Army Soldier continues Navajo linage of service
Sgt. 1st Class Claudia Favre, equal opportunity advisor in Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Eighth Army, poses for a photo ahead of Veterans Day, Nov. 8, at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Favre is part of the less than one perfecnt of service members who are Native American. She hopes to use her position to educate service members on the Navajo culture. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Courtney Davis) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Courtney Davis) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — She comes from a long line of hunters and warriors.

From the plains of the Southwest to the jungles of Vietnam, Sgt. 1st Class Claudia Favre can trace her Navajo lineage through generations of fighters around the world.

Favre serves as an equal opportunity adviser in the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Eighth Army, and is part of the less-than-one percent of service members who are Native Americans. She hopes to use her position to educate service members on Native American history.


Between 1100 and 1500 A.D. is when a distinct Navajo culture begins to emerge in the Southwest region of the United States. Their history includes a tumultuous relationship with the Spanish in the 1500s and then in 1863 being forced from their land in northwest New Mexico and marched more than 300 miles. The “Long Walk” to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Navajo.

“We were actually taken from our homes and lands and walked (…) away from our home, put into camps, we weren’t allowed to speak our language, children were separated, people starved to death, people died because it’s such a long journey,” said Favre.

Favre said having her people go through this experience and then persevere is inspiring.

Four years after the Long Walk a treaty with the U.S. designated a Navajo Reservation, allowing the Navajo people to return where they rebuilt their economy and developed their culture. Despite not being granted citizenship until 1924, the Navajo people served in both the first and second World War.

Favre’s father was drafted into the Vietnam War and her grandfather volunteered to serve during World War II. Favre said she remembers her grandfather telling her stories of being on the battlefield as a code talker. He would use the Navajo language as a code to communicate with headquarters. On the other end of line would be another Navajo speaker who would translate.

The patriarchs of her family not only served their country, but also served in their homes. Favre said hunting was an integral part of her culture and that she started “pulling back bows” when she was little. Today, Favre said she still has pretty good aim.

Maintaining culture

In addition to educating others on Native American history, Favre focuses on maintaining Navajo traditions within her own family. Growing up Favre learned to make traditional foods, branded cattle and even rode horses in rodeos.

“What I carried over is my passion for animals, like riding horses,” said Favre. “But I also want to start incorporating some of my native traditions to my kids, like the dances.”

As a child Favre spent time participating in powwows where she was a traditional jingle dancer, a Native American female who performs a dance of healing and pride which helps their people move forward in strength and hope. She said she would don her jingle dress (prayer dress) and perform the dance of healing. Powwows took place as forms of celebration and competition. Each had their own song and accompanying dance. She said there was the Warrior Dance, (involves mock combat); Grass Dance, (competitive, Northern Native American style of dancing), Fancy Shawl dancers (a dance mimicking butterflies in flight), and traditional northern and southern dancers.

In addition, Favre said the Navajo people are a spiritual group and that rituals play a large part in their culture. Kinaldaa, a four-day coming-of-age ceremony involves a medicine man singing for the young girl’s welfare, during which, she is not supposed to sleep.

“In the meantime, she is learning how to cook the Navajo cake, which is cooked in the ground,” said Favre.

Favre said military life makes teaching her own children her traditions more difficult because she is not able to visit the reservation, however she said keeping the culture alive in her family is important and hopes to be able to teach them.

Fighting Stereotypes

Favre said while many traditions remain in place, she sees modernization on the reservation through fashion and hairstyles. However, she believes there are still stereotypes placed on the Native American people. Favre said two extremes prevail: Native Americans are all like those characters depicted in John Wayne movies or the Disney Pocahontas movie, or on the other extreme, Native Americans are drug addicts or alcoholics.

“There’s more to the Native American people than those two - than what’s being shown in the media,” said Favre. “There’s so many Native Americans that are doing great things for America. We have astronauts, we have engineers, we have Native Americans that are building the Land Rovers for space, we have an elected congresswomen, and you have Native Americans in the Army doing great things, deploying and putting their lives on the line for their people and their country.”

Favre said that while much attention is given to the Code Talkers from World War II, she said it is time to recognize those who have made more recent contributions to society.

“There’s a lot of Navajo now, in 2022, that are in the Army that no one is talking about,” said Favre. “The deployments we’ve been on, being a drill sergeant, being an (equal opportunity advisor), there’s other things I wish (were highlighted today) versus the Army in 1945 and 1946.”

Farve said it is time to, “put the newer generation on the map.”

Favre is part of that “newer generation” – those who, like the generations before them, chose to serve their families, their tribes, and their nation.