Native American Veterans Tell Their Stories At Breathtaking New Museum

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Last April I was in Washington, D.C. and had a chance to visit the new Museum of the American Indian. It was a very moving experience.  

The Museum of the American lndian is very large and very well curated. There is a powerful feeling of deep respect throughout the entire building.

In all honesty, you really need to go there more than once. 

There is so much powerful history and noble heritage expressed throughout the entire complex. It is a truly sacred place.  Each of the hundreds of Native American tribes and cultures are given great attention and one walks away from the experience overwhelmed with powerful emotions. It really is a must see for all Americans.  

Source: YouTube/Kauffman & Associates, Inc.
Native Americans were among the many who waded across the shores of Normandy.

The fact of the matter is that the average American is very ill informed about the history, the diversity, and the traditions of Native American peoples. Movies and books written about Indians by Hollywood and people like James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans), have given us more myth and legend than truth about the native peoples who populated North America for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. The Museum of the American Indian tells their stories straight and true.      

This video is done by the Museum of the American Indian and is a small part of a long term project to have Native American veterans tell their stories. This video includes three Indian veterans stories. All of them have served in war time. They tell their stories in three short video productions and in their own words.  

Source: YouTube/Kauffman & Associates, Inc.
A Native American veteran stands in front of a World War II memorial.

One, Marcella La Beau. was a nurse in Europe, at a hospital in Liege, Belgium, immediately after D-Day in WWII. Her story will move you deeply. The other two, Hayes Lewis and Duane Brookins, are both veterans of the war in Vietnam whose stories will be very familiar to all fellow Vietnam veterans.

It is a fact that Native Americans have served in the U.S. military in greater numbers, per capita, than any other race or ethnic group in America. 

Source: U.S. Department of Defense
A Native American veteran styands in front of a World War II memorial.

You may remember that the first Native American woman in American military history to be killed in action was a young Hopi woman by the name of Lori Piestewa. She was killed in Nasiriyah, Iraq while serving with the U.S. Army’s 507th Maintenance Company on March 23, 2003 in the early days of the invasion of Iraq. Her section of a supply convoy got lost and was ambushed in the desert near Nasiriyah.

Her Humvee was hit by a rocket.

Three male soldiers were killed and Piestewa was badly wounded. She and two other female soldiers, Shoshona Johnson and Jessica Lynch, were taken captive. Piestewa died of her wounds while being held a prisoner of war. 

She received the Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War medals posthumously.  

Source: Department of Defense
Lori Piestawa was the first Native American woman in American military history to be killed in action.

The Native American Veterans Stories project is still in process.  Listen to these three stories and, if you are like me, you’ll want to hear more.
 

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The Veterans Site honors and deeply respects the contributions of over 190,000 Native Americans who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States.  Their history needs to be told and the Museum of the American Indian Veterans Project is well on the way to doing that. 

If you are in Washington, D.C. for a short time, or for an extended visit, this museum needs to be put on your to-do-list. In the meantime, click the button below to see an All Tribes gathering made even more memorable by a military homecoming.


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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.