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Veterans take center stage

CROW AGENCY, Mont. ñ On the 130th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where many American Indian warriors fell fighting for their way of life, the Crow Nation honored all warriors who had fallen in all wars from the beginning of the Indian Wars to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Carl Venne, chairman of the Crow, or Absalooka, Nation, said the Crow had been criticized for not honoring its veterans, so in 1999 he led a move to create a veteransí park. Park sculptures tell the story of the Crow and an honoring wall carries the names of fallen warriors in all wars since the Indian Wars of the early and mid-19th century.

To show a dedicated commitment to veterans, the first day of Crow Native Days focused on those who had fallen, those still in uniform and the families who lost loved ones in Iraq.

ìWe recognize our Navajo fallen soldiers and all soldiers,î said Joe Shirley Jr., president of the Navajo Nation.

ìA Native American warrior fights for two reasons ñ to defend the United States and to defend our way of life. Because of them we still have our language, our songs and stories,î he said.

The family of Spc. Lori Piestewa, Hopi, was specially honored at the ceremony, along with others from the Crow and Navajo nations, and non-Natives from Montana who had lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan. Piestewa is said to be the first female American Indian killed in combat in a foreign war.

Joe Medicine Crow, one of the oldest Crow veterans of World War II at more than 90 years of age, along with three other World War II veterans, took center stage. Barney Old Coyote Jr. was the most decorated Crow veteran. He was awarded the Bronze Medal and Silver Stars with three additional clusters each.

In the Crow and Plains Native tradition, prayers are carried to the Creator through the pipe. Old Coyote conducted the pipe ceremony for all fallen warriors.

Natives serve in the armed forces in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic or cultural group. But, as Venne said, they respected all colors of people.

ìThe color of skin doesnít matter; we respect all colors.î

Just to the east of Veterans Park is one of the most famous battlegrounds of the 19th century, and one of the most visited and studied today: the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

One of the tribal leaders present at the veteransí ceremony, Cecelia Fire Thunder is the descendant of warriors who fought at Battle of the Little Bighorn.

ìI have relatives who fell at the Little Bighorn.

ìWe must remember the mothers: they gave life to those human beings and they will continue to sacrifice,î she said.

Fire Thunder spoke directly to the Piestewa family: ìYour daughter changed the lives of Indian women. Indian women will continue to fight and die,î Fire Thunder said.

ìWe honor the warriors of 130 years ago who fought for our country and our way of life,î she said.

The battles that took place during the so-called Indian Wars and the strategy used by the Lakota and Cheyenne are remembered in classrooms where the Lakota strategies of war are taught at West Point, Fire Thunder pointed out.

At the American Indian Memorial at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, Venne was remindful of the purpose: peace.

ìLay down your arms for peace is the story at the memorial,î he said.

ìPeace through Unity.î

Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, said that after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a ceremony such as that which took place at Veterans Park would not have been thought about.

ìWhen Americans defend their country, Indian people are first to serve,î he said.

A highlight of the ceremony occurred when the 10th Special Forces Unit from Fort Collins, Colo., dropped in ñ literally. Eight Special Forces soldiers dropped out of Black Hawk helicopters in formation to land adjacent to Veterans Park.

The men of the 10th will be redeployed to Iraq this fall. A special smudging took place for them, and Venne presented the commander with a flag of the Crow Nation that he said will bring the unit back safely. Venne said the flag will not be unfolded and will return clean as a sign of their safety.

CROW AGENCY, Mont. ñ On the 130th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where many American Indian warriors fell fighting for their way of life, the Crow Nation honored all warriors who had fallen in all wars from the beginning of the Indian Wars to Iraq and Afghanistan.Carl Venne, chairman of the Crow, or Absalooka, Nation, said the Crow had been criticized for not honoring its veterans, so in 1999 he led a move to create a veteransí park. Park sculptures tell the story of the Crow and an honoring wall carries the names of fallen warriors in all wars since the Indian Wars of the early and mid-19th century.To show a dedicated commitment to veterans, the first day of Crow Native Days focused on those who had fallen, those still in uniform and the families who lost loved ones in Iraq.ìWe recognize our Navajo fallen soldiers and all soldiers,î said Joe Shirley Jr., president of the Navajo Nation.ìA Native American warrior fights for two reasons ñ to defend the United States and to defend our way of life. Because of them we still have our language, our songs and stories,î he said.The family of Spc. Lori Piestewa, Hopi, was specially honored at the ceremony, along with others from the Crow and Navajo nations, and non-Natives from Montana who had lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan. Piestewa is said to be the first female American Indian killed in combat in a foreign war.Joe Medicine Crow, one of the oldest Crow veterans of World War II at more than 90 years of age, along with three other World War II veterans, took center stage. Barney Old Coyote Jr. was the most decorated Crow veteran. He was awarded the Bronze Medal and Silver Stars with three additional clusters each.In the Crow and Plains Native tradition, prayers are carried to the Creator through the pipe. Old Coyote conducted the pipe ceremony for all fallen warriors.Natives serve in the armed forces in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic or cultural group. But, as Venne said, they respected all colors of people.ìThe color of skin doesnít matter; we respect all colors.îJust to the east of Veterans Park is one of the most famous battlegrounds of the 19th century, and one of the most visited and studied today: the Little Bighorn Battlefield.One of the tribal leaders present at the veteransí ceremony, Cecelia Fire Thunder is the descendant of warriors who fought at Battle of the Little Bighorn.ìI have relatives who fell at the Little Bighorn.ìWe must remember the mothers: they gave life to those human beings and they will continue to sacrifice,î she said.Fire Thunder spoke directly to the Piestewa family: ìYour daughter changed the lives of Indian women. Indian women will continue to fight and die,î Fire Thunder said.ìWe honor the warriors of 130 years ago who fought for our country and our way of life,î she said.The battles that took place during the so-called Indian Wars and the strategy used by the Lakota and Cheyenne are remembered in classrooms where the Lakota strategies of war are taught at West Point, Fire Thunder pointed out.At the American Indian Memorial at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, Venne was remindful of the purpose: peace.ìLay down your arms for peace is the story at the memorial,î he said.ìPeace through Unity.îTex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, said that after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a ceremony such as that which took place at Veterans Park would not have been thought about.ìWhen Americans defend their country, Indian people are first to serve,î he said.A highlight of the ceremony occurred when the 10th Special Forces Unit from Fort Collins, Colo., dropped in ñ literally. Eight Special Forces soldiers dropped out of Black Hawk helicopters in formation to land adjacent to Veterans Park.The men of the 10th will be redeployed to Iraq this fall. A special smudging took place for them, and Venne presented the commander with a flag of the Crow Nation that he said will bring the unit back safely. Venne said the flag will not be unfolded and will return clean as a sign of their safety.