MSC Observes National Native American Heritage Month
By Shevonne Cleveland, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
Military Sealift Command joined the nation this November in celebrating National American Heritage Month with the theme “Standing Together.” Military and civilian teammates gathered for the observance at Ely Hall at Naval Station Norfolk.
Guest speaker of the event, author and poet Tanya Liverman, also known as “Spirited Dancer” is a member of the Nantickoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of Bridgeton, NJ. During the presentation, Liverman shared customs and traditions of her heritage including the traditional naming process.
“Within our tribe we have something unique, not one name has ever been repeated. In our tribe there is only one Spirted Dancer, and my representation is a dancing eagle,” said Liverman. “Every name has a character and you wait until that characteristic is displayed within someone before naming them. It’s an honor to receive that name, and be that name and cherish it because you are what that name is.”
Liverman who is three-fourths Native American spoke about the challenges Native Americans still face for recognition.
“It wasn’t until 1924 that we were recognized as citizens”, said Liverman. “And my tribe started in 1979 when we finally came out of hiding. We’ve always been who we are, but due to assimilation and things from the past, it made Native Americans flee later on and assimilation rolled them into different areas. Based on that history we had people who were light-skinned who moved to Pennsylvania and passed as Caucasian. We had people who were more darker-skinned that got drafted into slavery, and we had people who were medium-skinned who were thought to be Hispanic and were used for other purposes.”
While many people assimilated, Liverman says in the end it served a greater purpose and has assisted in keeping the legacy of her people alive.
“The people who were on the medium to light-skinned were educated. And within my tribe the reason we can carry a card and say who we are is because of good record keeping due to education. When I filed for citizenship within my tribe I went back nine generations easily because we had the records.”
Liverman continues a legacy of educating people about Native Americans and closed with a presentation of a spoken word poem.