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Native Americans serve, speak and teach

By Joycelyn Biggs | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | November 13, 2014


November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

It comes after almost 100 years of urging from Indian and non-Indians to honor the contributions, achievements, sacrifices, cultural and historical legacies of the original inhabitants, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

There are many noteworthy contributions of Native Americans to the United States. One is the system of governing. According to House Concurrent Resolution 331, the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations contributed to the development of the United States Constitution.

It states the system was influenced by the political system developed by the Iroquois Confederacy. The resolution further states many of the democratic principles were also incorporated into the Constitution and both President George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, one of the United States’ founding fathers, greatly admired the concepts.

Native Americans continued to contribute to the United States throughout the years. During World War II, about 540 Navajos served as Marines. Of those, about 420 served as Navajo Code talkers.

They took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. Their mission was to transmit messages by telephone and radio in their native language.

This was an effective communication tool as the Japanese were never able to decipher the language, according to Naval History and Heritage Command website, www.history.navy.mil/.                

Another area of communication derived from the Native Americans is sign language. Deaf communities have adapted the concept by creating a system of hand gestures to communicate. Although the signals and gestures are different, the communication style was first used by Native Americans.

Native Amer-icans can also be credited with introducing Europeans to their effective farming techniques. Cherokee Indians practiced systems of crop rotation and crop placement to ensure a better harvest.

Crops would be rotated from field to field to allow land to rest and soil be replenished by its natural growth.

Crop placement practices included planting beans near corn to provide the beans a stalk to climb and provide corn with nitrogen from the beans, according to the website, nativeamericanencyclopedia.com. 

These contributions are a small sampling of the impact Native Americans have made, which led to the success of the United States.

This month is set aside to honor those contributions and educate the public of their important impact.