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Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community commemorated Tuesday the 80th anniversary of the Dec. 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

It held ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial Garden at Salt River, near Scottsdale, Arizona, to honor military aboard one of the two battleships that sank during the attack, and all veterans who have served the country.

The 1941 attack killed 2,403 servicemen and civilians and injured 1,178 others. Six U.S. ships were destroyed, as well as 169 U.S. planes. It catapulted the United States into World War II.

Tuesday’s ceremonies featured a flag given to Salt River by survivors of the USS Arizona.

“We were given that flag with the requirement that we conduct an annual ceremony on Dec. 7 to remember all of those who gave their lives while in service to this country,” Community Vice President Ricardo Leonard told Indian Country Today in 2020. “Every year we open the flag and conduct what we call a radiant ceremony, presenting it to the four cardinal directions, and saying traditional prayers.”

A 4,800-pound, rusted relic of the USS Arizona, a boat house, was once part of a memorial in Pearl Harbor originally built in 1951. The 2020 story stated, “the USS Arizona’s boat house represents the largest — and only — piece of the Pearl Harbor memorial to ever be given to a tribal community.”

The garden’s boundaries are the exact dimensions of the 608-foot USS Arizona. The boat house is at the heart of the center, which also features more than 1,500 LED light posts represent the ship’s crew members and others killed in the explosion of the eight bombs and one torpedo that hit the battleship.

Photo showing the outline of the USS Arizona at the Salt River Indian Community's Memorial Gardens near Scottsdale, Arizona. The USS Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 (Photo taken from video provided courtesy of the Salt River Indian Community)

Tuesday’s events included TAPS, a 21-gun salute, and wreath laying. There was a World War II historic warplane flyover, and music by the Arizona Fire Service Pipe Band, and the Navy Honor Guard. At twilight the LED light posts were turned on.

In Hawaii, commemorative events were also held at Pearl Harbor. The impacts of World War II on Native Hawaiians have been profound, especially regarding the loss of land.

Hawaii has become the headquarters for U.S. military operations in the Pacific. Five percent of the state’s land base is under military control. On Oahu, where Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are located, the military controls 22.4 percent of the land. These military uses are on lands Native Hawaiians had used for fishing, farming, hunting and gathering.

As for impacts nationwide, Native Americans eagerly turned out to join the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By the war’s end, a third of Native American eligible men were in uniform, more per capita than any other group. Many who stayed behind went to work in factories for the war effort. Overseas travel and exposure to other cultures, working alongside whites and blacks, and experiencing warfare all affected Native American attitudes.

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