32 Medals of Honor.

Native Americans have a long and illustrious history throughout the Southwestern Division region, and their influence is still seen today.  Although they comprise a relatively small number of our workforce, they are still almost one fifth of the Native American percentage across USACE.  And they are our stakeholders, partners, and friends across our region.

The very names of the states within our Division all trace their roots back to American Indians.

  • Arkansas, from Acansa:  the name of a Quapaw Indian town and literally  means “southern or downstream place;”
  • Oklahoma, from Okla Homma:   “Red People” in the Chowtaw Indian language;
  • Texas, from tejas or taysha:  “friend” in the Caddo Indian language;
  • Missouri:  named for the  Missouri Indian tribe whose name means “town of the large canoes;”
  • And Kansas:  from the Kansa Indian tribe, literally “south” and meaning “people of the south wind.”

As November draws to its close, we will gather for our Thanksgiving holiday, that most American of all our holidays, and Native Americans will again be center stage.  The image of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony, with Pilgrims joined by the neighboring Wampanoag Indians, is forever part of our national consciousness and forms part of the great bond that we have with as Americans.

America’s Army is highly capable and we will continue to leverage the strengths of our diverse, all volunteer force, which includes more than 9,000 Native Americans in the Total Army.  Embracing and celebrating diversity makes our Army stronger, and we are dedicated to ensuring equality for all our Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members.

I encourage you to read more about Native Americans during this period of heightened awareness.  More information is available about Native Americans in the U.S. Army at https://www.army.mil/americanindians/.

Mission/People/Teamwork – Pacesetter!


Some Things are Better Left Undisturbed

Looting or vandalizing a Native American burial ground, or digging for or removing archaeological artifacts from government property is an escalating problem, and action is being taken to stop it. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has partnered with various agencies such as the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Historic Preservation, and the Osage Nation to spread awareness about the issue and step up efforts to stem the escalating problem of looting.

The goal of this partnership is to not only increase the number of investigations taking place in order to deter individuals from seeking out artifacts on government lands, but to also seek out convictions to show that this is a serious issue that will not be taken lightly.

Aaron Boswell, a ranger for the Little Rock District, installs looting signage at one of the Corps’ many parks. Signage is now being placed at Corps parks in order to bring exposure to the penalties one will incur if found in violation of the law. Not only will perpetrators face prison time up to 5 years without parole, fines can also amount to $250,000.

Signage is now being placed at Corps parks in order to bring exposure to the penalties one will incur if found in violation of the law. Not only will perpetrators face prison time up to five years without parole, fines can also amount to $250,000. Two Arkansan men were recently sentenced to 36 months of jail time and were each ordered to pay restitution of $2,000.

However, this is not an issue solely relegated to Arkansas. In Mississippi, six individuals were sentenced in federal court after being convicted of removing artifacts from government land. Removing or digging up archeological artifacts on federal or tribal lands is a violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. In this particular case artifacts were removed from Corps of Engineers property. Each individual’s sentence varied with one having to pay restitution of more than $41,000.

Excavating for artifacts and selling them for monetary gain is not only unethical, it’s a gross violation of Native Americans’ spiritual beliefs. These artifacts are not merely objects of art, they are sacred. When asked why these items are viewed as sacred, Casandra Beaver a Navajo Indian and Little Rock District Administrative Assistant stated, “When someone is looting and digging up these artifacts they are taking away a part of our heritage. When these objects are created we are putting a spirit into them, they have a purpose, and they have meaning.”

Another reason that this situation is problematic is due to cultural resources not being renewable. When asked for an example of what this means, Little Rock District Archaeologist and Tribal Liaison Allen Wilson, responded, “There are no more Mississippian sites being created. When people destroy areas such as this, or remove artifacts, it takes away from our body of knowledge about the cultures in these regions. The resources that we have to pull from are already limited. It’s about history preservation.”