Ward Churchill wants everyone to think that Indians hate America. The truth is Indians love America, more than most people here. Today there are nearly 200,000 living American Indian veterans. That’s nearly one out of eight Indians. Churchill’s fake Indian voice, though loud, is way off-key. Real Indians honor America, and are quick to honor their warriors.
The percentage of Indians in the American military is proportionately higher than that of any other group, and Indians have been fighting for America since the war of 1812. Indians have served in all the major American wars, often without acknowledgement because they weren’t American citizens until 1924, when Congress declared them so. Indians serving in World War I, “the Great War,” served as volunteers.
In 1917, Chief Red Fox Skiuhushu went to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, and pleaded, “From all over the West we now stand ready 50,000 Indians between the ages of seventeen and fifty-five. We beg of you, to give us the right to fight…our hearts could be for no better cause than to fight for the land we love, and for the freedom we share.”
Of course, there is much ambiguity about Red Fox’s identity, as with Churchill’s, but Red Fox was an honest representative of true Indians sentiments. That’s the critical difference. During the Great War, Indians were accepted in the military at nearly twice the rate of non-Indian inductees. Nearly two-thirds of the Indians had volunteered before the Selective Service Act of 1917.
The service of American Indians during WWII is renowned. There were code talkers from some sixteen different tribes. A new book on Comanche code talkers provides invaluable information on Indians in modern military service: William C. Meadows, The Comanche Code Talkers of WWII, (2002). Indian code talking began with Oklahoma Choctaw Indians in WWI.
Five Indians have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. There are many WWII combat heroes, like my Comanche uncle, the late USMC Lt. Col. Raymond C. Portillo, who earned his honors leading the 2nd Platoon of the “Able 8” in the Pacific. His son, my cousin Major Dave Portillo, a Gulf War veteran, recently completed a master’s degree at Quantico. His thesis involved the Comanche horse culture, and how it affected military tactics during the wars on the plains.
Indians are proud of their military service. I call this American patriotism. The Grand Entry of every Indian pow-wow opens with a flag song honoring of the American Flag.
In 1995, the Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Denver. The American Indian Veterans Organization of Arizona is now creating a national monument in Phoenix to honor all Indian veterans.
The war in Iraq has seen more American Indian patriotism. PFC Lori Piestewa, a Hopi Indian from Arizona, was the first female American soldier killed in Iraq, March, 2003. They named a mountain in Phoenix after her, “Piestewa Peak.” Her brother Adam said, “We honor the warriors who have throughout history laid down their lives for their fellow man and preserved the God given right to freedom.”
Then there’s me, an Oklahoma Comanche who lobbied before the Oklahoma state legislature with the endorsement of Gov. Frank Keating, to create a bill to ensure the teaching of American patriotism in Oklahoma public schools. Of course, this has not yet come to pass, but I did manage to lose my teaching job at Oklahoma State University (OKC) over the publicity my efforts generated. (Call me a casualty of political war.)
Indians love America not for reward, but by natural affinity with the land. We do not serve for honor but because of honor. Indeed, many veterans return to Indian country only to find the same housing problems, and often worse healthcare problems. Purple Heart Sgt. Terrell Dawes was seriously injured in Iraq, returned to Texas in September, 2004) only to find that the Army failed to arrange for wheelchair assistance or give him pain medication, and shortly thereafter (Sept. 17) abandoned all responsibility for Dawes' medical expenses.
Indians serve the land of America because Indians love America. This is our home, regardless. Churchill hardly deserves a home anywhere. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be associated with American Indians. A criminal embarrassment and dishonor, his success was created by professional leftist backing through the liberals of the University of Colorado.
These people are still willing to use Indians and to misrepresent Indians, to advance their anti-American agenda. Indians should protest this and reaffirm our love and devotion to our homeland.