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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National Native American Heritage Month. It is a month to celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, history and military service of Native Americans and reflect on their contribution throughout history. This year’s theme is sovereignty, trust and resilience.

Native Americans arrived in North America thousands of years before Europeans reached the Americas in 1492. To date, the United States has 573 federally recognized tribes. In fact, Santa Barbara County is home to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians of the Santa Ynez Reservation, which is home to tribal families and the Chumash Casino Resort.

On Vandenberg, you can find archeological sites and the Honda Ridge rock art site, which dates back to 3,500 years ago and painted by the Chumash Indians.

Although there are many misconceptions around Native Americans, there are more to the people than what is portrayed.

Along with excelling in many different career paths, Native Americans have a heritage of military service. According to Department of Defense statistics, Native Americans make up 1.7 percent of the military population, making it the highest per-capita commitment of any ethnic population to defend the United States.

Native Americans have served with distinction in every major conflict for over 200 years, said Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Best known are the Native American code talkers, who served in World War I and II.

“The Air Force is strongly committed to inclusion and diversity,” said Staff Sgt. Kimberly Villaronga, Equal Opportunity airman. “I encourage you to recognize and reflect on the contributions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the military and in your communities. Native American troops have devoted their lives, skills and honor to protect the freedoms of all Americans.”

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