NCAI's powwow includes a rare honor

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Flag that flew over Twin Towers on 9/11 is showcased at powwow

Wednesday night’s powwow at the National Congress of American Indians 75th convention saw Robert Holden, former deputy director of NCAI, receiving a rare red-tailed hawk feather and showcasing the 9/11 traveling remembrance flag.

The Choctaw and Chickasaw descendant retired last year after working for the organization for 33 years. Holden started NCAI’s first veteran committee that included Robert Dunsmore of the Cheyenne Sioux Veterans Honor Guard.

Dunsmore, who is also a veterans service officer, said NCAI invited him knowing his involvement and his possession of the 9/11 flag. It is one of the three flags that flew from the Twin Towers when it was struck by the planes. The other two flags are in New Hampshire and New York City. A veteran of the NYC police department gave Cheyenne River Veteran Association the flag. The veteran wanted him them to “show the people and not forget,” which is why they gave Holden the honoring of helping the showcase it to the crow last night.

As for the red-tailed hawk feather, that’s something else that Dunsmore has special permission to do. He is the only one, that he knows of, who has a permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. With the permit, Dunsmore gives red-tailed hawk feathers to veterans or Natives serving overseas so they can put it on their uniform. “I’ve received a lot of photos from people wearing them,” he said.

Typically it takes people five years to receive a similar permit. It took him one year. Since obtaining his permit in 2011, he’s given approximately 200 feathers to veterans and soldiers. He attaches the permit number with the feather when its gifted.

Why the red-tailed hawk feather?

It’s the same feather that Crazy Horse, the war leader, wore when he went into battle. “Elders told us that he might have been spotted wearing the entire red-tailed hawk on him,” he said. “That red-tailed hawk feather has as much meaning to us as an eagle feather.”

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter@jourdanbb.

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