PEARL HARBOR (NNS) - Commander, Navy Region Hawaii (CNRH) celebrated Native American Heritage month at Lockwood Hall on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Nov. 18.

Coordinated by Senior Chief Engineman (SW/AW) Sidney Coverson, CNRH equal opportunity advisor, the celebration, themed "Life is Sacred, Celebrate Healthy Native Communities," consisted of speeches, music and cultural dances promoting Native American heritage.

"This is what these events are all about—getting outside of your comfort zones and seeing different cultures, and there are so many different cultures here in Hawaii," said Coverson. "It's a blessing really to get that close to it."

Coverson also said that a lot of people don't realize how many Native Americans are actually in Hawaii.

"A lot of them come to Hawaii via the military," said Coverson. "They are here, and they do have a presence here."

The keynote speaker was Army and Navy veteran Phillip Cornejo, a Lipan Apache Native American, who advocates for and promotes the Native American community.

"We also need to recognize all the difference we are bringing here," said Cornejo. "We have a long history of service, a long history of fighting for our land. But we are not the only ones with that history. Many people have that history as well, and that's what I like to capitalize [on] when I talk about diversity."

Currently, more than 15,000 active duty, reserve, and civilian members of the Navy Total Force declare themselves American Indian or Alaska Native. The inclusion of Native Americans and their many experiences, talents and viewpoints are essential to the Navy's mission and operational readiness.

During the presentation, several Native Americans in their native garb performed traditional inter-tribal dances including a hoop dance, which is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from one to 30 hoops as props. The hoops were used to create static and dynamic shapes, representing various animals and storytelling elements.

One of the performers was Dr. David Bevett, a Shawnee/Cherokee Native American and military veteran.

"The theme is healthy communities, a healthy American community," said Bevett. "America, for us, is given to us by our creator to protect and to keep healthy. When we dance we hope that the audience can get something out of it. It fills us spiritually. We look forward in doing it again next year."

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Today, National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month is celebrated to recognize the intertribal cultures of Native Americans and to inform the public of the rich heritage, history, and traditions of American Indian and Native American peoples.

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 4.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives comprise 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population.

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