Second Life Celebrates Memorial Day
by Maverick Grunfeld
There are not many small towns in America that do not pause to reflect on Memorial Day. Often filled with parades and picnics as we remember our
veterans, these traditions bring a solemn welcome as the warm summer air hails the season often associated with relaxation and celebrations. Memorial Day allows us all to take pause and recognize that many of the freedoms enjoyed within the summer months would not be possible if it was not for the service and selfless sacrifice of so many.
Memorial Day touches many lives; it was not forgotten within the virtual world of Second Life. Second Life, which serves as an online medium for people across the globe to create characters and interact with each other, provided a unique venue to recognize veterans. Many members of various Native American tribes partnered with military veterans within Second Life to reflect on Memorial Day with a special service. The memorial was officially sponsored by the National Native American Veterans Association. A memorial to all veterans was constructed, using Native American influences as a basis for the design. It is a little known fact that over 190,000 Native Americans have served in the Armed Forces; which places them as the highest ratio of military service for a given ethnic group.
Second Life resident Nany Kayo recently founded “Virtual Native Lands,” the first authentic Native American organization in a virtual world, a commonplace for Native Americans to meet, gather and express their cultures within Second Life (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Native%20Lands%20East/212/34/22). Virtual Native Lands developed out of a competition sponsored by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication, the MacArthur Foundation, and Second Life last summer.
“Native American communities are widely dispersed geographically often in rural areas where it can be difficult to use and share customs,” stated Nany. “Virtual worlds can enable us to bridge those geographic distances in ways that are far more effective than clusters of conventional websites ever could be.”
As the event progressed, an authentic Native American blessing of the memorial progressed as the sun rose within the virtual world. Second Life resident Suta Northman, a Lakota and a Navy veteran, conducted the traditional blessing ritual in the Lakota language over voice chat. He refers to himself as a Sun Dancer; Sun Dancing is a traditional practice of Great Plains tribes. Suta said he has been Sun Dancing for more than 25 years. Even though all in attendance were viewing a world within a series of three dimensional pixels, the emotional impact of a traditional ceremony was not lost. The language and song was powerful and present.
Even Superman attended the event to show his respect for the troops. Kalel Venkman, known as the original Superman within Second Life, remarked “You hear about heroes all the time. Our popular culture is saturated with them – but the veterans and the descendants of those who served showed a quiet strength and inner resolve.” Kalel is the founder of the Justice League Unlimited of Second Life, a group dedicated to helping Second Life users.
Eagle feathers marked with the names of American military conflicts lightly blew in the breeze as the ceremony concluded. We can hope the flame within the Second Life memorial for the veterans continues to burn as reminder of cost of freedom. We all carry this eternal flame forward as we remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.
The Virtual Native Lands website is http://www.virtualnativelands.org
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