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December 14, 2012

Observances

Event honors National Native American Heritage

Two members of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Northern Wisconsin talked about the role of military service in the Native American community as well as their continuing service to their communities during Fort McCoy’s observance of National Native American Heritage Month Nov. 27.

Alan Caldwell and Dennis Kenote related how they used their military experience as a springboard to become tribal leaders. Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity Adviser Master Sgt. Matthew Fitzgibbons said they were invited to speak to provide an example of how military personnel can share their service with the community and use it as a starting point to develop community leadership skills and to provide community service.
PHOTO: Members of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Northern Wisconsin were the guest speakers at the Fort McCoy. Photo by Rob Schuette.
Alan Caldwell (left) and Dennis Kenote of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Northern Wisconsin were the guest speakers at the Fort McCoy National Native American Heritage observance. 
(Photo by Rob Schuette)

Caldwell served in the Army from 1969-71, at Fort Hood, Texas and Primasens, West Germany, as a personnel specialist who reached the rank of specialist 5. He became a teacher, elementary school principal, athletic coach, college professor and consultant. He currently is commander of the Veterans of the Menominee Nation.

Kenote served in the U.S. Navy from 1964-66 and visited 18 countries as a boatswain mate (E-4). After his military service, he worked for the Wisconsin Public Service utilities company in Green Bay for 25 years. In addition to serving on the Veterans of the Menominee Nation, he currently serves as the vice chairman of the Menominee Language and Culture Commission. In that role, he often provides invocations and prayers in the Menominee language for veterans and community activities. Kenote presented a follow up invocation — to the garrison chaplain’s prayer — in the Menominee language at the observance.

“Native Americans have the highest military service rate (recruits-to-population ratio) of any ethnic group in the U.S.,” Kenote said. “The Menominee County/Menominee Indian Reservation has the highest percentage of veterans among the general population in the State of Wisconsin and the second highest enlistment rate of all the counties in the United States just behind Shannon County, Kansas located at Fort Riley.”

Caldwell said military service is very popular among Native Americans as it gives them a chance to learn a trade or go to school. In many instances, it also helps out Families economically because it gives them one less person to feed and clothe. Servicemembers often send part of their pay home to help support their Families, as well.

Military service also relates very well with the Warrior Ethos of the Menominee Tribe, Caldwell said.

PHOTO: Members of the Fort McCoy community listen to the guest speakers at the National Native American Heritage Month observance. Photo by Rob Schuette
Members of the Fort McCoy community listen to the guest speakers at the Fort McCoy observance of National Native American Heritage Month. The speakers talked about the importance and meaning of military and community service to their tribal counterparts.
(Photo by Photo by Rob Schuette)

Tribal members have a duty to protect their homeland, and this also extends to protecting the United States, he said. In the Native American community, veterans use the skills they’ve acquired to provide leadership.

“Military service is one step in the circle of life,” Caldwell said. “The warriors of today will be the protectors of tomorrow.”

After their military career, both Caldwell and Kenote have been active in serving their community.

They participate in various fundraisers, which have returned money to the community for scholarships, elder parties for the holiday season, etc.

Both give back to the community, such as greeting veterans returning from deployment, especially wounded warriors.

Nathaniel Nez Jr., the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs point of contact for the Tribal Governments of the federally recognized Wisconsin American Indian Tribes and their respective Tribal Veterans Service Officers and Tribal Veterans, also attended the luncheon.

Fitzgibbons said Nez volunteered to see how observances are conducted at Fort McCoy and may help coordinate a future Native American event at the installation.

As Fort McCoy and other Army organizations celebrated Native American Heritage Month, the Army has consulted with leaders of federally recognized tribes to provide new policy for Army-tribal relationships, according to an Army News Service story.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh signed a new policy Oct. 24. The “American Indian and Alaska Native Policy” seeks to “build stable and enduring government-to-government relations with federally recognized tribes in a manner that sustains the Army mission and minimizes effects on protected tribal resources.”

It continues: “The Army will communicate with federally recognized tribes on a government-to-government basis in recognition of their sovereignty.”

“The policy establishes Armywide guidance for Soldiers at all levels, as well as Army civilians, on communicating with and understanding the concerns of tribes, including their rights, lands and resources,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment.

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott said Caldwell’s and Kenote’s service and presentation provide an important lesson to the Fort McCoy community.

It’s important for all veterans to share their stories with members of their community, Nott said. The stories will be told so it’s important that veterans provide their real-life version of what occurred during their service.

For more information about ethnic observances in the Fort McCoy community, call the Equal Opportunity adviser at 608-388-3246.

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