Honoring a Warrior Tradition (02:19)
Native American servicemen and servicewomen discuss why they joined the U.S. military. Native American tribes have the highest per capita military service rate of any group in the U.S. They serve to protect land, family, and community.
Military Family Lineage (01:53)
Comanche and Kiowa member and U.S. Army veteran Lanny Asepermy's uncle, aunt, and great-uncle served in the armed forces. Lipan Apache War Chief and U.S. Army veteran Chuck Boers discusses the warrior tradition.
Comanche Court of Honor (05:33)
U.S. military veterans are honored in Asepermy's tribe. Elizabeth Perez was inspired by veterans at powwows to join the Navy. See an opening ceremony in Oklahoma honoring active duty soldiers before deployment. The tribe has "adopted" an engineering battalion.
Irony of Military Service (02:21)
The U.S. government has tried to exterminate or assimilate Native Americans, destroy their culture, and take their land. However, Native Americans serve at disproportionately high rates; most families have veterans. Some refer to upholding the Peace and Friendship treaty.
Warrior Stereotype (03:05)
Native American veterans discuss how Hollywood has perpetuated expectations for their tracking, navigating, and target abilities. There are 573 recognized tribes today with diverse languages, traditions, economies, and political structures. Navajo veteran Peter MacDonald discusses protecting his land for future generations.
Native Americans in World War I (02:17)
During the nineteenth century, the reservation system eliminated the need to fight other tribes, threatening warrior culture. However, militarized boarding schools and assimilation efforts prepared young men for WWI. The U.S. government granted citizenship to indigenous veterans.
Native Americans in World War II (04:41)
Veteran Navajo Code Talkers receive Congressional honors. A veteran Marine, MacDonald recalls being punished for speaking Navajo in boarding school. Hear how his team developed an undecipherable code for surprise landings in the Pacific.
Recruiting Native American Soldiers (02:21)
Since the Navajo Code Talkers' success in WWII, the U.S. military has actively recruited near reservations. See a U.S. Army advertisement referencing the warrior tradition.
Starting a New Chapter (02:34)
Oglala Sioux historian Jeffrey Means joined the Marines to overcome legal trouble and reclaim the warrior identity. Many Native Americans join in peacetime as an economic pursuit and as a way to earn respect from the government and their communities.
Preparing for Service (04:07)
Indigenous communities recognize the spiritual component of war. Veteran Marine Dewey Bad Warrior learned patience from his grandfather that helped him during combat in Vietnam. Boers discusses his work as a combat photographer in Iraq, including preparing for battle.
Spirituality in Combat (02:39)
Asepermy believes his Kiowa grandmother's prayers saved his life in Vietnam. Army veteran Michael Nestell carried sacred feathers on his person during battle. MacDonald shows corn blessed by a Navajo medicine man that protected him.
Horrors of War (02:36)
Native American service members also suffer psychological trauma from combat. Asepermy has nightmares of Vietcong; Nestell sees enemies he has killed. Perez turned to her tribe for support in healing from PTSD.
Homecoming and Purification Ceremonies (02:13)
Native American tribes reintroduce soldiers to their humanity to avoid putting society at risk. Army veteran Debra Mooney's Pawnee tribe presented her with an honor blanket and traditional clothes at a powwow.
Fallen Hero (03:12)
In March 2003, Hopi tribe member Lori Piestewa's convoy was ambushed in Iraq; she became the first Native American woman to die fighting for the U.S. on foreign soil. Learn about tribal and community activities in her honor.
Native American Women in the Military (03:01)
Veterans discuss the double challenge of being indigenous and female. Comanche and Kiowa member Rhonda Williams recalls an Afghan leader's excitement and respect at learning about her tribal identity.
Holding a Combat Zone Powwow (03:52)
Mooney was deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the 120th Combat Heavy Engineers and housed with other Choctaw women. She helped organize an inter-tribal ceremony, including traditional games. Boers discusses the event's cultural and historical symbolism.
Standing Rock (03:38)
Native Americans appreciate the service of all U.S. military personnel, but young people also consider environmental activists as warriors. Thousands gathered to protest the North Dakota pipeline—including veterans. They started a solidarity movement consistent with the warrior tradition.
Continuing the Warrior Tradition (01:49)
Native American veterans hope younger generations will embrace their culture and commitment to protecting their land and communities.
Credits: The Warrior Tradition (00:31)
Credits: The Warrior Tradition
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