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SAIGE Winner Shares Knowledge of American Indians with NSWCDD Dam Neck Team

By NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity Public Affairs | Nov. 20, 2019

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Sailors, Department of the Navy civilian employees, and contractors assigned to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division – Dam Neck Activity (NSWCDD DNA) celebrated National American Indian Heritage Month with a ceremony, Nov. 12, in Hopper Hall Auditorium.

NSWCDD DNA Chief of Staff Eric LaCross opened the command's ceremony by introducing Joseph Rubye – the observance's guest speaker.

Rubye – a retired Navy chief petty officer and member of the Jicarilla Apache aka Tinde nation – was the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) Meritorious Service Award winner in 2013 for enriching the community as well as military and civilian command personnel with his knowledge of American Indian information.

A native of El Paso, Texas, Rubye left home after graduating high school in 1982 to begin his new life in the Navy. After many colorful tours, Rubye reported to the USS Saipan (LHA-2) homeported in Norfolk, Va., (1991-1994). It was during this tour that he conducted numerous American Indian Pow Wow drum presentations with Eastern Sky (Ojibway) drum group, attending numerous pow wows both in Virginia and North Carolina.

He informed his audience about various Indian nations like the Mattaponi, Apache, Lumbee, Haliwa-Saponi, Isleta Pueblo, Cherokee, and Chickahominy Nation. Rubye constantly returned to the influence his grandmother had on him, telling those in attendance that the women dominated the American Indian family. He cited an example of a man changing his name to whatever his wife wanted it to be.

Rubye explained his attire from the medallion around his neck to his bracelet and beaded-moccasins, always relating to his grandmother and the stories she shared with him throughout his youth. He then shared a bit of history about how American Indians, per population, provided more of their own to America’s military services than any other group in our nation’s history.

He refocused his thoughts to Sept. 11, 2001 when he was assigned to the USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41). His ship was the ready Amphibious Ready Group vessel for deployment overseas. While deployed, Rubye brought his pow wow drum called “Four Itsa Feather” (Itsa=Eagle) and taught Sailors and Marines pow wow songs which they sang in the field. The commanding officer of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the senior enlisted Marines, presented Chief Ruybe an Honorary Gunny certificate for his administration and logistics support, a title he is proud to claim.

Rubye invited four members of the audience to come forward and join him in an honor song. After several practice drumbeats on his pow wow drum “Four Itsa Feather” and a detailed explanation of the artwork on the drum, the members played to a rhythmic beat while Rubye sang a song.

Before he began his question and answer period, he delighted the audience with a flute song, which completed his teaching and involvement of National American Indian Heritage Month presentation.     

A civilian employee with the U.S. Coast Guard Finance Center, Rubye emphasized how proud he is to serve his community with presentations such as the one for NSWCDD DNA's team members and bring awareness of American Indian culture and diversity to everyone.

 “I’m proud the Nation’s people participated with our many military services,” said Rubye, “and I especially appreciate today’s host NSWC Dahlgren Division Dam Neck Activity team members. You were a great audience and I thank you for inviting me to share my culture with each of you.”

NOTE:  Every year in November, the President issues a proclamation recognizing National American Indian Heritage Month during which we learn about the challenges they faced and their vital contributions to the American story. Celebrations of native cultures and educating the public about their heritage, history, art, and traditions will continue throughout the month of November.

This year's theme, provided by the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE), is "Honoring our Nations: Building Strength Trough Understanding." It consists of 573 federally recognized tribal nations listed throughout the entire poster. The superimposed eagle is the focal point of the poster because it is revered and considered sacred in many American Indian and Alaskan Native traditions, culture, and religion. Additionally, the eagle represents truth, courage, wisdom, power, and freedom.