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News > Native American airman celebrates heritage and military
Native American airman celebrates heritage and military

Posted 4/7/2012   Updated 1/22/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Senior Airman Victoria Greenia
158th Fighter Wing


4/7/2012 - SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- There are many ways to honor our military members - some people place flowers on graves, or hold a hand over their hearts, or bow their heads in somber silence. Airman 1st Class Takara Matthews, a pay technician in Finance here on base, honors veterans through the poetry of motion and sacred tribal music. On April 7 she was a proud representative of both her tribe and the military to participate in the first Warrior Spirit Pow Wow for honoring American Veterans and current service members at Norwich University.

"The history of a Pow Wow is very simple: It's a Native American festival," Matthews said. "A get-together of celebrating ones culture, heritage and life." She also said that everyone is welcome to the family-oriented alcohol-free events. The dancing was divided in categories yet there was free-form as the dancers waited to be moved by the music from the group of singers who were gathered around a large drum. She said it was a great way to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones with singing, dancing, and food.

Matthews, 28, was raised in Swanton and spent much of her childhood deeply involved with the Missisquoi Sokoki tribe. She was blessed with a rich heritage of cultures; her mother is Abenaki, Mohawk, and French Canadian. Her father is African-American, Seminole, and Lumbee (a Native-American tribe from the region of North Carolina.) Growing up, her social life revolved around her heritage background and she was involved with many youth groups including: Dawn Land Youth Group, Circle of Courage Youth Group and W'Abenaki youth camp.

Perhaps it is the Native American values soaked into her that guided Matthews into the military: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Native Americans "view service, sacrifice, and courage as important values and part of an individual's journey to becoming a leader, protector, and agent of change for his/her family or tribe." These values, cited the website, are the reasons why Native Americans represent the largest ethnic group per capita in the U.S. military.

Many Native Americans have sacrificed their lives while in the U.S. military and their descendents have not forgotten. Although the Warrior Spirit Pow Wow at Plumley Armory on the University campus was specifically dedicated to honoring veterans, Matthews said, "If you go to any Pow Wow and they don't do an honor song to veterans, I guarantee you will see people walking away out of disgust."

Matthews brings her culture with her everywhere she goes; through a volunteer program she visits schools where she promotes dance and her native culture to encourage kids to try activities that do not involve alcohol. Summer is a busy time of the year for her because it's the primetime for Pow Wows and she travels the east coast to compete in dancing. While winning is nice, it's the relationships she builds along the way with people she meets that makes it rewarding.

"I have danced since I was four years old," she said. "I now have a seven year old under my wing and she has danced since the day she could walk. This is a lifestyle for me and I am very proud of all my cultures [being African American and Native American]. I just happen to be raised richly in my native culture and very proud of that."




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