Native Americans Enlist for Turf and Tribe


Photo from AP Photo by Gerald Herbert

A silhouetted Francis Whitebird, a former Army combat medic and member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, leads a Native American blessing of the future site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, Monday, March 26, 2007, in Washington, during a ceremony to marking the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. janie/jan_tl/janie_tl.htm

Native American Code talkers from WWII (Image from

They continue to join the military in larger numbers than almost any other minority group – many out of a sense of tribal duty.

By Jennifer Miller / Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

August 20, 2007 edition

(excerpt:) Fort Defiance, Ariz. In a grassy clearing amid the dusty hills here, Donovan Nez bends over a bubbling spring. Mr. Nez, 26, is a Navajo Indian and a former marine. Though he wears his dark hair cropped in a military cut, he looks very much the civilian on this Sunday afternoon. He balances on a fallen log, turning every so often to flash a boyish smile at his younger cousins who cluster behind him on the bank.

“When you drink this water,” says Nez, “it seeps into every crevice of your body. It rejuvenates you.”

Nez turns back to the water at the site known as Swiffle Spring, located on the Navajo Indian reservation just below the Chuksa mountains here, and bows his head. He whispers a prayer in Navajo, then English.

“Mother Earth, ease our physical and mental burdens. Thank you for all you have given us. For safety and strength. For this sacred water.” He places his hands in the spring.

When Nez thanks Mother Earth for protection, he often has something specific in mind – namely Iraq, where he served two tours with the US Marines.

Nez believes his faith and traditions helped bring him back safely from the war. More than that, they help explain why he and other native Americans enlist in the military in such large numbers – even though many resent the way the US government has treated their people over the centuries…

(excerpt:) “Natives were enlisting before we were recognized as US citizens. They enlist to protect the family.”

Similarly, when Mary Cohoe looks at the flag, she doesn’t think about Congress, the president, or democratic ideals. To her, Old Glory is a symbol of the US military and the physical sacrifices she and her people have made for their land. Ms. Cohoe served in Vietnam with the Red Cross. The US Army issued her a military ID while she was in the country, and she still considers herself a Vietnam veteran. “It’s our dirt,” she says. “That’s where we came from. The flag is the loyalty that we have, as Navajo, to Mother Earth.”

(excerpt:) “The reason I’m OK with being a US citizen is that Mother Earth is the same wherever you are,” he says. “For me to have the whole US as my home” Nez pauses mid sentence, as though in awe – “I’m so lucky to be living on my land.”

(Thank you to the Christian Science Monitor for writing this article and allowing me to reprint excerpts of it to share with my readers. To continue reading this entire fascinating article written by Jennifer Miller, correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, follow the live link above or visit this website: | Copyright © 2008 The Christian Science Monitor


Base honor guard pays tribute to the fallen

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. — Members of the base honor guard (right center) from here march with Native Americans who have served in the military and fellow family relatives during a ceremony honoring a fallen Native American, Cpl. Nathan Good Iron. Corporal Good Iron served with the 188th Air Defense Artillery in Afghanistan. He was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade Nov. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joe Rivera)…/071203-F-9184R-001.jpg

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Published in: on July 1, 2008 at 9:56 pm  Comments (1)