U.S. Army Spc. Paige Curtiss, with Forward Support Company, 253 Engineer Battalion, Arizona Army National Guard shares her experiences and journey through life as a Native American Soldier. Our greatest asset is our people- the finest men and women our great nation has to offer. (U.S. Army video by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
For those who may not know, November is Native American Heritage Month. It is our special time to reflect on the rich heritage provided to us by the tribes of the United States. The Army’s greatest asset is our people. The finest men and women our nation has to offer. As we celebrate our Native American brothers and sisters in arms, lest we forget the rich culture they come from and those soldiers who keep the tradition alive.
I’m actually part Navajo, which is known as Dine. And on my father’s side, he’s Akimel O’odham, which is the Pima people. I grew up mostly in the Navajo culture and traditions. You can find our tribe in the Northern part of Arizona and it’s actually one of the largest tribes in the U.S. right now. I joined is 2015 when I graduated high school. I went to basic training in October of that year. So, a lot, a big part of the military was giving back to my people and definitely my grandfather was a big part of that. He was also prior military service during World War II, and in our language, we call him (speaks in foreign language) meaning grandfather, (speaks in foreign language). He was a Navajo Code Talker. He talked a lot of great things about the brothers and sisters that he created in the military and I wanted to experience that too. I’m the first female in my entire family to be in the military. So, my generation, I’ll be the first in the military and that’s pretty amazing. So culinary has been a big part of my life, a lot especially with being on the reservation my whole life. Food is a way to connect to people and we do a lot of ceremonies. So, a lot of our ceremonies was around cooking for big people. When I was 16, I got a job at a four-star hotel. They really took me under their wing and from there, I started progressing up as I cooked too and then I started working in hospitality. (mumbles) is my comfort area.
What do you think is or has been the most beneficial about being in the Army?
The most beneficial I would have to say is the amount of people that I’ve met. I’ve never met anybody outside of my family. To really take you in under their wing and really make sure that you’re doing okay. And we’re all going through the same experience so we understand each other. It’s a weird different tribe. As warriors, you’re given a protection. That protection dates all the way back from the early 1700s of having arrowheads and you don’t get to have an arrowhead just to have it. When I went through my warrior passage, my grandfather actually gifted me his arrowhead that he wore during the war and this kept him safe. And so everyday I’ve never taken this off. Everyday I’ve worn this arrowhead for protection so every time I pray in the morning, I pray for our family, the people who are most in need, and especially our soldiers around us. And my grandfather used to say in Navajo to us, “You need to remember your language and you need to remember where you came from.” If you don’t hold on to your roots or culture and you don’t know it, if you meet somebody, the wind can just pick you up because you’re not rooted. So it’s important to know your background and be proud of it.