Fort McCoy News Dec. 8, 2017

National American Indian Heritage Month:

Honor past, keep traditions alive

STORY & PHOTO BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

Honor the past and keep traditions alive was the message of the National American Indian Heritage Month guest speaker during the Nov. 16 event at Fort McCoy, Wis.

Marla Nauni, who is Comanche, and Huron Band of Potawatomi, shared Comanche traditions and heritage with the Fort McCoy community during her presentation. Nauni is a singer, model, and actress from Cache, Okla. She's released two albums, "Comanche Hymns" and "Comanche Hymns II," and has performed throughout the country, including at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

Marla Nauni, a Native American performer and motivational speaker, speaks to Fort McCoy community members Nov. 13 at the National American Indian Heritage Month event at McCoy’s Community Center.
Marla Nauni, a Native American performer and motivational speaker,
speaks to Fort McCoy community members Nov. 13 at the National
American Indian Heritage Month event at McCoy's Community Center.

Nauni spoke about the connection between the Comanche and military service, pointing out that 1,240 Comanche have served in the armed forces since World War I, earning a number of honors.

Some of the most famous of them were the Comanche code talkers who participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. Descendants of the Comanche code talkers, along with those of other Native American nations, were given Congressional Gold Medals to honor their Family members' service in 2013.

Nauni is an auxiliary member of the Comanche Little Ponies. Historically, the Comanche Little Ponies watched over Comanche camps when the warriors left for battle or to hunt. The group was revived in the 1970s as a war dance society, Nauni said, to keep cultural traditions alive through song and dance.

Nauni described a traditional Comanche war dance as a social dance, intended to bestow honor upon warriors and veterans.
"The war dance was performed in a slow and dignified manner. There were no fancy steps," she said.

Nauni wore a traditional Comanche women's battle dress, saying that many of the pieces had been handed down to her.

"My sash was made by my great-great-grandmother," Nauni said. "My breastplate was given to me by my aunt. … She came to a point where she couldn't dance any longer, so she asked me to wear it in her honor and to wear it for those who can no longer dance."

Nauni said it was important to remember and carry on the traditions of the past. "We learn about who we are and who we were from the past, which helps us define who we are today and helps us strive to become who we will be in the future," she said.

Nauni also sang several Comanche hymns, including "Believe in Our Father, God" and "Come Little Brother, Come Little Sister."

The observance was coordinated by the 3rd Battalion, 340th Brigade Engineer Battalion, part of the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade.

The next Equal Opportunity observance at Fort McCoy will be for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.