NAIHM: Our roots run deep

  • Published
  • By Erica Sanders
  • 97th Security Force Squadron

Hearing the rhythm of drums and graceful sounds of the flute being played at “Our Native Roots Run Deep” intertribal community event deeply moved me. Bringing tears to my eyes, for what our people had to go through but also for where we stand today and being able to celebrate and embrace our culture. Then stepping out of the performance center and seeing the mountains at Quartz Mountain State Park was just a surreal feeling.

I am Erica Sanders, and I was honored to have been able to organize this year's “Our Native Roots Run Deep” intertribal community event which complemented the DoD’s theme of “Tribal Nations Soaring to New Heights” in honor of National American Indian Heritage Month.

 I had the opportunity to connect with multiple people across the state, which meant a lot to me to bring something so beautiful to our rural area and to honor our cultural heritage in many ways, by showcasing beading, art, music and the excellent performances from the Comanche Nation Youth Dancers.

Having Chief Jason Goodblanket, Traditional Cheyenne Chief, speak at the event alongside our special guest Gaby Nagel, a flutist from Arkansas of the Eastern Cherokee Nation, was an honor.

My desire was to spread awareness and bring the Native American culture to our Altus Air Force community to have Airmen and their families enjoy a full month of celebration and to honor our heritage, by way of a Spirit Run, Pottery Painting Class, and the Intertribal community event.

My grandmother always said we were of an indigenous lineage, which, in recent years, has directly impacted my life and I crave to learn more about my heritage and roots. This is where I believe our theme “Our Native Roots Run Deep’ came from. I have so much respect for my Latin and Native roots. I have been self-taught to bead in the last two years and have been quilting the last eight years.

All of this has influenced me to learn more for myself and teach others about our culture and heritage. My husband and children are also part of the Choctaw Nation tribe, and we want our children to embrace their heritage. We are proud to be Choctaw “Chahta Sia Hoke.”

We have come far as an Air Force and a nation that embraces all cultures and differences and continues to stand together as one. I look forward to seeing where we can go from here.