Editor’s Note: A word of appreciation if you are a Native American Veteran and in honor of all of our men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. This is a blessing to you and your family on Armed Forces Day. As a former Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and National Guard, I am proud to have served alongside all of you. Thank you for your service to the country.
As we have reported in ICMN on many occasions, since the first arrival of Europeans onto Turtle Island, Native Americans – American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians – have enlisted and volunteered for the armed services at a higher rate than any other ethnicity. According to government officials during World War II, if all other races had enlisted at the same rate as American Indians, selective service and the draft would not have been necessary.
Native American veterans deserved to be recognized on Armed Forces Day.
But, you might ask, How can we identify Native Veterans in order to give them a handshake, a hug or a tip of our hat?
Here are several ways to tell someone is probably a Native American veteran, some lighthearted and some more serious.
They have rank, ribbons or service branch worked into their Native regalia
Many times a Native veteran has as an important part of their regalia something that indicates their rank in service, their service branch or even their specific unit worked into their regalia.
You might also see a red feather as part of their regalia, which is an indication of having been wounded in battle. If you see this, please thank them for their service.
They might wear a partial uniform and partial regalia of feathered decoration
Sometimes at a pow wow or other celebration, you might see a person with a partial uniform, such as combat fatigues, along with pieces or Native ornamentation, such as feathers. This person is a veteran, or a person honoring a family member who served. Please know this is a gesture of honor and not to be taken lightly. Uniforms are only worn as a gesture of remembrance and honor.
They always walk in the same step as you… and they know what that weird ‘one-leg hop-skip’ thing is
If you are not a Native veteran or veteran, you probably have no idea what this means. But any veteran knows all too well about that weird leg skip-step in order to get in cadence with the other people you are marching with.
After marching in step with everyone all the time in the service, we now automatically get in step with whomever we are walking.
If they have something in their right hand and see someone in uniform, they switch hands
Wait, what? Perhaps this might not make sense if you are not a veteran, and some veterans may have forgotten they even do this. The reason this happens is while in the service, vets always had to be ready to salute an officer. And officers have to be ready at all times to return a salute. Some habits never leave us.
Veterans laugh at movies that show people in inaccurate uniforms
Veterans will scream out when we see someone in a movie or TV show with inaccurate rank, ribbons or name-tags. We also notice sloppily worn hats, improperly rolled up sleeves or anything else that screams, “Bad movie costuming person!” or "Lack of military adviser!"
They still roll their socks, t-shirts or underwear
Ok, this isn’t always the case, as some vets like to discard all their previous ways, but some vets hold tight to those old habits. “Hey, rolled underwear looks nice and neat in a drawer,” that is, just before a drill sergeant throws it all onto the floor and tells you to do it again at 4 a.m. because you didn’t properly lock your foot locker.
They know a bunch of weird terms when talking to a fellow veteran about ‘those days’
If you understand such terminology as “good to go,” “hua,” “dress right dress,”‘ “muster”, “at ease” and much more, this day is in your honor. You might also call the bathroom the “head” or even a latrine.
The hair is either super short, or long. There really is no in-between
This isn’t really a superior indicator, and more of a private joke. Veterans don’t really know why this is - but we either hold on to the old military ways and embrace that buzz-cut or move away completely and embrace our bushy locks. There really is no in-between. It’s just one of those veteran things.
We might get a little quiet during the posting of the colors
Though some parts of this article might be lighthearted, but not this one. Native veterans might get a little bit quiet during the posting of the colors at Grand Entry. The colors (The POW and American Flag) represent those men and women who have served in the armed forces and came home hurt or otherwise disabled, or in a memorial covered with a flag or never returned home. Our servicemen and women have given so much. So during these moments, it is always right to give honor and respect to those veterans who might be a bit quiet.
We dance in the Veteran’s circle during a pow wow
Seems simple enough, but taking a moment to recognize the veterans in this circle who gave years of their lives in service to their country is respectful. Also keep in mind those veterans who are not in the circle due to disabilities, never returning home or because they have walked on.
Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) - ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wow, Sports Editor, News Photographer and Political Contributor and a Native American veteran. He served as a former U.S. Army combat medic, lab technician and Second Lieutenant of the 1-143rd Field Artillery Bn - Follow @VinceSchilling