Native Americans place special honor in military service

By Gary SheftickNovember 14, 2014

Native Americans place special honor in military service
Mary Hudetz, editor-in-chief of Native Peoples Magazine and president of the Native American Journalists Association, speaks to reporters and students at the Defense Information School, during the Defense Media Activity's Native American Heritage Mon... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, Nov. 13, 2014) -- All of the 566 Native American tribes across the country have special respect for those who serve in the military, said the editor of Native Peoples Magazine.

Mary Hudetz, editor-in-chief of the magazine and president of the Native American Journalists Association, spoke Wednesday, during a National Native American Heritage Month observance at the Defense Media Activity. She is a member of the Crow tribe in Montana, but now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, headquarters of the magazine, which has a circulation of 100,000.

"I think in every tribe, there is this amazing way to pay tribute to veterans," Hudetz said. Some have special dances at powwows for veterans. Others select veterans as their tribal leaders and many allow veterans to lead ceremonies.

The Kiowa tribe, for instance, has the Black Leggings Warrior Society, created specifically to honor veterans and those who are currently serving in the military. Also known as the Ton-Kon-Gah, this society was established generations ago and hosts a special annual festival for its veterans in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Not all tribes have such a society, but Hudetz said all of them are proud of their veterans.

Hudetz recently interviewed a 101-year-old veteran considered by many as the last Crow "war chief." Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow fought in World War II.

In the traditional Crow tribal culture, if a warrior could accomplish four major deeds on the battlefield, he became a war chief:

-- touch an enemy in combat without killing him

-- take the enemy's horses

-- lead a successful war party

-- disarm an enemy without taking a life

Joe Medicine Crow was able to achieve all four during World War II, Hudetz said. He even convinced his commander that he should release horses from a farmhouse so that German Soldiers could not use them to escape.

He is often called the last Crow war chief, Hudetz said, because battle has changed today, and has made the four tasks too difficult to achieve, particularly when it comes to stealing horses.

Sometimes it is difficult to preserve Native American culture and language, she said, and misconceptions about the culture are widespread.

"Like many ethnic groups, we face a lot of stereotypes," Hudetz said. Some people see Native Americans as stoic or possessing super powers such as controlling the weather or having the ability to talk with animals, she said.

"Native-American women are often presented as exotic, even with the best of intentions from the media and journalists sometimes," Hudetz said. She added that sometimes native women are portrayed as mystical and having powers such as shamans or "medicine men."

Such generalizations can be "very emotional" for Native American women, Hudetz said.

Another misconception is that all tribes have casinos, Hudetz said.

"Not all tribes are casino-rich," she said. "Mine certainly is not."

Many people think that the majority of Indians live on reservations. Actually today, about 80 percent of Native Americans now live in urban areas, according to the last census, she said.

When asked if the culturally correct term to use is American Indian or Native American, Hudetz said that Native American is more accurate.

"We're not Indians," she said, because those indigenous people live in India or the West Indies.

"But yet, when I grew up, we called ourselves Indians ... it doesn't offend, it doesn't sting to say that, but for media and song purposes, it's always best to use the tribe if you can."

"As long as it's not the 'R' word (redskins)," or Injun, then it's alright, she said.

The word "redskins" is not used in print by her magazine, Hudetz said, because it's considered a racial slur.

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Presidential Proclamation -- National Native American Heritage Month, 2014