Fourth of July Facts
The Rockets' Red Glare...Click thumbnail to view full-size
What is the 4th of July?
In another article, we learned that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence had only two signers. There was no celebration party on July 4th 1776, although some folks think that there was. After that, the holiday was nearly forgotten in 1777. That history is found at An Odd History of the 4th of July.
In the middle of the summer and off from school and work for a bit, American families and friends plan all sorts of parties and get-togethers in order to celebrate the holiday. No matter whether they celebrate the day off form work or pay tribute to the nation's founding, crowds of people celebrate the 4th of July in America every year. American soldiers stationed elsewhere celebrate it as well, and so do Americans living and working abroad. Fourth of July parties spring up in Iraq and Paris on that day.
The holiday has come to have many symbols attached to it, the most prominent, I think, being Hot Dogs and Fireworks - Elvis Presley in a red, white, and blue spangled jumpsuit - and the film Independence Day, starring Will Smith.
Some of the older traditional symbols include the flag Old Glory, which flew sometime after the Revolution, in 1831, and the Statue of Liberty. See The New Nation for other important symbols. Additional and perhaps unexpected symbols of America that have faded into the background are found at Forgotten Symbols of America. These include a tree and a flower, a creed and a composer, among others.
July 4th can mean a lot of things and the following presentations provide three of my favorite memories of the 4th of July.
Born on the Fourth of July
Stars and Stripes of Tribute
You've got to love a Scottish-American M.C. (Craig Ferguson) with a Boston Pops Director (Keith Lockhart), who both dress as firemen to commemorate the lives and work of the Protective Services during the 9/11 catastrophe and every day - remember these protectors on the Fourth of July in a grand concert including the Stars and Stripes march. Many military musical groups in the play it as well.
The Stars and Stripes Forever is a favorite military march by the legendary John Philips Sousa, who inspired my introduction to instrumental music in junior high school.
The President's Own United States Marine Band: Stars and Stripes Forever
This particular Sousa march was our favorite number in high school marching band and we and our director, a retired US Navy Officer, lengthened it by giving many sections of the band a feature part in addition to the usual sections -- We featured flute and piccolo, clarinets, brass, and large brass sections; the percussion section did their own version.
On stage in concert, we included the orchestra's violin section on their own and some of the first violinists could actually PLUCK the entire featured section. Not many bands perform in this way, let alone high school. We weren't perfect, but we tried something immense and pulled it off decently.
In a marching event, we'd stop a parade and each section would rush to the front before the drum major, perform, and rush back into ranks. People were laughing and crying by the time we'd marched past with the whole band booming the chorus.
This is my favorite memory of high school: the 4th of July band marches and concerts. Who needed fireworks?
A Muppet 4th with Sam the Eagle
Native American Ladies' Smoke Dance, July 2008
Native American 4th of July
Native Americans have served in the military in all wars fought by the United States, including the Revolutionary War, although some Native individuals fought for the British. Some fought on the side of the colonists, extending the relationship they had with them before the war to one of mutual defense.
Afterwards, Native Americans served in the US military in every war fought. Further, if not for the Navajo Code Talkers and another dozen Native American Nations that also supplied code talkers, World War II might have ended differently.
No one in the Axis Powers could handle Native American codes.
In the USA, there are 1000s of nations, bands, pueblos, communities and other groups of Native Americans. Among these, veterans and their families and communities celebrate Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the 4th of July in tribute to the military involvement and victories of the US, to those serving at home and overseas today, and to remember those lost in battle - both in the US military and long ago on the Native fields of battle in what is now America.
Native Americans remember over 10 Millennia of heroes on this continent and wave the US Flag in their July 4th Pow Wows.
Native American Veterans march in a Color Guard in each Grand Entrance in all Pow Wows of the Unitied States groups in which there are veterans available to participate. The July Pow Wows are often held closer to the time of the full moon - the Green Corn Moon, rather than on the 4th of July.
On the 4th of July, Native Americans may or may not participate in American festivities, as they wish. Most of them do and visit these pow wows every year.
Late June Pow Wow - Grand Entrance
Navajo Code Talkers
National Pow Wow on July 4
As a young girl, I was in Washington DC on the 4th of July and witnessed the National Pow Wow of the US. The Mall was filled with people of all nations - not only Native American Nations, but most others as well.
A young Native American US Marine in uniform, aged 19 with a buzz cut, appeared on a platform on the steps of the Capital Building in front of where I was standing on the steps. He spoke of the history of a great nation, America, and of his Native American Nation, and how he was proud to be a member of both. He had just returned from a combat mission and would be returning soon.
He disappeared and returned in full dress men's fancy dance attire and performed a traditional men's dance to a huge crowd that was speechless. We heard only the drumming.
On the 4th of July each year, I remember this young man for his contribution to America and for his unwillingness to be embarrassed by his heritage, and I hope he has had a happy life.
The dance I saw that first 4th of July is much like the one portrayed below among Oklahoma peoples.