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Creating a Warrior Society Within the Society of American Indian Government Employees

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Danny Garceau unfolded his 6-foot-plus frame from his Harley after a 1,300-mile trip, not to a biker run or rally of leather-jacketed enthusiasts, but to a training session of civil servants, traditionally a pretty low-key group.

But the venue is one where the retired sergeant-major of the Michigan Army National Guard regards as a place where he “felt at home immediately.”

Now Garceau, 53, a long-time road warrior, is building another kind of Warrior Society as a component of the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE), a 500-member organization many of whose members gathered in Denver June 3 – 8 for an annual National Training Program.

Garceau, current SAIGE chairman, of Lake Superior Chippewa descent, wants the organization to include more Native civil service workers, tribal employees and, in keeping with warrior tradition, more current military troops and veterans.

The military factor has already led to the nascent Society’s formal and informal alliances with the Veterans Administration, Coast Guard, National Guard, Department of Defense, Air Force, Army and Navy.

“Many are vets or are currently serving and they would feel more comfortable in SAIGE through the Warrior Society” where they can share experiences with others who are or have been in the military, he said.

Garceau enlisted in the Army right out of high school. Initially, he was in the Army’s 11th Cavalry, as (“you won’t believe this”) a cavalry scout, he said.

Later he spent four years in Germany, where he was in border operations, and in Panama. The Army National Guard in Michigan was on active status, so he joined and stayed for 27 years, serving as a combat engineer, construction supervisor, and recruiter.

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Garceau also went to Latvia: “After the Iron Curtain came down, states became partners with Baltic states, and Michigan partnered with Latvia.”

His affiliation with SAIGE began when he heard about the organization in an e-mail. His first contact with SAIGE was “really a watershed moment” for him, he recalled.

Although the annual SAIGE trainings begin in the early morning and go until late at night, at the end of the week you “feel empowered” by the experience, he said. “Out of all the conferences I’ve gone to, there’s nothing like that.” Training sessions introduce government officials to Native attendees and concerns, and vice-versa.

Among some 30,000 federal employees only about 1 percent are American Indian and Alaska Native and “we need to get more—a bigger representation,” he said. “The country would be better off with more American Indian and Alaska Native government workers.”

Beside SAIGE training experiences, one of the stirring recollections for the Warrior Society founder was of a 300-strong Veterans Tribute Ride that, at a stop in Crandon, Wisconsin, was honored with songs by a Potawatomi drum group.

“We hope to connect with tribal warrior societies, as well,” he said of plans for the future.

It’s part of a tradition of service that seems to motivate the Harley-riding former combat engineer. He’s a 10-year member of the Patriot Guard Riders who form a line between funeral-disturbing protestors and families of the fallen.

He also does formal funeral details, one of the most recent for a POW who came home from Korea after 61 years. “The community did it right,” he recalls. “We had 30 bikes with flags flying.”

“These things are all worth it—they mean so much to the families.”