Quarter Moon Spotlight: Native Americans

Shines on Under-Represented Cultures

Isn't it time we were exposed to more novels, films, television shows, plays, etc. that open a wider view into the spirit, culture, and soul of Native Americans? If so, what would some of their stories tell? This edition will shine the Quarter Moon Spotlight on some of the many significant contributions Native Americans are making.

Congresswoman Sharice Davids is also a lawyer and professional mixed martial artist educated at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Cornell Law School. When she was sworn into the 116th Congress in yr., she became the first Democrat in 10 years to represent a district in Kansas. Representative Davids is simultaneously the first of two women and openly LBGT Native American to serve in the US Congress.

Representative Davids was raised by a single mother, who served in the Army for 20 years. After graduating from Leavenworth High School, she worked her way through Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City before earning a law degree from Cornell Law School. As a first-generation college student who worked the entire time she was in college, Rep. Davids understands the importance of quality public schools and affordable higher education. It is that foundation that allowed her to go on to a successful career, focused on economic and community development, which included time as a White House Fellow under President Barack Obama. Presently, Representative Davids serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Small Business Committees, while also working to limit the influence of special interests and fighting to make healthcare more affordable and accessible to everyone.

Chris Eyre has been called “the preeminent Native American filmmaker of his time.” An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe of Oklahoma, Eyre creates films that focus on contemporary Native American life while confronting stereotypes. His film Smoke Signals won the filmmaker’s trophy and the audience award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. It became the first feature film directed by a Native American to receive a national theatrical release. A Thousand Roads (2005), produced by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, is the museum’s signature film. Edge of America (2003), based on the true story of an African American English teacher who finds acceptance on a reservation through his coaching of the girls’ basketball team, won a Directors Guild Award for outstanding directorial achievement.

Leslie Marmon Silko is often referred to as the premier Native American writer of her generation. Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico of mixed Laguna Pueblo, white, and Mexican ancestry. While growing up on the Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico, she learned Laguna traditions and myths. After attending the Bureau of Indian Affairs school, Silko earned her B.A. Degree and graduated with honors from the University of New Mexico. She then entered law school but abandoned her legal studies to do graduate work in English and pursue a writing career. Her first publications were several short stories and the poetry collection Laguna Woman (1974). Silko drew on the Laguna stories she had heard in childhood.

She combined concerns of Laguna spirituality, such as the relationship between human beings and the natural elements, with complex portrayals of contemporary struggles to retain Native American culture in an Anglo world. She published the novel Ceremony (1977) to great critical acclaim. It tells the story of the relationship between a returning World War II veteran of mixed Laguna and Anglo heritage and a tribal wise man who teaches him Laguna folklore and ceremonies that help him heal the psychic wounds caused by war. Apart from Silko’s close observation of human nature, Ceremony was also noted for its non chronological narrative method.

NASA astronaut and Navy Commander, John Herrington was the first Native American to walk in space. Born in Wetumka, Oklahoma. A member of the Chickasaw tribe, John and his family moved around a great deal when he was a child. By the time he was a senior in high school John had moved fourteen times and had lived in Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas. Commander Herrington Graduated from Plano Senior High School, Plano, Texas, in 1976; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, in 1983, and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Idaho in 2014. Having always wanted to be a pilot, Herrington joined the Navy and received his commission from Aviation Officer Candidate School in March of 1984 and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1985.

NASA selected Herrington in 1996 as an astronaut and he reported to the Johnson Space Center in August of that year. He has served as a member of the Astronaut Support Personnel team responsible for Shuttle launch preparations and post-landing operations. Herrington was a member of the sixteenth Shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station (November 23-December 7, 2002). In honor of his etc. walk in space, Herrington honored his Native American heritage by carrying six eagle feathers, a braid of sweetgrass, two arrowheads and the Chickasaw nation’s flag.

Other honors include Distinguished Naval Graduate from Aviation Officer Candidate School. Awarded Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, NASA Spaceflight Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and various other service awards. He is the recipient of two honorary Doctorates of Science. One from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the other from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Additionally, Commander Herrington is a life member of the Association of Naval Aviation, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Alumni Association, a Sequoyah Fellow and a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He and his wife Debra have two children.

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