White Sands Missile Range community members learned about the history of American Indians through art during a National American Indian Heritage Month luncheon Nov. 19 at the Interim Frontier Club.
Clayton Small Sr., Ph.D, a Northern Cheyenne whose programs offer leadership and hope for American Indian, Alaska Native, and First Nations people, was the guest speaker for the observance.
This year’s theme is “Growing Native Leaders: Enhancing Our Seven Generations”.
Through the use of American Indian Legend Art, Small told the story of American Indians. He told the story of the Buffalo Calf Road Woman, or Brave Woman, a Northern Cheyenne woman who saved her wounded warrior brother, Chief Comes in Sight, in the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876.
“The Cheyenne were retreating, this warrior was wounded and crying out for help. His sister rode in on her warrior horse, her face was painted and she was wearing her finest regalia,” Small said. She reached out with her arm, grabbed her brother and put him on the horse, they both survived.
Small said Buffalo Calf Road Woman represents courage and she honors the woman warriors. “In our tribe our women have always fought for freedom.”
According to stories, her rescue helped rally the Cheyenne warriors to win the battle. She also fought next to her husband in the Battle of Little Bighorn that same year. In 2005 Northern Cheyenne storytellers broke more than 100 years of silence about the battle, and they credited Buffalo Calf Road Woman with striking the blow that knocked Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer off his horse before he died.
Small also spoke about the Battle of 1876 where a Cheyenne Warrior at some point during the battle decides to stop killing. “The teaching here is that we don’t always have to be destructive or violent, that perhaps there is a better way to find a solution.”
Small said many of his people have lost that warrior spirit and have fallen into an unhealthy life cycle. “People like me go out and try to ignite a fire in the hearts of people and remind them that they don’t have to choose that path.”
Although American Indians life in mainstream America, Small said they have a homeland and they have to be able to transition back and forth.
“What can we do to help American Indian people transition without resorting to drugs, alcohol, suicide, incarceration? What can we do in our mind, body and spirit,” Small asked the challenging question to members of the audience.
Chief of Staff Glen Adams presented Small with a certificate of appreciation for his role in the observance.
Throughout his talk Small involved the audience in stretching and vocal exercises that taught the audience American Indian words. Small served as CEO for Indian Health Services and directed several non-profit organizations. His organization, Native P.R.I.D.E., provides prevention, wellness, healing, and leadership training throughout Indian Country.