HARLINGEN — Vibrant dances and powerful drum circle performances marked an event yesterday featuring members of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.

The special event was hosted by the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in honor of Native American Heritage Month and those who served.

Between each dance and drum circle performance, Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas Vice Chairman Robert Soto explained the significance and history of each.

The group began their presentation with a drum circle performance and song they wrote in their own tribal language in honor of veterans who served in the Vietnam War.

They also performed a traditional “Feather Dance” and a “Hoop Dance,” which symbolizes new hope and expresses gratitude.

VA Texas Coastal Bend Healthcare System Privacy Officer Gregorio Kishketon conducted the Pledge of Allegiance during the beginning of the ceremony. He is a Marine Corps veteran and is the Tribal Elder of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma.

Kishketon thought the ceremony was a great way to honor Native American veterans.

“I think this ceremony is very important because it allows the community to see how diverse our military really is and how the Native American community has taken part in the military since the Revolutionary War up to the present,” he said.

Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff and Air Force veteran Dr. Eric Kendle was the keynote speaker during the ceremony and greeted the audience in his native Maliseets, Alqonquin language.

“I think the event was important and I’m glad it’s something the Veterans Affairs is doing,” Kendle said. “I think most importantly, it’s raising awareness of Native American culture and is helping our young people in Native American culture recognize that there’s a contribution that they can make to society. I think it’s important for us in our generation to kind of help them see that, be proud of it, define it and move toward contributing to society.”