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Scott Airman is proud of Native American heritage and Air force service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brian J. Ellis
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Native American heritage is rich in tradition and many Native Americans serve in the military today, such as Senior Airman Joshua Garrison from the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

Airman Garrison's heritage stems from the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma, where he was raised in Ottawa County. He was given the Indian name "Black Cloud," by his uncle, Chief Charlie Dawes. The name Black Cloud means he'll be pure, a healer and a force to be reckoned with.

"That's why my name is perfect for me, I'm a flight medic in the Air Force," said Airman Garrison.

From the age of 3, he always wanted to join the Air Force and fly. Many of his family members have served in the military, and he said that's what gave him inspiration to join. One of his great uncles, John Urley, was one of the first 43 men in the Air Force in 1947 and taught him many Indian proverbs.

"I am blessed with having such great men in my life," said Airman Garrison. "My great uncles were a big influence; they always taught me so much and are so proud of what I do."

Not only has his family served in the military but they have been advocates for Native American rights and have deep roots within the Ottawa tribe. In the late 1990's Chief Dawes debated with an Oklahoma senator for Native American rights. His cousin John Ballard is the current chief of the tribe and another cousin, Kevin Dawes is head council member.

His father's side of the family was not always open about their Native American heritage and for years denied that they were of Native American descent. In the 1920's his great grandmother lied to avoid persecution, saying she was Irish. It wasn't until this past year, after going through Quapaw tribal roles that his father found out he was Quapaw.
"My father remembers when he was a little boy, his grandfather would tell him you're not Native American and don't tell people you are," said Airman Garrison.

One of the traditions of the Ottawa tribe is their annual powwow, celebrated every Labor Day weekend. Almost four thousand people show up for this gathering to pay respects to the tribe, the country and the Great Spirit, and to pass along their traditions to the children.

Airman Garrison said he enjoys attending the annual powwow and that he's been to 25 of 26.

"It's my heritage and the one thing other than the Air Force that I take so much pride in."
During the powwow, the tribe performs various dances and comes together for a large feast. U.S. flags are placed around the arena, with each flag representing a lost vet who was a member of the tribe. A family member of the deceased will stand by the flag while everyone sings a veteran's song. They show respect to mother earth and praise the creator. A war dance is performed for respect for veterans and those fighting today. A dance called "gourd dancing" is performed by the veterans in the tribe. Only veterans are allowed to perform this dance and must be asked as a rite of passage. This past year, Airman Garrison was asked to perform in the gourd dance. For the youngsters, a children's Olympics is held to get them involved.

"It's always great to see the little kids and teach them something new about our heritage and to see how it lights up their world."

Part of the Native American culture is to respect the elders in the community and to follow a cultural proverb that emphasizes how the land is only borrowed and given to each future generation.

Within the Ottawa tribe's heritage, there has always been the willingness to serve and put others above themselves.

"Native Americans have always shared service before self and it has always been more about what I could do for the tribe, even before the Air Force adopted the core value," said Airman Garrison. "Every Native American I've ever talked to has always taken so much pride in serving in any branch. We live in the best country in the world. Even with history, we don't look at the past; we look at the future of being a Native American and being an American."