Native American Heritage Month looks beyond stereotypes

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Lita Huggins' family can trace four generations of military service. Huggins, lower left, is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and former sergeant in the U.S. Army, and currently works in the Missile Defense Agency as a computer operations support analyst. (Courtesy graphic)

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November is National American Indian Heritage Month, paying tribute to the ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. According to the U.S. Air Force website, 0.7 percent of service members are American Indian. (Courtesy graphic)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution establishing November as National American Indian Heritage Month.

According to the U.S. Air Force website, 0.7 percent of service members are American Indian.

Lita Huggins, Missile Defense Agency computer operations support analyst, served in the Army, and is now working at Schriever. She is also a member of the Rosebud Sioux Nation.

Huggins loves being at Schriever because she has the opportunity to support joint forces, as well as work with different cultures across a broad spectrum.

“As the country recognizes Native American Indian Heritage Month, I want people to look past the stereotypes and recognize the contributions Native American Indians have made to the United States,” she said.

Huggins was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and is the 11th of 12 children to an Indian father and Caucasian mother.

She moved to Omaha, Nebraska when she was just two weeks old, so she did not get to experience life on an Indian reservation, but nonetheless values Native American ideals, such as respecting the land and its inhabitants, both human and animal.

“Littering drives me crazy,” she said. “I think, ‘some animal is going to choke on that,’ and there aren’t going to be any more.”

Huggins has an affection for animals, and believes they should only be killed out of necessity. She also believes in medicine men, miracles and natural healing, beliefs she traces back to her Sioux heritage.

“Pretty soon our bodies will become immune to the antibiotics we take, so we’ll have to go back to natural healing,” she said.

Huggins’ mother continued to expose her to Native American heritage, even in a big city. The family regularly attended powwows and her and her twin sister participated in city parades dressed in traditional Native American clothing.

Her experience growing up in the city helped her understand how racial tensions can affect people.

“It was difficult growing up there (Omaha) because of my mixed blood,” she said. “I was not totally accepted one way or another; I wasn’t all white, I wasn’t all Indian.”

The Army offered her a different experience.

“It was great to see other tribes from around the world, and I loved the cohesion and mission,” she said.

Huggins joined the Army out of high school because she wanted to make a difference. She served 14 years and left in 1996. Her husband is also an Army veteran.

Huggins returns to the reservation occasionally to visit her relatives, which she said gives her a sense of peace. She is able to watch buffalo roam freely in the field behind her aunt’s house.

She added life on the reservation has improved since the 1950s, but poverty is still prevalent due to high unemployment rates.

“I still attend powwows in the area, and when I have time, I partake in beading and quill work,” she said. I’ve exposed my daughters to their heritage since birth. We are very proud to be Native American Indians.”