Honoring Native American Veterans

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Not so long ago in Native culture, being a warrior was an integral responsibility of tribal life. Defending the tribe’s land and family, and acquiring the necessary resources, such as through hunting, was simply expected. Today, Native Americans are still defending land and family through their service in the U.S. military.

Next month, on Nov. 11, we observe the 97th anniversary of Veterans Day, Armistice Day prior to the official name change in 1954. As an ally to the tribes, and leading into American Indian Heritage Month – also in November –  PWNA is taking a look at honoring Veterans in the Native way.

Maybe it’s our history of strength and determination that leads Natives to the highest per capita rate of military service, or perhaps it’s the value we place on our homeland. In any case, while all veterans are recognized for their service, most tribes hold their veterans in especially high regard, praising them and honoring them through ceremonies and awards.

Most commonly, Native American veterans are given eagle feathers for their service, a sign of highest respect in many tribes. In other cases, veterans are asked to lead honoring ceremonies, such as opening grand entry at powwows, ushering in the flags of the tribe and country, or even giving an opening prayer. Some of these honorings even focus on resources for veterans, providing workshops, talking circles, health information and cultural activities. The Gathering of Warriors Native Veterans Summit focuses specifically on these topics, as well as providing financial stability and better access to health care.

The service of these veterans does not go unnoticed. Quite recently, the National Museum of the American Indian undertook the responsibility of creating a National Native American Veterans Memorial. This is the first memorial dedicated to Native veterans, and Congress hopes it will invite more Americans to learn about the proud military service of our indigenous people.

Honoring Native warriors and veterans has always been a part of indigenous culture. It keeps the importance of those who protect our homeland close to our hearts, and ever reminds us of the valor and bravery these men and women exhibit to ensure our safety. Equally important, it gives veterans their due for their many sacrifices. It’s important to support our veterans by helping them gain access to important resources that may be needed after the injuries and traumas they endure.

We thank the men and women at arms who defend our nation. Here’s to you for all you do!

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