Santa Ysabel Traditional Tribal Veterans Day 2009

By Roy Cook: Opata- Oodham, US Army

We are on a land of rolling hills, cool mountain spring runs just south of the village. We are sitting in the same space as our ancestors did for thousands of years. Our conversation is about the time a person saw upstream of this Santa Ysabel creek an approaching band of far away people marked for battle and looking to capture what they could from the Ipai. This story has been repeated for generations from elder to youth. Values and responsibility are conveyed to those who will and did step forward and defend the people. Defend this land. Defend this Indian land and people, forever.

This year’s honoree is Kenneth Ponchetti, Ipai. He is a United States Air Force veteran from 1957- 1961 active and 1961-1863 active reserve. United States Army veteran Ron Chrisman, Ipai, leads Tukuk songs. Invited Honor Color Guard is the Intertribal American Indian Warrior Association. Memorial bell ringer is United States Navy boson Jerry Reed, Ipai. Virgil Osuna and Stan Rodriguez coordinated much of the support logistics for this year’s tribute. Both are US Army and US Navy military veterans and Ipai.

Traditional songs are sung for those attending and ancient ears to know that we are still here. We remember. We love all who will, forever, rest here in the Santa Ysabel Tribal cemetery. Yes, this is Indian land and many on the muster roll rest here. We, the living, will remember our relations. Stan Rodriguez read the muster roll of the living and the fallen Warriors.

Later, we gather for a bite to eat on the original village site and the company at this table is of a generation of men in their 60s, 70s and 80s years of age. American Indian Veterans of many conflicts. Wives and family members recall individuals and families and tolerated us as ‘boys’. We grew up together walking these hills, attending the Mission and being bussed to school from K-12. This is a perfect day, warm, sunny and joyful to be alive and recall those boyhood friends from this and other reservations.

We live because many of our relations paid the ultimate price for all of us to be what we are, American Indian people. Just a short time ago the muster was called of all those who served in the military: living and passed. The colors were brought to half-mast and taps were blown for the fallen. This has been an emotional afternoon sustained by pride and respect for our sisters and brothers in arms.

Good company and good friends to rely upon are wonderful. Mattkunkun mehan.