Memorial Day 2011

By Roy Cook

Memorial Day is May 30, 2011. This is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Our American Indian women and men military Warriors have always defended this land. Additionally, they have volunteered to support the political policy of the United States of America in all military conflicts from the very beginning of this Nation.

Memorial Day formerly known as Decoration Day, commemorates U.S. soldiers, sailors and marines who died while in the military service. All were warriors from federally recognized tribes and non-Federal or State recognized tribes' warriors whom have served and are serving - all American Indian Warriors. They have stood on the line in combat, to defend this land, our Indian Nations and need to be remembered.

Memorial Day was first enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War. It was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation. It is a fine time to remember all our relations

Traditional American Indian Peace Chiefs:

Political leadership for the benefit of all the people was provided by peace chiefs. They were highly respected by tribal members and they were responsible for directing hunting expeditions and for interacting with the leaders or representatives of other tribes. The role of chief was generally reserved for men, although women of influence sometimes became clan leaders and village chiefs. Peace chiefs had relatively little administrative power and authority; they presided over the tribe using persuasion rather than force.

Many tribes also had war chiefs. These were usually men who planned and directed raids on other tribes. Any aspiring warrior could become a war chief, but only if he could convince his fellow warriors that his personal spirit-guide would protect the war party and ensure victory. The authority of a war chief was strictly limited to the duration of his expedition, and he was allowed to lead new expeditions only if his previous raids were successful and brought back all or most of the participants.

Famous warriors: Geronimo, Cochise, Tecumseh, Pontiac, Phillip, Osceola, Red Cloud, Standing Bear, Joseph, Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle, Crazy Horse, Captain Jack

Historical/ Modern military heroes: Ira Hayes, Billy Mills, Jim Thorpe, all tribal code talkers, more.

The Political Leaders and Peacemakers that represent various Tribal Nations throughout history and in particular on the contact period with the USA: Chief Seattle from the Northwest Coast, John Ross from the Cherokee Nation, and Crowfoot from the Blackfoot Nation. Additionally, the role of Native women in leadership is represented by profiles of: Sarah Winnemucca, Annie Dodge Wauneka, Ada Deer, Wilma Mankiller and Cecilia FireThunder.

We continue to live on a great land. This is a land where we have always belonged. Once we knew this as a land with no fences and no lines. Where the four legged roamed the plains and our children ran freely through the fields and called to each other in our own languages. Where we had respect for Mother Earth and Father Sky and gave back a portion of the Creator’s gifts each time we took what we needed. We dwelt in this land with generosity, respect, courage and truth.

Today, we live in a land within fences. Our recent ancestors knew pain. But with their strong spirits they lived so that we could rise from the ashes of their pain and suffering and work to bring the truth to light from the darkness of ignorance. Work to bring our people their rights that should have been ours all along. Work to become a voice for all the people instead of a silent sacrifice.

To be a voice of and for our heritage we have to make an effort to know the traditional words of our native language. And to know the words we have to listen to our Elders, learn our history, realize our mistakes and keep hold of what is known to be good. Parents learn your language by tradition, if possible, or western education. Teach it to your children. Pass on the stories told to you. Things are slowly getting better and it's up to us to continue to make it better for our future.

We may never again roam a land with no fences. Even our ancestors knew that change is inevitable. Today, Memorial Day, is a new day. It will only be different from yesterday if we make it so. Let's make it better in this time. Let's teach our children to be proud of whom we are and let's teach them to stand tall and be that voice for all the people. The people are all our relations.