Native Americans on Warrior Spirit in US Military

A group of Native Americans recently spoke at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

Joseph Medicine Crow, a 96-year-old World War II veteran who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama, is the grandson of White Man Runs Him, one of Custer’s Crow scouts.

The men spoke not only of their contributions to the US military, but also the importance of Native American spirituality, even within the military: 

The Korean War was represented by John Emhoolah (Kiowa), a veteran who joined the Oklahoma Thunderbird Division — the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma National Guard — when he was still in high school and later helped lobby for the passage of the Native American Religious Freedom Act.

US Army SFC Debra Kay Mooney even managed to host a Native American powwow “in an Iraq war zone in 2004.” Her military leadership supported her efforts:

She knew this was something she was supposed to do after praying about it, even though it was going to be in a war zone. Although she had to get permission, it was granted quickly by her battalion commander.

Though a uniquely spiritual event for Native Americans, the ceremony stretched over two days near Fallujah, Iraq, at the height of the war, and it became in some respects a respite for US soldiers and Marines.

The powwow, she said, was open for everybody, and it became an opportunity to educate Soldiers on native culture, to give them something different than being blown up with rocket-propelled grenades and everything else, and to give them a chance to breathe America.

On a related topic, the museum has previously sponsored an annual national powwow, at which uniformed US military members sometimes march to the beat of the drums in tribute to “fallen warriors.”

(Don’t tell atheist Jason Torpy; he’ll demand the dances occur off federal land and without the benefit of the Smithsonian’s federal funds because they are “inappropriate” means of honoring US servicemembers.)

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